All Native competition will be intense

  • Jan. 28, 2009 9:00 a.m.

A record number of 68 teams are playing in the 50th annual All-Native Basketball tournament in Prince Rupert this year. “That’s 12 more teams than the biggest tournament so far,” says All-Native Basketball Tournament vice president Peter Haugen. There’ll be a lot of games to watch, with Skidegate vying to take the title back in the Master’s and Senior’s levels this year. Mr. Haugen expects intense competition from Vancouver, Ahousat, Hydaberg and more. Last year’s Intermediate winners, Metlakatla, are not bringing a team back this year, he says. “So it opens up the field in that division,” he says. In the women’s division, Bella Bella and Metlakatla are two of the teams to watch he says. Skidegate has three teams heading over – Intermediates, Seniors and Masters – and Massett has four – Intermediates, Senior, Masters and Womens. Great games and brand new comfortable seats in Prince Rupert’s Russell Gamble gymnasium mean the tournament is the place to be starting Feb. 6. Mr. Haugen says cultural and dance performances will be held all day Friday and the Opening ceremonies begin at 8 pm. As a coach in Old Massett, Arnie Bellis and his team have taken the championship eight times, but his most memorable moments are of the communities rallying around their teams. Getting teams to the games is an expensive proposition, with travel and accommodation needed for the week and communities members always support fundraisers. “A big howaa to them,” he said. The other thing he loves about basketball is how teams come together even when they lose. He said basketball is a great place to learn important skills too. “A lot of political leaders come out of basketball,” he said. “That’s when you learn to organize.” Mr. Bellis has been to 40 out of the 50 All-Native tournaments. This year, the first Haida game starts at 2:30 pm on Saturday when the Skidegate Masters play Fort St. James. More information and schedules can be found at mycfnr.net.