A National Basketball Association exhibition game between Sunshine State rivals Orlando Magic and the Miami Heat was canceled Friday night after an oil-based cleaning solution was mistakenly applied to the court surface at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Fla. "It's like playing on ice right now, literally," Magic guard Vince Carter told Fox Sports Florida after trying to warm up on the floor. "It's not safe. I wouldn't recommend anybody [be] out there."
According to the network's website:
The early speculation was that the wetness was a result of condensation from the Tampa Bay Lightning's sheet of ice beneath the basketball floor - the Lightning played the Islanders in the same arena on Thursday night - but later in the afternoon, St. Pete Times Forum spokesman Bill Wickett said that the issue was stemming from an "improper cleaning agent" that was used on the court's surface.
Tod Lieweke, the CEO of both the St. Pete Times Forum and the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning, issued an apology and took responsibility for the faulty floor.
"First and foremost, we want to apologize to the fans that came to the game tonight, and also to the two teams," Lieweke said. "There was debate late in the day about the floor being playable. Some people felt it was, but ultimately absolute wisdom is you would never risk injury to one of these great players.
"It would've been the longest game of my life to watch a game like this played on a court that perhaps wasn't safe, and so the decision was made… As hard as it is for me to stand in front of you, the right and honorable thing is to never ever risk player injury."
A large gathering of arena staff worked for hours during the morning and afternoon, using a vinegar-and-water mixture to try to remove the oil from the floor.The exhibition game will not be rescheduled, as Miami opens its regular season tonight in Boston, and Orlando hosts it first game of the season against Washington on Thursday. The Heat and Magic will officially meet again in Miami on Friday.
Brian Schmitz, a "Magic Insider" for the Orlando Sentinel, suggests that the NBA slipped on a perfect public relations opportunity following the cancellation, which angered many fans despite the full refunds that were issued. "Here's all the league had to do after it canceled Friday night's preseason game between the Magic and Heat: Send out players to sign autographs and pose for pictures for unhappy fans who were still in the building," he wrote. "I mean, the NBA only had their four biggest stars on the premises - LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard. Plus, there was Vince Carter from the ESPN Classic days."
The Associated Press notes that a preseason game between the Toronto Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers was canceled in October 2003 after condensation formed on the court in St. John's, Newfoundland.
The St. Pete Times Forum, home of the Lightning, has hosted basketball several times in the past, including NCAA men's and women's basketball tournament games - and will do so again for the men's tournament in March. Arena officials said the basketball floor had not been used in months.