The Canadian Elite Basketball League is pushing back the start of its 2021 season in the hopes of having fans attend games in person.
The league announced a reduced 14-game season on Wednesday, with the start date pushed back from mid-May to June 5.
A standard CEBL season is 20 games, but the league said it can't go beyond a late-August playoff finish because most of its players must report to their international pro teams by September.
The season will kick off with a rematch of the 2020 championship game between the defending champion Edmonton Stingers and the Fraser Valley Bandits, as well as a match in Hamilton between the Honey Badgers and the Ottawa Blackjacks.
The other teams in the league are the Saskatchewan Rattlers, Guelph Nighthawks and Niagara River Lions. Each team will play seven home and seven road games during a nine-week period.
The CEBL played its second season in a bubble environment in St. Catharines, Ont., last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was the first professional sports league to resume play in Canada after the global pandemic shut down sports around the world in March 2020.
"Prioritizing the health and safety of our fans, players, staff, and officials is where we began in creating our league schedule for 2021," Mike Morreale, commissioner and chief executive officer of the CEBL, said in a release. "We recognize that attending live events in a safe manner plays a critical role in revitalizing our communities as they begin to emerge from COVID-19 as 2021 unfolds."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021.