Ottawa's track record makes 'dream' of NBA team unlikely

The empty seats at this game at Ottawa's Lynx Stadium in September 2007 were a common occurrence. The poor track record of professional baseball in Ottawa is one of the reasons writer Danny Gallagher believes that his dream of a NBA franchise coming to the city is unlikely to happen. Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The empty seats at this game at Ottawa's Lynx Stadium in September 2007 were a common occurrence. The poor track record of professional baseball in Ottawa is one of the reasons writer Danny Gallagher believes that his dream of a NBA franchise coming to the city is unlikely to happen. Photo Credit: Wikipedia

By Danny Gallagher

Canadian Baseball Network

Can dreams come true?

You're in a deep sleep and you are immersed in a dream that is usually crazy and startling and doesn't make sense. It's a false perception, a wild fancy, an unrealistic hope.

This was the deal with me about 12:30 a.m. today, May 16, in the middle of the night. I had this dream that Ottawa is a favourite for an NBA franchise in the future. Yes, start laughing. The enormous cost of acquiring and operating a NBA franchise would be too much and fans wouldn't have sufficient funds to support the team over the long haul.

Ottawa's lost triple-A teams from the 1950s and for a period from 1993 to 2007 tells you how fragile the state of sports teams in Ottawa can be.

My source in the dream is a man I have known a wee bit for years but he's someone I haven't had a conversation with since maybe the early 2000s. For some reason, I showed up at a hotel room or office somewhere and sat down for an interview with him. His name: Jerry Reinsdorf.

Reinsdorf is the chairman of the board and owner of both the Major League Baseball's Chicago White Sox and the NBA's Chicago Bulls. I have talked to him in the past about baseball matters but this time, for some inexplicable reason, I was talking NBA matters so I asked him what city in North America is high on a list of potential expansion franchises.

"Ottawa,'' Reinsdorf said from behind his desk.

Holy shoot, I tell myself, this guy has given me a nugget, a scoop of high proportions. So after we talked for a few minutes, I got up and left and proceeded to work on a story about this. Of course, the dream ended.

But we throw this question out there: could Ottawa support a NBA franchise? Very unlikely.

"It's pretty far fetched,'' said my godson and nephew Greg Gallagher of Gatineau, Que., who is a diehard Bulls' fan. "It would never happen. It wouldn't work. It would take a lot of money to support an NBA team.''

I emailed Reinsdorf's assistant Barb Reincke to relay the story about the dream and half jokingly wondered if Reinsdorf would consent to a fun interview.

I also thought about calling Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melynk to see what he thought of bringing the outlandish notion of an NBA franchise to Ottawa as part of the LeBreton Flats venture in downtown Ottawa, a venture that will not come to fruition for close to 10 years.

To be fair, Ottawa is too minuscule a metropolis to support an NBA franchise. Fans in the city, the Ottawa Valley, West Quebec and other outlying areas do a good job of supporting the Senators. Even then, the Senators have been known to lose money and Melynk isn't as rich as some people think he is.

The success of the CFL's Redblacks has resulted in a football renaissance in Ottawa.

The Ottawa 67's junior hockey franchise has been a fantastic success since the 1967-68 season.
But what has been a failure in Ottawa over the years has been triple-A baseball. Ottawa played in the International league from 1952 to 1954 before leaving. The Ottawa Lynx, who started out as an Expos' triple-A affiliate in 1993, left town following the 2007 season.

Several NBA exhibition games have been played in Ottawa in the last few years but a team called the Ottawa SkyHawks played one season in the National Basketball League in 2013-14 before folding.

"Even with LeBreton Flats, an NBA team wouldn't work,'' my nephew Greg said.

Hey, the dream was all fun while it lasted.

 

Danny Gallagher

Danny was born in Ted Lindsay's hometown of Renfrew, Ont. but his roots are in nearby Douglas. He played 27 consecutive seasons of top-level amateur baseball in the senior ranks in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec and thrived on organizing events himself, the major one being the highly successful 1983 Canadian senior men's tournament in Sudbury. He began covering the Montreal Expos in 1988 when he joined the Montreal Daily News. Later, he was the Expos beat writer for the Ottawa Sun and Associated Press. He has written four baseball books, including Remembering the Montreal Expos, which he co-authored with Bill Young of Hudson, Que. Gallagher and Young are currently working on a book about the ill-fated 1994 Expos squad. Gallagher can be reached here: dannogallagher@rogers.com