Stop by the Legion most days and you are guaranteed to find certain constants on display. The most important of course is the well documented and preserved history of Canadian veterans. But another heartwarming section of the Legion is the Games Room, where you’re more likely than not to find Bernie Alexander playing a game of snooker.
Alexander is vice-president of the Legion, and also the man most involved with the day-to-day operations of the Games Room. The recreational area, which currently is highlighted by a pair of pool tables, is attached to the Legion, with a separate entrance around the side of the building.
Along with a small group of dedicated members, Alexander was instrumental in organizing the return of the Games Room after the new Legion opened. Now, he and other members are hoping to reclaim some of the past glory of the former Games Room, which stood at the old Legion until its close in 2004.
Beginning in the 1980s, Alexander and a group of friends translated their love for snooker, (a variant of pool,) into a small local league.
“I think there were only two or three teams at the time,” Alexander said. “We had three divisions with six teams in each division, which was well over 100 players.”
|Bernie Alexander and Steve Drozd Sr. face off against each other in a friendly Sunday afternoon match. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
Despite the success of the snooker league, the Legion itself fell on hard times, and was forced to shut down its former location, where the casino now stands.
“They were playing on those tables down there right until the very last day. They still walk around saying they miss the old Legion,” Alexander said.
When the new Games Room opened in 2016, there was hope that the allure of snooker in Prince Rupert would be comparable to that of decades past. There is still a lot of work to do in order to achieve this, but Alexander is attempting to swing the favour back toward the game he and his friends love.
“They wanted it back, so we are back,” Alexander said of those interested in the Legion snooker league that will start up in the fall. So far there are around 40 players signed up to take part.
|Bernie Alexander is a lifelong fan of the sport, having played snooker, pool and other variations of the game since he was a teenager. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
The league is open to everyone, and people can even sign up as individuals and be placed on a team. Even the October 1 deadline is flexible, (although preferably adhered to.)
“There’s always latecomers, and they’re more than welcome,” Alexander said.
Ultimately, Alexander would like to see the league return to the hay days of the old Legion, when people packed bleachers to watch the big snooker matches, and the group hosted stars of the sport like Cliff Thorburn, Jimmy White, and Dennis Taylor, to name a few.
|Steve Drozd Sr. prepares his shot while Bernie Alexander looks on. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
Until that time, Alexander will focus on building the league back up, and reinstilling a love of the game in Prince Rupert, season by season and player by player. And of course, finding plenty of time to play recreationally as well.
“There’s a handful of guys that like to come in and play everyday,” Alexander said. “That’s why I’m down there to open up, I want to play everyday too. It’s great entertainment.”
Anyone interested in learning more about snooker can drop by the Legion Games Room, where Alexander would be happy to introduce newcomers to the sport, and potentially gain another player for Prince Rupert’s premier snooker league.
Alex Kurial | Sports Reporter
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