Dick Hotch (third from left) with the Klukwan ANB basketball team in 1974. Klukwan's new gym will host the Dick Hotch 28th Annual Tournament Feb. 12-15, the first time the tournament has been held in Klukwan. Also pictured are, from left, Manager Roy Hotch, Larry Hotch, Coach Dick Hotch, Cliff Hotch, Brad Sele, Les Katzeek, Norm Hotch, Jeff David, Terry Friske and Jeff Klanott.
Story last updated at 2/11/2009 - 11:58 am
KLUKWAN - The village of Klukwan has waited for this weekend for 28 years. For the first time, the annual Dick Hotch Basketball Tournament will be held in Klukwan Feb. 12-15.
"This is a homecoming tournament where we will be bringing the tourney back to Klukwan after having held it in Haines due to lack of a playable facility," said Andrew Williams, Assistant Tribal Administrator for the Chilkat Indian Village. "We are very excited about this event as it will be the first time it is held in Klukwan."
The tournament honors Dick Hotch, who coached the Klukwan ANB basketball team for years and made sure the team participated in tournaments throughout Southeast Alaska, according to tournament director Larry Sweet.
Sweet met Dick Hotch when he first arrived in Klukwan 30 years ago. He arrived on Dec. 22, he said, and by Dec. 26 he was on his way to Hoonah to play basketball on Hotch's team.
"We hit it off right away," he said. "When it came time for (someone else to run the basketball team and tournaments) I stepped right in. I do it on a volunteer basis and I do it for him."
Hotch died in 1980 and the first memorial tournament was held in 1981. All of the tournaments have been held in the Haines gym until this year. The newly completed Klukwan gym just opened this January.
With the tournament being held in Hotch's home town for the first time, more people than ever are volunteering to help.
"In all the years I've been running it, I've never had so many people volunteer as we have this year," Sweet said. "We've never had the enthusiasm and the volunteerism we've had this year. Every day I'm getting calls from people volunteering. It's just a tremendous feeling to have so many people participating."
The tournament pays homage to others as well. Each of the trophies awarded to winning teams are donated in memory of someone who has recently passed away.
Eight teams will participate in this year's tournament: two teams each from Klukwan, Juneau and Whitehorse and one team each from Skagway and Haines. The defending champion is the Orange Crush team from Haines.
On Feb. 12 there will be a dedication of the gym. Sweet invited Sen. Albert Kookesh and Rep. Bill Thomas, both of whom he said were instrumental in getting funding for the gym.
"Hopefully they can come up and celebrate," Sweet said. "Everyone will bring in the regalia and do it upright."
A Different Feel
"I think there's going to be a different feel to the tournament," Sweet said. He's already heard a number of positive comments about the gym.
Mark McNamera, a past NBA player who coaches high school basketball in Haines came in to see the gym recently. He paid the gym one of the best compliments Sweet had heard.
"He came up to me and said, 'I've been in thousands and thousands of gyms and I've never got the feeling I get in here,"" Sweet said. "It really made it me proud (to hear that)."
One recent evening Sweet opened the gym during an unscheduled time. He didn't have to tell anyone the gym was open: 13 people showed up to play.
Klukwan students also use the new facility for their gym classes in school. Sweet said he has seen the kids take real pride in the gym.
"(If) they drop anything, they pick it up," Sweet said. "They take pride. This is their gym, and they take care of it."
Teams from outside of Klukwan are making special arrangements to attend this special tournament this year. Ferry cancellations have made it more difficult and expensive for the Juneau teams to come to the tournament, but that hasn't deterred them.
"I need to thank the Juneau teams," Sweet said. "They are going to take it upon themselves to send a couple of vehicles up early. And they're going to fly up. This is going to be a great added expense to these guys but they said they're willing to do it to support the tournament."
The Hotch name and spirit lives on in Klukwan, Sweet said, and the tournament's new home will ensure that the tradition of honoring Hotch continues.
"He had strong beliefs in religion and strong beliefs in family and great love for the game of basketball," Sweet said. "He would stress the sportsmanship. He would tell us, 'Don't forget that you're not just representing yourself, you're representing Klukwan.'"
The tournament will take place in the Klukwan gym Feb. 12-15. Shuttle bus transportation will be available from Haines. For details call Larry Sweet at 767-5505.