Edmonton, Alberta, is set to experience professional pickleball for the first time this weekend, and anticipation is high. One of the players participating in the event has promised “a lot of energy” on the courts, promising an exciting competition for spectators.
“It’s Pretty Crazy”
West Coast Wolverines’ Joel Pelletier says, “It’s games to 15, rally scoring, so you blink and the game is done. Typically, it’s games to 11, serve point. With rally scoring, you make a couple mistakes, and you’re already a third or quarter of the game done. It’s pretty crazy. People can expect a lot of energy because the games are so quick and can swing in any direction.”
The Canadian National Pickleball League
The Canadian National Pickleball League, which commenced in February, boasts the Wolverines and seven other professional teams among its members. In late July, the league hosted its season-opening Eastern Split in Guelph, where notable results included the Wolverines, East Toronto Smash, Southwestern Ontario Brewers, and Rocky Mountain Rush emerging with impressive 5-2 records.
Meanwhile, the Prairie Pronghorns secured a respectable 4-3 standing, the Montreal Lions and Toronto United settled with 2-5 records, and the Northern Rollers, co-owned by curling luminaries Jennifer Jones, Brent Lang, and Glen Howard, lagged behind at 0-7.
The forthcoming Western Split is scheduled for this weekend at the Flair Airlines Hangar in the EXPO Centre, with league playoffs slated for Mississauga, Ontario, in early October.
Approximately 500 fans attended the Eastern Split event, and CNPL Commissioner Mike McAninch anticipates a similar turnout in Edmonton.
He acknowledges that pickleball, as a spectator sport, is still in its infancy, and the league plans to proceed cautiously, expanding from three national events this year to a potential five in the next season.
Nevertheless, there is no rush to enlarge the eight-team roster.
“Is This A Fad?”
“People keep saying, ‘Is this a fad?’ Honestly, we’re in the early adopter phase right now,” McAninch told The Edmonton Sun.
Like many Canadian pros, Pelletier and Kim Layton, a member of the Lions, only started playing a few years ago.
Layton says, “My dad had been playing for a while and kept telling me about this fun sport that sounded kind of lame to me. He convinced me to try, and it became a fun way to spend time with my dad.
We still are able to train together sometimes. I continued to progress and decided I wanted to compete at higher levels and see how much I could improve.”
Haddow Thul, also a Wolverines player, shares a similar backstory: Thul purchased paddles as a Christmas gift for his father after a court opened in his hometown of Gull Lake, Alberta.
Thul recounts, “He got addicted more so than me. Then I played a 2.5-level bracket with my mom and got whupped by some 60-year-olds and figured out there is a lot more to this sport. I learned how much strategy and finesse is involved in the game.”
5.0 And Above
The majority of recreational players typically fall within the 3.0 to 3.5 rating range, determined by a points-based algorithm. In contrast, all participants in the CNPL boast ratings of 5.0 or above.
These professional players value the CNPL for the opportunities it affords them, including heightened exposure to top-tier competition, monetary prizes, and financial support to cover tournament expenses.
“There are only a handful of 5.0 or higher players in every region of Canada, so it’s really special that we all get to come together, compete against one another, and show off how good Canadian pickleball really is,” says Thul.
Pickleball competition is still centered in North America, although Western Europe and Australasia are also starting to flex their muscles.
Check out our recent articles on how pickleball is progressing in Australia and New Zealand.
Within North America, the United States holds an advantage over Canada with its trio of professional leagues.
“Young, Fast, And Athletic”
“I hope that the CNPL grabs enough people’s attention that it becomes a bit more of a mainstay,” says Pelletier. “I hope the sport keeps growing and keeps getting younger. In the (U.S.) it has gone young, fast, and athletic.
“I would say Canada is probably four to five years behind; even as good as our levels are at the top, we pale in comparison. Through the CNPL, I hope Canada starts to narrow the gap, and some young talent starts to take over the game.”
We have featured Canadian pickleball in several of our articles.
“A Great Time To Be Involved”
Although the league owns the Pronghorns, the other seven C.N.P.L. teams are privately owned. Two players from the N.H.L. run the Brewers.
“Before this opportunity came about, I had played pickleball and had an interest in it, so it comes from that passion,” says Kerfoot.
“With the growth of the game, it seemed like a great time to be involved; it seemed like a good investment opportunity; we liked where the league was going and how things were trending.
And on top of that, it felt like a good thing to do to help grow pickleball in Canada and provide opportunities for these great athletes coming up and looking for a place to play.”
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?