Totem 58 coordinator Brian Laviolette displays the ball that was used at in the Totem 57 final

Totem 58: tourney begins its new journey in Alberni

The new high school on Roger Street in Alberni is about to be baptized with its first-ever Totem basketball tournament this weekend.

It’s the dawn of a new era as the new high school on Roger Street is about to be baptized with its first-ever Totem basketball tournament.

Twelve teams, six each in boys’ and girls’ divisions, will be vying for their respective titles at Totem 58, which is being played this weekend in Port Alberni. Games start on Friday, Jan. 11.

“Every year people say ‘it doesn’t get better than this’ but it does,” tournament co-ordinator Brian Laviolette said. “I really look forward to this weekend and I think it’s going to be fantastic.”

The venerable tournament is seeing some firsts this year, said the man known as Lav.

The number of teams in each division has increased from six to eight. “This has been in the works for some time now and with the athletic hall next door the time seems right,” Lav said.

The bleachers in the new gym have a smaller capacity (500) than at the old gym (640). Nevertheless officials are working out the wrinkles of adding additional seating, Lav said. And in a page from the NCAA Final Four, there will be a school band playing during timeouts and between games.

Changes are also slated for the Totem Spirit contest. Gone is the voting system that was used to determine the winner. Instead, a committee will decide the winner based on a comprehensive mix of presentation, participation and tournament preparation.

“All of the contestants work hard and everyone is a winner. But at the end of the day we ultimately have to choose one winner,” Lav said.

Staff and students bid adieu to the old school on Burde Street last June and moved into the new one in September. Desks, chairs and trinkets weren’t the only thing to be grafted to the new facility. Totem traditions have also crossed over, Lav said.

A crescendo of small events this week are leading up to the big show this weekend. There was pajama day, Hawaiian Day, and the venerable pep rally will be held on Thursday.“The excitement has been building all week at the new school and there is going to be as much of that as there ever was,” Lav said.

Totem has come full circle for Laviolette, who is in the twilight of his teaching career after more than 30 years. He’s gone from being a member of an opposing team at Totem in 1971 to coaching Alberni against opponents starting in 1980.

“I knew about this magical tournament when I first played but it’s a different experience being a part of years later,” Lav said. “We only had four teams my first year. I knew it would really take off when it expanded to six teams.”

There’s still an old mystique to Totem, only now it has evolved with the move to the new high school, Lav said. “You never forget what happened at the old gym but it’s gone now and it’s time to move on,” Lav said. “It’s going to take some time but we’re already building a new culture here.”

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

Twitter.com/AlberniNews

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