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March Madness in Canada: Top 5 basketball cities in the country

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Toronto’s Real Sports Bar, home to the largest HDTV screen in North America, will be pumped during March Madness. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

Story by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Editor

We invented basketball. And many of us in Canada are just as crazy about the college game as our friends south of the border. Here are the five cities in this nation where hoops junkies should feel most at home as they prepare for the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

1. Toronto — Not only is Toronto home to Canada’s only NBA team, but it delivers top-flight talent to the NCAA Tournament each year. The city’s playgrounds and high schools are filled with emerging stars and exciting pick-up games. Some of the country’s best sports bars, including Real Sports Bar & Grill and the Ballroom, are in downtown Toronto, and they will be packed with hoops fans throughout March Madness. Toronto also has lots of basketball-related history, having hosted the first ever NBA game in 1946.

2. Almonte, Ontario — Before he invented the game in Springfield, Massachusetts, James Naismith acquired his love for sports and competition in his hometown near Ottawa. You can visit the Naismith Museum in the nation’s capital and a statue of Naismith in Almonte, which unveiled the attraction on July 23, 2011 — complete with peach basket.

3. Montreal — After leaving Almonte, Naismith went to McGill University and 10 of its students would later participate in the first organized basketball game in Springfield. Montreal remains a hot bed for this nation’s basketball talent and many Canadian fans will cheer for Kris Joseph, the star of No. 1-seeded Syracuse and an NBA prospect who hails from Quebec’s largest city.

4. Edmonton — We’ve all heard about the Harlem Globetrotters, but do you know about the Edmonton Commercial Graduates? This team of Canadian women won 147 straight games and had an overall record of 502-20 during their 25-year history early in the 20th century. Theirs is one of the great sports legacies in the City of Champions.

5. Victoria — The British Columbia capital is home to this nation’s greatest basketball player, Steve Nash. The two-time MVP, who was born in South Africa, went to university at Santa Clara in California, where he led the Broncos to three NCAA Tournament appearances. In Victoria, Steve Nash Youth Basketball is developing the next generation of hoops players and spreading love of the game on the west coast.

What are your NCAA Tournament plans or memories in Canada? Email editors@vacay.ca and tell us your great sports stories.

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Adrian is the editor of Vacay.ca and VacayNetwork.com. He also edited "Inspired Cooking", a nutrition-focused cookbook featuring 20 of Canada's leading chefs and in support of the cancer-fighting charity, InspireHealth. "Inspired Cooking" was created in honour of Adrian's late wife and Vacay.ca co-founder, Julia Pelish, who passed away of brain cancer in 2016. Adrian has won numerous awards for his travel writing, travel photography, and fiction, and has visited more than 55 countries. He is a former editor at the Toronto Star and New York Newsday, and was the social media and advocacy manager for Destination Canada. His articles have frequently appeared in the Huffington Post, Globe & Mail, and other major publications. He has appeared on national and local broadcasts, talking about travel, sports, creative writing and journalism. In 2019, he launched Trippzy, a travel-trivia app developed to educate consumers about destinations around the world.