Call them the Vancouver Bandits.
On Tuesday, the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) announced the Langley-based Fraser Valley Bandits team has been bought by Kevin Dhaliwal, a local resident who lives in Langley’s Brookswood, and Mission’s Bryan Slusarchuk, and rebranded.
The renamed Vancouver Bandits will continue to play at Langley Events Centre, where the Bandits played the 2022 season following three seasons in Abbotsford.
Vancouver Bandits will operate under the umbrella of Bandits Sports & Entertainment (BSE), which is an ownership group jointly led by Dhaliwal, founder and president of Essence Properties, and Slusarchuk, co-founder of K92 Mining Inc. and principal of SluzCap.
“Bryan and I are thrilled to align to create more opportunities to bring youth and families closer to a sport that has captured the hearts and minds of Canadians,” Dhaliwal said, calling the deal “exciting.”
“The CEBL is uniting local communities through the power of basketball and we are committed to ensuring that families and friends feel connected and energized by the world-class experience of Bandits games,” Dhaliwal said.
“The CEBL is the most exciting thing to happen in Canadian pro sports in decades and the Bandits are a marquee franchise within the league,” Slusarchuk said, adding he and his partner plan “to put gasoline on that fire.”
“Being a season ticket member and community partner has allowed me to witness firsthand that the Bandits are focused on building a sustainable footprint in the region by growing all areas of the game from the youth to the pro level. I was fortunate to have great basketball coaches that instilled a drive and work ethic in me that I am grateful for to this day.”
As part of their acquisition, Dhaliwal and Slusarchuk purchased territorial exclusivity for the rights to own and operate a CEBL franchise in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley Regional District.
CEBL Commissioner and co-founder Mike Morreale told the press conference at LEC the Bandits join Scarborough as the second league franchise operated by outside ownership, and are the first of the original six founding members to be purchased by new owners.
Morreale said the name change reflected the “outreach” of the team.
“This is not an Abbotsford team, it’s not a Mission team, not a Langley team, its not a Vancouver team, it’s the entire area, the Fraser Valley included,” Morreale said.
He said the team was staying at the Langley Events Centre because “this is the best mid-size arena in the area. The team deserves to play here [and] the fans deserve to see it here.”
Bandits finished fourth in the regular season standings this summer with a 12-8 record and were eliminated by the Guelph Nighthawks in a postseason play-in game at Langley Events Centre.
The CEBL was founded in 2018 as a single entity owned league with six franchises.
Today, the CEBL has 10 franchises located in six provinces stretching from British Columbia to Newfoundland and Labrador.
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