The senior men’s Skidegate Saints made a hard-to-believe comeback in their final against the Kitkatla Warriors to win their sixth straight championship. (File photo)

Off The Mat: Best basketball town per capita

Thoughts on experiencing my first All Native Basketball Tournament in Prince Rupert, B.C.

There are a number of reasons why my first sports column in Prince Rupert is about basketball.

For starters, this city is obsessed with the sport. In fact, one of the main reasons I applied and ultimately accepted my current role at the Northern View is the fact that the job posting literally described Prince Rupert as being one of “the best basketball towns per capita in all of Canada.”

I was optimistic, and a little bit skeptical, of this claim, but since arriving and living here for the last nine months, I have to say the city has lived up to the hype.

There are minor league games where five year olds run up and down the court, learning how to play. Amateur men’s league games draw consistent crowds at 11:00 p.m. on a weekday evening. During the summer, you can go to the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre and you will always find enough experienced players for a quality pick-up game.

I have lived in a lot of places where people are passionate about the game, but it has never quite approached the level I have experienced here in Rupert. It’s a beautiful thing.

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The second reason this is column is about basketball is the fact that the All Native Basketball Tournament starts this weekend. All I’ve heard since arriving in Prince Rupert is how this tournament is like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and after watching last year’s senior men’s final and covering the All Native Qualifying Tournament, I have to admit I am looking forward to feeling that atmosphere up close and personal.

There is clearly something different about the way basketball is played here and during the tournament.

I am a competitor and have played in some big games before, but I was always able to compartmentalize the losses, let go of the disappointments and move on to the next day.

The teams and players competing in the tournament carry the pride of their friends, families and communities on their backs. They play like it’s personal — because for them it is.

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I’m looking forward to being a part of it, and soaking it all in, if only from the sidelines.

I want to see if the Skidegate senior men’s team has another championship run in them after last year’s incredible comeback victory. I want to know if Hazelton’s women’s team can defend it’s crown against Bella Bella. Can the Port Simpson Strike force make it three intermediate division victories in a row, and can Hydaburg, Alaska, maintain its upper hand against Old Massett in the master’s division?

These are all questions I can’t wait to see answered on the basketball court, and I’m sure it won’t disappoint.

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