Students compete in one day Hoopla championship amid STF contract negotiations

Click to play video: 'Students compete in one day Hoopla championship amid STF contract negotiations'
Students compete in one day Hoopla championship amid STF contract negotiations
Sundeen said he's grateful his team got to play and is proud of them, but the day's bronze medal comes with an asterisk – Mar 25, 2024

Over 700 student athletes in Saskatchewan were supposed to compete in the high school basketball provincials, known as Hoopla, this week in Moose Jaw.

The tournament would have started on Thursday, but it was cancelled due to a job action by the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation that included a province-wide withdrawal of extracurriculars.

In place of the tournament, organizers announced a one-day event where every team that qualified for Hoopla would be invited to play a single game, with matchups determined by seeding.

“As students have endured the unrest, they demonstrated many of the qualities that their coaches have tried to nurture in an educational athletic setting,” a release from the Saskatchewan High School Athletic Association (SHSAA) read.  “We have also been made aware of many situations where teams have come together to cope and support each other through the disappointment.

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This is the third time in five years that Hoopla has been cancelled. In 2020, sanctions by the STF as part of the previous contract negotiations with the government shut down the tournament, and in 2021 the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to event.

Click to play video: 'Moose Jaw left in economic uncertainty with Hoopla hanging in the balance'
Moose Jaw left in economic uncertainty with Hoopla hanging in the balance

Over the last week, students have protested in front of government MLA offices, STF offices and the provincial legislature, urging the sides to come to an agreement.

“Throughout this process we have provided government with multiple off-ramps to end sanctions and ensure that activities and events such as Hoopla, the Regina Optimist Band Festival, the Skills Canada Saskatchewan Provincial Competition, and many, many more could take place as originally planned,” read a release from STF.

“We are deeply disappointed that government simply refuses to meet teachers halfway.”

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Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill is urging the STF to “get back to the bargaining table.”

“It’s Hoopla this week, but it’s graduation next month. I don’t think that’s right, to be using students as bargaining chips in this whole issue. If it’s about the kids, the adults need to be at the bargaining table.”

Jeremy Sundeen was once a kid on the court playing in Hoopla. Now, he said he’s a basketball coach and teacher at Luther College High School in Regina.

He took his team, the Luther Lions, to the one-day Hoopla tournament which — despite being shortened — still means a lot to him.

“(It’s) the individual players, but also the teams. There’s a lot of stalwart programs across the province, some coaches that are here every year because they do such a good job of developing students from a young age,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Basketball teams distraught over potential cancellation of Hoopla'
Basketball teams distraught over potential cancellation of Hoopla

“It’s really a celebration of students and a celebration of coaches and a celebration of basketball excellence in the province.”

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In the AAAA boys bronze medal game, the Luther Lions came out victorious over Harvest City, winning 70 to 50.

Sundeen said he’s grateful his team got to play and is proud of them, but the day’s bronze medal comes with an asterisk because Hoopla was one day instead of the regular three.

“I told the boys after the game that when they see that asterisk in the book, to know it could’ve been different. It could have been a different colour of medal, but they should be proud of what they’ve done and be proud of the bronze medal,” he said.

For grade 12 Lucas Stasiuk, it’s been a long season.

“We didn’t know if we were going to play at Hoopla at all,” he said. “In regionals, we won by 50 and then by 20, just knowing we have to take that momentum into Hoopla and just hoping we’d have a chance to play.”

Stasiuk said leaving the tournament is bittersweet.

“It’s tough going out, and it’s tough that we didn’t have the opportunity to try and compete for first place, but it feels nice ending on a good win,” he said.

–with files from Global’s Moose Imran


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