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Uncertainty surrounds this year’s Coal Bowl as teachers work-to-rule

NEW WATERFORD, N.S. — The Coal Bowl Classic has been a tradition in the New Waterford community for the past 35 years, but there is some uncertainty surrounding this year’s tournament.

Breton Education Centre Bears player Blair MacIsaac, left, guards his man during the championship game of the Coal Bowl Classic at the Breton Education Centre gym in New Waterford last February. The iconic high school basketball tournament could be in jeopardy this year because of the teachers’ work-to-rule job action, but no decision has yet been made.

The annual high school basketball tournament is scheduled for Feb. 6-11 at Breton Education Centre, but with the current work-to-rule job action from Nova Scotia school teachers taking place, this year’s tournament could be in jeopardy.
Jacqueline Poirier, co-chair of the Coal Bowl Classic, said as of now no decision has been made on the tournament.
“We are waiting to see if there is any movement,” she said. “We just have to sit and wait.”
The annual tournament that draws high school basketball teams from all over the country started in 1982 and has been well-supported by the community. The tournament marked its 35th anniversary last February, with the host Breton Education Centre Bears winning their second championship in tournament history.
Blair MacIsaac, a graduating player on this year’s Bears team, said a cancellation would be disappointing for the players.
“It would be pretty devastating for me because this is the year we all prepared for — our Grade 12 year,” he said. “We worked so hard for this and to have this cancelled would be pretty bad.”

Teams scheduled to attend this year’s tournament include the host Bears, Memorial Marauders, Hants North Rural High School and Avon View High School as well as teams from P.E.I., Newfoundland and Labrador, British Columbia and two teams from Ontario.
Poirier said teams have been in contact with the organizing committee to find out information on the status of the tournament.
“We are going to let them know as soon as we can,” she said. “We want them to be able to recoup their money.”
“We are trying to hold on, just in case there is hope,” said Poirier. “We hate to cancel right now, but to be honest, it’s not looking good.”
The work-to-rule job action by teachers includes no extracurricular activities for students.
The Coal Bowl Classic isn’t the only high school sports tournament facing a decision. The annual Red Cup Showcase high school hockey tournament, hosted by Riverview Rural High School, is also scheduled for February.
Meanwhile, in Glace Bay, the annual Panther Classic hockey tournament was cancelled last weekend.
Poirier said if organizers are forced to cancel the tournament this year, she doesn’t think it will jeopardise the future of the event.
“We’d continue on next year,” she said. “This is the first time this ever happened — we’ve had storms, but the kids were already in the school and the games were able to go.”
MacIsaac said if the tournament is cancelled it would not only be disappointing for the players, but the community as well.
 “This is a big community event and everyone loves it,” said the Bears third-year player.
Many residents in the New Waterford community consider the Coal Bowl Classic as the town’s winter carnival.
“It’s one of the biggest events of the school year, in terms of extracurricular activities,” said Poirier. “Everybody does well during the tournament — the pizza shops, the stores — it boosts revenue to the local businesses.”
Although no special meetings are planned, Poirier said the committee talks often and a decision on this year’s tournament will be made either by the end of the month or early next month.
“We’re going to make it as quickly as we can,” she said. “Our committee will come together and make that announcement.”
Tickets for the tournament usually go on sale in December. Poirier said tickets won’t go on sale to the public until a decision is made.

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