The Lights Out Invitational Basketball Tournament has helped turn the lights on for the adult basketball community in Whitehorse.
The tournament, cleverly named due to the lack of light in January and how a player can shoot the lights out on the way to the championship, has grown over the years from its humble, four team beginnings in 2015. Now armed with a title sponsor, Kilrich Building Supplies, and participants from outside the territory, the basketball community is poised to build off of its success.
Colin LaForme has been one of the key organizers since the first event and is excited about the growth of basketball. “When we started the tournament, the only men’s basketball we could play was pickup on Tuesday and Saturdays,” said LaForme. “But we knew there were more people in town who could play a weekend tournament, so we decided to host and see what happened.
“That first year was three Whitehorse teams and a mixed team from Old Crow and Dawson.”
The Old Crow/Dawson team won the inaugural tournament and the success provided momentum to form a men’s league in Whitehorse. From there, they continued to build and had six teams attend the second event, including a team from Yellowknife, who won.
That continued success served as more motivation and the third tournament expanded even further. “Last year we had seven teams and the first Whitehorse team winning the tournament,” LaForme said. “For the first time, we had also had a women’s tournament of five teams.
“It was the first year as a real tournament that you envision. We had Kilrich join as a title sponsor and we had prize money for winning teams.”
The men’s league has now expanded to eight teams with a broad range of skills. There are ex-professionals and also beginners just getting into the game.
“We’re always looking for new players,” LaForme said.
This year’s event may have as many as nine men’s teams and six women’s teams, with possible entries from Alaska and the Northwest Territories. The format will include round robin pool play, followed by elimination playoffs. Games will take place at all three high schools during the January 19, 20 and 21 weekend.
The next steps beyond this year is to include youth, according to LaForme.
“We would like to grow the tournament and have the men’s and women’s divisions going at the same time as high school games,” he said. “Youth players help out during the tournament now. It’s part of building the basketball community.”
Spectators are invited to attend and entrance is by donation, all of which goes towards the tournament fundraising efforts for youth teams. Last year, they managed to raise about $1,000 dollars for youth basketball in the Yukon.
Anyone looking for more information, wanting to help out with the tournament, or interested in getting involved with adult basketball can email the organizers at YukonMensBasketball@gmail.com.