Sky prevail in sold-out WNBA debut in Canada

TORONTO — Kahleah Copper had 18 points and nine rebounds, and the Chicago Sky beat the Minnesota Lynx 82-74 in a preseason game on Saturday in the WNBA’s first visit to Canada.

Kayana Traylor scored 13 points, and Robyn Parks and Morgan Bertsch had 12 apiece for Chicago.

Tiffany Mitchell had 19 points and six assists for Minnesota. Rachel Banham and Kayla McBride scored 13 points apiece.

Bridget Carleton, an Ontario native, had three points and two rebounds in 12 minutes for the Lynx. She received standing ovations when the starting lineups were announced and in speaking to the sold-out Scotiabank Arena crowd before the game.

The game aired live on three networks across Canada and the United States, featured an all-women, all-Canadian team for the broadcast and prompted the city to proclaim May 13 as “Welcome WNBA Day” to mark the occasion.

“So excited to be here in Toronto, this is a seminal moment for this league,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said before the game. “We are thrilled with the reception.”

In the days leading up to the game, a 12-foot tall sculpture of the WNBA’s logo — a player going toward the basket with her hair in a bun — was set up at different locations in downtown Toronto, including inside the arena on Saturday.

Fans took photos with the sculpture and were encouraged to sign the orange fiberglass shell, which stood atop a two-tiered circular white base that read: “Together we’re making history. Signed, Toronto.”

The WNBA, celebrating its 27th season, has garnered plenty of interest in Canada, where it says average regular-season viewership increased 95% over the past three years along with jumps in merchandise sales and social media engagement.

“These are all key markers of fans that are looking to deepen their engagement with the [WNBA] property,” said Leah MacNab, NBA Canada’s senior vice president.

The WNBA has held games outside the United States twice before, but unlike the one-off events held in Mexico (2004) and England (2011), the Toronto exhibition could very well be the first step toward a permanent team in the city.

It was the final preseason game for both teams. They will meet again in their regular-season opener on May 19 at Minnesota.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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