Carleton celebrated at first WNBA pre-season game in Canada
By Dave Gough
It was a whirlwind weekend for Chatham’s Bridget Carleton.
Carleton, who is going into her fifth year as a WNBA player, was in the spotlight as the only Canadian player taking part in the first-ever WNBA game held in Canada on Saturday at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena.
As the only Canadian player, Carleton was asked to do a lot to promote the preseason game between her Minnesota Lynx team and the Chicago Sky. Not only was she part of every media session on the weekend, she was also tasked with the nerve-wracking job of taking the microphone and speaking to the almost 20,000 fans in attendance just before tip-off.
“We are so excited to be here,” Carleton said to the crowd.
She spoke about the game’s significance in helping to grow the status of women’s basketball in Canada.
“I think it’s time that we show them that Canada is not just a hockey country, we’re passionate about basketball too,” Carleton said to loud applause
Carleton also threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Toronto Blue Jays game on Friday night.
Carleton started the game for the Lynx and had three points and two rebounds in 12 minutes. Chicago won the game 82-74.
The game is being viewed as a success. Tickets sold out online back in March in only 20 minutes. Even with the Blue Jays and Maple Leafs playing on the weekend, the game was one of the most hyped-up sporting events in Toronto. Merchandise booths were shut down just before half-time, as they were all sold out of things to sell.
“The environment was special,” said Carleton after the game.
Lynx teammate Tiffany Mitchell agreed with Carleton, noting the fan energy was overwhelming leading up to the game.
“I was just walking on the street yesterday and hearing cheers… I think Toronto is a great spot to put a team. The support is amazing,” Mitchell said.
“I felt the love from all the fans,” Carleton said, noting that even as a member of Team Canada, she rarely gets to play in her home country.
As a statistician with the Toronto Raptors since their inception in 1995, Karl Toulouse has been centre court for somewhere close to 1,000 NBA games. Toulouse, who was born and raised in Wallaceburg, said being courtside and part of Saturday’s historic WNBA game was a big thrill. He said the game was a “big deal.”
“The hype is not overstated, it’s for real. People want to watch this game and I love seeing the women take to the court, I love it,” Toulouse said.
The game featured a large contingent from Chatham who made the trip to Toronto to watch the game. Carleton’s grandmother was at the game —which was the first time she has been able to see her granddaughter play in a professional game.
It was the final preseason game for both teams. They will meet again in their regular-season opener on May 19 at Minnesota.