The 6 in 2026: Starting Five Thoughts as WNBA announces Toronto is #UpNext for expansion

Photo Credit: Lamar Carter

Shireen Ahmed of the CBC originally reported that the big day for a WNBA expansion announcement to Toronto would be May 23. 

It was the day prior to when the W began teasing said major announcement on its social media. 

Many of us already knew what said announcement would be – but on May 23 the news became official that the WNBA would indeed place its 14th team in The North – Toronto, Ontario, Canada to be exact. 

Out of all the possible evidence a game could have of growing, a league based on American soil putting a team on another country’s soil is one of the biggest bits of evidence there is. 

With Larry Tanenbaum’s distinguished record of leading successful sports franchises and Toronto’s appeal as a dynamic, diverse city that cares deeply about the game of basketball, we are confident that this new team will thrive as a first-class WNBA organization and become a great source of inspiration and support for the Toronto-area community and across Canada.

–Cathy Engelbert, WNBA commissioner (press release)

This franchise will be Canada’s team, and we are so excited to unite the country and inspire pride and passion in fans from coast to coast.

–Larry Tanenbaum, Kilmer Sports Ventures chairman (press release)

And we have plenty of thoughts…

The Toronto ownership group was able to ensure some of the biggest names in Canadian politics (regardless of if one was Liberal or Tory) showed up for the big occasion. 

It does not get much bigger than having Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on hand for the huge occasion. Trudeau has been Canada’s chief executive since 2015 when his Liberal party won power in Ottawa. 

Trudeau, being from Montréal, is bilingual and spoke a portion of his speech in French in addition to English. 

It’s official: Canada is getting a WNBA team! This landmark deal will give opportunities to our remarkable athletes across the country and on the biggest stage. I can’t wait to see our Canadian women win on the court.

–Justin Trudeau, Canadian Prime Minister (press release)

Also on hand was the premier of the province of Ontario – Doug Ford – who leads the province’s Progressive Conservative Party. 

On behalf of the province of Ontario, Im thrilled to welcome the first WNBA team in Canadian history to Toronto. The WNBA will be a fantastic addition to Ontario’s dynamic sports landscape, helping to increase tourism and inspire more women and girls to get involved in basketball. I can’t wait to cheer on Ontario’s newest home team!

–Doug Ford, Ontario Premier (press release)

In addition, Olivia Chow – Toronto’s mayor – was also on hand – and declared May 23, 2024 WNBA Day in her city. 

Torontonians are excited to welcome our very own WNBA team. This would not have been possible without the hard work of Canadian athletes who have created renewed enthusiasm and excitement for professional women’s sports. I cannot wait to cheer for our team and watch them bring home a WNBA championship.

–Olivia Chow, Toronto Mayor (press release)

Interestingly enough, one of the questions that was asked during the question-and-answer session was how the progressive status of the WNBA would fit in with Toronto culture. Anyone who knows anything about Toronto culture knows that it is not only one of the most progressive cities in Canada – but also one of is most diverse. The W fits The North like a glove. 

We could be wrong, but there appeared to be slightly less of a pomp and circumstance to the Toronto announcement than the Golden State announcement that occurred late last year. 

One must also remember that the Golden State (now the Valkyries) announcement occurred prior to the tip-off of last year’s WNBA Finals between the Las Vegas Aces and New York Liberty. 

The reveal for Toronto appeared to be a bit more intimate given it was in an indoor setting but no less exciting. In addition to political heavyweights, Kyle Lowry and Masai Ujiri were also on hand. 

Someone else was too…

Speaking of Golden State and Toronto, the two together, of course, bring the W to 14 teams – two shy of Engelbert’s goal of 16 prior to 2028. Engelbert is also hoping for one more expansion announcement prior to the conclusion of the 2024 calendar year. Houston (Comets), Philadelphia (missing link in northeast), Nashville (Tennessee Lady Vols history) and Charlotte (Sting, increasing W’s presence in the South, success of South Carolina and NC State) are seen as favorites.

Of course, Larry Tanenbaum and Teresa Resch – the main figureheads of the ownership group – were both at Thursday’s big announcement. One of the things that was continually mentioned was how the new WNBA team would be Canada’s team in addition to Toronto’s. 

Tanenbaum mentioned that the team would play games in Montréal and Vancouver in addition to team’s primary home of the Coca-Cola Coliseum which is owned by the city of Toronto and operated by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.

It was also mentioned that there is an option for the team to move games to Scotiabank Arena if the demand is there. If the 2023 WNBA Canada Game between the Chicago Sky and Minnesota Lynx is any indication, demand will be no problem for Toronto. 

While Cathy Engelbert mentioned that the W’s recent introduction of a full charter flights program did not factor into the decision to bring a team to Toronto, Tanenbaum and Resch’s intent to play games in Montréal and Vancouver makes it clearer that charter flights make this much more feasible than if WNBA players were still in the dark ages of flying commercial.

When Tanenbaum mentions that this team will be Canada’s team in addition to Toronto’s, one has to take heed of one province in particular. 

In addition to the large Black and Caribbean populations that inhabit Toronto, to the east of Ontario is Québec – Canada’s largest province by landmass – and its second-largest in terms of population (Ontario holds the top spot). 

Québec is also a heavily French-speaking province with much of that population clustered centered in areas such as Montréal, Québec City, Trois-Rivières and Gatineau (which is right next to Ottawa). 

Just as the WNBA’s presences in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Phoenix, Washington, Las Vegas, Atlanta and the upcoming Golden State franchise give the league a chance to reach Hispanic fans, Toronto will do the same for potential outreach to Francophone sports fans.

Remember when it was revealed that the expansion fee for Golden State was $50 million? Tanenbaum and his Kilmer Sports Ventures, according to Doug Feinberg at the Associated Press, is paying $115 million for the Toronto expansion. 

Canadian dollars are different from American dollars, but regardless of if the money is coming from Mississauga or Massapequa, $115 million is a big bag to secure. 

That only makes it more galling that the lone vote from the NBA’s Board of Governors against the expansion was – James Dolan. 

The same James Dolan who came within an eyelash of tanking the Liberty during its latter years under the Madison Square Garden umbrella (Westchester, anyone?). Apparently, Dolan has beef (and a lawsuit) with the Toronto Raptors over a former Knicks video coordinator who allegedly took data, scouting reports and other intel with him to the 6. 

Dolan probably will have no problem getting his cut of that $115 million coming from Tanenbaum, Resch and the Kilmer group. 

While many name ideas will come into the forefront over the next several months (Huskies appear to be the most popular among locals), Rhyne Howard already has an idea for what the new Toronto franchise should call itself.