One of the biggest and most prestigious basketball tournaments in BC is celebrating an important milestone in 2020.
The Abbotsford Snowball Classic will run at Abbotsford Senior for its 60th straight year, making it one of the longest-running basketball tournaments out there. Few tournaments during the season combine high-quality games and the ability to draw and rally around the community behind it.
“It puts our school on the map for something positive and it’s just such an amazing opportunity to have local schools, out of town schools to be part of such a top-level tournament,” said Samantha Wiebe, one of the organizers of the Snowball Classic. “There are really good, highly ranked teams in this tournament, and it’s really good basketball to watch.”
The tournament in its early years was simply “local teams playing right after the Christmas holidays” said Kirsten Janzen, another organizer of the tournament. “It was just a traditional senior boys tournament.” Gradually, as the tournament grew in stature, more teams were willing to come and participate.
“A lot of teams that are playing usually wouldn’t be playing one another” explained Janzen. “[A team like] Kelowna has been a part of it for as long as I’ve been a part of it. All the teams that are playing usually wouldn’t see one another in the regular season.”
A team that the local BC teams usually don’t get to see is the out of town team the tournament brings in yearly. In recent years, organizer Prentice Lenz has led the charge in getting international teams to the tournament, with programs like Fairfax coming up to Abbotsford. This year, Rolling Hills from California is coming to town and should get an amazing experience by being at the Snowball.
“A lot of these kids coming from the US may never get the chance to see how beautiful Abbotsford, Vancouver, BC is,” said Weibe. “Those kids, they get an experience.”
“We get interest [from programs] because those teams wanted to come up and see Canada and have an experience here” added Janzen on getting teams from the United States. “It hasn’t been a problem getting teams at all. They enjoy it, it runs really smoothly and it’s a nice amount of games for everyone.”
The Snowball draws people in from around Abbotsford, and is a major part of the basketball community in the Fraser Valley town. Alumni will even travel back to attend games, and a big part of that aspect is the first game of the tournament held against a local rival.
“The energy brings you out of your seat,” said Weibe, “[and] the gym is usually packed and we get alumni out every year. My parents graduated from Abby and a lot of the teachers who teach there are Abby grads as well. So it’s so deep-seated the excitement for the game and to be there.”
The first game will be on Wednesday, January 15th with hosts Abbotsford Senior facing local rivals Robert Bateman in what is guaranteed to be an amazing atmosphere in the old gym. You can get live updates from the tournament and the full schedule by visiting their Twitter page.
Written by: Nick Bondi