The Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) announced Tuesday that the Fraser Valley Bandits have been purchased by local business leaders Kevin Dhaliwal and Bryan Slusarchuk and will be rebranded as the Vancouver Bandits.
The team will continue to play at Langley Events Centre (LEC), where the Bandits played the 2022 season following three seasons in Abbotsford. Following its most successful season at the box office to date, the club is currently on sale with season ticket deposits for its 2023 campaign at LEC.
“The CEBL is pleased to welcome Bryan Slusarchuk and Kevin Dhaliwal, two passionate supporters of the Fraser Valley Bandits since their inception, into our league as co-owners of the Bandits,” said CEBL Commissioner and Co-Founder Mike Morreale. “Kevin and Bryan have long been strong supporters of basketball in British Columbia. They share our vision for developing Canadian talent and for being community-based where everyone can engage in basketball as a player, coach, fan, or community or business partner. With the CEBL’s Championship Weekend scheduled to be held at Langley Events Centre in August of 2023, the future for the Bandits is tremendously exciting.”
The Bandits are the founding brand 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. Through their shared passion for sport, the two co-owners launched the partnership with a goal of supporting the community through year-round collaborations with partners in the entertainment and sports sectors. BSE is fuelled by Dhaliwal and Slusarchuk’s involvement in local sports as former high school athletes and today as community partners of various events, tournaments and more.
The Bandits join Scarborough as the second league franchise operated by outside ownership and become the first of the original six founding members to be purchased by new owners. 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.
“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. “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. Kevin and I are excited to build on the strong foundation that has been set by the club and to elevate the Bandits to greater heights by working together with the community to promote these core values that we care about.”
“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. 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. “Growing up in the Lower Mainland, I was fortunate to be coached by mentors who taught me the importance of teamwork and collaboration. We are keen to continue deepening our roots in the community and to inspire local youth by giving them an opportunity to be supported by and to be part of one of the best pro sports leagues in Canada.”
Along with the sale and purchase of the Bandits, Tuesday’s announcement also included unveiling new branding for the team, now known as the Vancouver Bandits.
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. Metro Vancouver consists of 21 municipalities and the Fraser Valley is home to six. After moving to Langley Events Centre, the Bandits saw an increased percentage of its fans hail from Burnaby, Coquitlam, Richmond, Surrey and Vancouver. This in conjunction with the territorial acquisition informed the club’s decision to incorporate “Vancouver” in its name as a means of better representing the broader scope of cities across the two regions that Bandits fans come from.
Following the purchase of the Bandits, Vancouver Island and the Okanagan region will continue as strong prospects for potential CEBL expansion due to their corporate communities and notable basketball histories.
The updated Bandits logo maintains the original fox icon that has been a key facet of the club’s branding since 2018 while introducing a reimagined wordmark that showcases a sleek font defined by rounded edges and a line that runs through the “Bandits” text. The line represents the trails and roads that are the veins of two regions that are home to youth, commuters and families who live, work and play throughout the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley’s natural beauty and metropolitan hubs. Further enhancing the new logo is the incorporation of the colour black, which will be used as the fourth colour in the club’s brand kit and serves as a subtle nod to the rain and dark skies that the Pacific Northwest is known for.
“Rebranding the name to Vancouver is in line with the CEBL’s move toward Canada’s largest markets,” Morreale added. “We recently relocated one franchise from Guelph to Calgary, and of course last season added teams in Montreal, Scarborough, and in Atlantic Canada’s second-largest city, St. John’s. We have six teams playing within the six largest metropolitan areas in Canada, and all 10 of our teams are located within the 19 largest urban centres in the country.”
The Fraser Valley Bandits were introduced as the sixth CEBL franchise on July 16, 2018. The logo was an orange fox wearing a bandit mask and the team’s primary colours were orange, navy and cream white. Since its inaugural season in which the club ranked among the league’s best in attendance, the Bandits have had continued success at the box office and are a perennial playoff contender.
BC’s professional basketball team finished first in the CEBL in average attendance after recording four straight sell-outs during the 2021 season. Its per game attendance rose in 2022; including hosting the highest attended game in league history on June 18 when the Bandits held the inaugural BC Basketball Festival and defeated the Scarborough Shooting Stars 92-89 in front of 4,404 fans.