Terrace Basketball Association president Keith Azak grew up with the game in his northwest B.C. community of Gitwinksihlkw, where he played for the home team and participated in the All Native Basketball Tournament.
Now Azak and his team are into the third year of organizing the annual Riverboat Days Open Basketball Tournament in Terrace, happening August 4 to 7 to coincide with the week-long northwest culture and heritage festival.
“I saw a need for people and I wanted mine to be open for everyone. It deosn’t matter who you are or what level you’re at. My goal was to make sure that everybody could participate and have fun,” Azak said.
“That’s kind of how it started. I love the game. I love to see all the the people out.”
Azak saw the potential in Terrace as a sports hub of the north and this year he said people are getting excited for it coming out of the pandemic. The tournament is open to everyone who wants to be a part of it.
“This third year we’re ready to go. We’re wide open that the plan is to have that venue rockin’ right to the final game. We have a lot of teams that are going to be participating and we’re only going to get bigger,” Azak said.
“I’m trying to blow this thing up and it has the potential. We already have between 20 and 30 teams secured. But the goal is to almost double that and extend it to the whole week of Riverboat Days.”
About 50 teams across the board in total had already expressed interest before the July 8 deadline. Teams from around northern B.C. have signed up with interest from as far afield as Vancouver and Saskatchewan.
This year’s tournament will also feature the first ever women’s masters 35-and-over division in the northwest with about eight teams registered. Azak said players average 18-years-old and over but there’s no age limit and there’s room to include a youth division in the future.
“There are some pretty big boys that would probably play in the men’s division just because there’s not enough support yet for the intermediate division.”
This year’s venue will most likely be the Caledonia Secondary School gym.
“It’s going to bring everyone together. There’s going to be a great opener from the host community about the traditional land we live on. There will be some great songs,” Azak said.
“Everyone can just gather, socialize, have fun and enjoy the time of togetherness.”
Azak hopes to expand to all four local gyms in the future as a major sports event for the northwest and B.C. that could rebound the city’s reputation as a host for major sporting events.
“If it continues to grow, it’ll be a week long thing where we have all the gyms booked every day… It’s going to be great for the community and a huge economic boost.”
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