Fans and families of a local high school basketball team will be gathering around their computers next week to take in a Canadian sports tradition as it streams from New Waterford, Nova Scotia.
That’s because the Nechako Valley Vikings boys team will be playing at the Coal Bowl basketball tournament at the Breton Education Centre in the Maritimes.
“This is a once in a lifetime experience for kids competing in this,” G. Cogan, vice principal at Nechako Valley Secondary school (NVSS) in Vanderhoof said, “It’s a wonderful highlight for the boys basketball program.”
Cogan explained that New Waterford folks always complement the events with creative colour commentary and the town puts out its warmest welcome to young men from teams across the nation. There are a lot of friendships made and awareness of another part of the country come with the experience, he said.
During their stay, teams learn about New Waterford’s coal mining history and the athletes are asked to read up on its history before arriving.
Rhys Wallace who went with the team back in 2008 during grade 12 said it was different than all the other tournaments he’d ever attended.
“It was really fun and it was a very big deal at our school,” he said.
That year the NVSS Vikings took top spot at the Coal Bowl, which made the experience even more exciting. Wallace shared how their time there six years ago inspired this year’s Viking team to start training early.
“When we were in grade 12, the grade 8 team said to coach (Gary) Simrose, ‘We want to go to the Coal Bowl’, and so the coach said he would take them if they were good enough.”
He noted that teams must apply to go to the tournament but added, once you’ve gone it’s easier to get invited back.
A lot of fundraising needs to be done for any team to attend because of the cost of getting there and other expenses that come with a week-long excursion. However, it’s all worth it, notes Wallace, whose brother Riley is on this year’s Viking team. He guesses his younger sibling will come back with lots of good memories.
“It was the funnest time for the whole Vanderhoof team,” Wallace shared, “people there are awesome, there’s dances every (game) night and big opening and closing ceremonies.”
The 31-year-old Coal Bowl runs from January 30 to February 4.
There are also three womens teams competing with each other this year.