The latest batch of NBA rumors suggest the Toronto Raptors will have to play their home games in the United States because Canadian health officials won’t allow American sports teams to cross the border to play NBA games on Canadian soil. If the Raptors organization is unable to play home games at ScotiaBank Arena in Toronto, then they’re reportedly considering alternative sites in Louisville, Seattle, Buffalo, or Hartford.

Toronto Raptors Louisville Seattle Buffalo
The KFC Yum! Center in downtown Louisville, Kentucky could host the Toronto Raptors next season. (Image: Andre Rocco/Getty)

Louisville Raptors has a weird sound to it. Then again, the NBA has been looking for an excuse to return to Seattle. If the Raptors adopt Buffalo as their new home, will the Bills Mafia conscript the Raptors into their mayhem? Will Raptors fans jump off the top of a bus onto a flaming table during a rowdy pre-party in the parking lot of the KeyBank Center?

  • Louisville, KY (KFC Yum! Center)
  • Seattle, WA (Climate Pledge Arena)
  • Buffalo, NY (KeyBank Center)
  • Hartford, CT (XL Center)

Due to the USA’s poor handling of the coronavirus outbreak and officials continued politicizing a public health risk, Canadian health officials don’t want to risk an outbreak initiated by American professional athletes and their support staff traveling across the border 41 times next season. The Canadians don’t want to risk their successful fight against COVID and turn it into a craps game. Heck, they won’t even touch America’s dirty dice.

Ghosts of the Whale, Louisville Raptors?

Horse racing, whiskey, and basketball form the holy trinity in Kentucky. College basketball is king in Kentucky, but the bluegrass state hasn’t had a professional basketball team since the ABA shuttered its league.

The Kentucky Colonels were a part of the now-defunct ABA between 1967 and 1976. The Colonels won the 1975 ABA Championship and played all their home games in Louisville.

The KFC Yum! Center, home to Louisville basketball, boasts the second-largest capacity (in excess 22,000) for a basketball venue in the NCAA. Only Syracuse’s Carrier Dome has more seating.

The state of Kentucky has no shortage of basketball fans, but there’s a huge divide between Louisville and University of Kentucky fans. Good luck trying to get UK fans to step foot on Louisville’s home turf.

The XL Center, formerly the Hartford Civic Center, has also been whispered in numerous internet rumors. Hartford lost their only professional sports team when the beloved Whalers left Connecticut in 1997. The Whalers relocated to Raleigh, NC, and became the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Boston Celtics occasionally played a preseason game in Hartford.

Seattle Raptors?

Climate Pledge Arena, formerly Key Arena and ex-home to the Seattle Sonics, had undergone renovations. It will become the home of the NHL’s newest expansion team when the Seattle Kraken take the ice in 2021.

The NBA has been trying to figure out a way to bring pro hoops back to Seattle ever since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder.

In the last decade, the Sacramento Kings almost relocated to Seattle. The Kings also considered relocating to Anaheim at one juncture.

The Seattle Storm won their second WNBA title in the last three seasons earlier this month, but could there be men’s pro basketball in the Emerald City?

One of the issues with Seattle would be the time zone. Seattle is located in the Pacific time zone, or three hours behind Toronto and the Eastern time zone. Home games for the Raptors in Seattle could begin at 10pm ET and end way after Midnight for fans in Toronto.

Buffalo Raptors?

Buffalo’s KeyBank Center is the home to the Buffalo Sabres of the NHL. Buffalo is the closest American city to Toronto, so it makes sense that the team would try to retain its regional support by sticking as close to the border as possible. When the Canadian government prevented the Toronto Blue Jays from hosting MLB games, the Blue Jays scrambled to find a temporary home for their shortened 60-game schedule.

The Blue Jays wanted to share a stadium with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but local officials in Pittsburgh declined permission.

The Blue Jays were pressed for time to find a suitable alternative site. They settled on Buffalo, even though they had to play in a minor league ballpark that lacks big-league amenities.

Will a Toronto team turn to their American sibling city once again? Even though Buffalo is a city in New York and not a part of Canada, Buffalo has way more in common with Toronto than its counterpart downstate on Manhattan Island.

Buffalo would love to host a pro hoops team for the first time since the Buffalo Braves bounced in 1978. The Braves relocated to San Diego in the late 1970s and rebranded themselves as the San Diego Clippers before moving to their current home in Los Angeles in 1984.

Of course, scheduling could be an issue since they’ll have to share the arena with the Buffalo Sabres. The NHL has yet to officially name their starting dates from the next season.

Canada Says No

The NBA is in discussions about the start date for next season. There’s been word on the exact date, or whether or not they’ll consider the NBA Bubble at Disney once again.

If Canadian health officials shut down the MLB and NBA, how about the NHL? The NHL resumed its season with 24 teams participating in a Secure Zone in two hub cities. The Eastern Conference played in Toronto, Ontario while the Western Conference played games in Edmonton, Alberta. The Stanley Cup finals were hosted at Rogers Place in Edmonton.

Will the NHL make all of the American hockey teams move to Canada and play north of the border? Would they opt for hub cities again? Could they expand hubs from two to four, or even eight cities to accommodate the bulk of the league migrating north of the border?

It would be funny and weird if the NHL forced the New York Rangers to play home games at a rink in Moose Jaw, or move the Boston Bruins to Saskatchewan.

While Canada continues to be sensible and strict with American companies, including pro sports teams, the Toronto Raptors will search for a temporary home in Seattle, Buffalo, and Louisville.