The hotels, streets and businesses of Prince Rupert will be busier than usual next week as thousands of people from around the province make their way to town for the 52nd annual All Native Basketball
The tournament kicks off at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre at eight a.m. on Sunday morning, starting a full seven days of basketball action that covers both the Russell Gamble Gymnasium and the arena. In total this year there will be 12 women’s teams, 14 intermediate teams, 17 senior teams and 10 masters teams vying for the right to be called champion.
While there are teams looking to defend their title in three of the four divisions – the Friendship House intermediates, Hydaburg seniors and Bella Bella masters – there is sure to be a new champion named in the women’s division with the back-to-back champions from Metlakatla Alaska not being included in the tournament this year.
A rule change this year will also put the focus back on the inter-community competition with the removal of the “ringer rule”, which allowed each team to pick up a player who is not registered in or whose parents were not registered in the community the team represents. President Peter Haugan said that while the rule was originally intended to allow players outside of the competing communities or from a community with too few players to form a team to participate, but in recent years it has been used to attract talent players from one competing village to another for the tournament.
As well as the action on the court, there is plenty to keep people busy off the courts. The opening ceremony, which always packs the gym for a display of First Nations drumming and dancing and the entry of the players, will take place at eight p.m. on February 6 and the craft and food fair will be back in the Dick St. Louis Auditorium.
This year the tournament will honour five people with inductions into the Hall of Fame. Players being inducted include the late Nelson Leeson, his brother Richard Leeson and Gayle Bedard, only the second woman to receive the honour. Being inducted in the builders category is former chair Art Sterritt and long-time Rainmakers coach Mel Bishop.
Look for daily updates from the tournament online at www.thenorthernview.com