The 62nd edition of the All Native Basketball Tournament set to start on Feb. 12 has been rescheduled amid COVID-19 concerns.
The opening date of the tournament, which sees dozens of men's and women's teams from across British Columbia and parts of Alaska compete for a week every year in Prince Rupert, has been moved to March 27.
Tournament organizer Peter Haugan said a committee voted for the delay as the Omicron variant continues to contribute to high case counts. He said he has heard from teams who are relieved they don't have to decide yet whether or not to participate.
"They want to have a tournament. They just want it to be a healthy environment," he said.
Last year, the tournament was cancelled for the first time in its long history because of COVID-19 concerns, and Haugan is hopeful that won't happen again this year.
Provincial restrictions state that indoor events at venues, such as sports events, concerts, and movies, can operate at 50 per cent capacity. Attendees must show proof of vaccination and wear masks.
Prior to the pandemic, the tournament, which takes place at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre, averaged around 5,000 fans a day.
Haugan said the tournament could survive at half-capacity, but may have to secure more sponsors to weather the financial hit. The tournament may also seek COVID relief funding.
"We're impacted no different than the Canucks or the restaurants or what have you," he said. "Everybody has costs and if you have no way of generating the revenue, that becomes an issue," he said.
Corrine McKay, chief administrative officer of the Gingolx Village Government whose team is participating in the tournament, says she's happy with the postponement, although she is cautiously optimistic the tournament can start on March 27.
"If we had 70 per cent double vaccinated with the booster shot by mid-year, we could see a turnaround in the pandemic, so it's quite possible," she said Tuesday to host Carolina de Ryk on CBC's Daybreak North. "It may not be enough time, but certainly something to work toward."