PUBLISHED: 4:52 PM on Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Five questions with Gold Medal Tournament's Ted Burke
The 62nd annual Gold Medal Basketball Tournament will be held from March 16-22 this year. The event is put on by the Juneau Lions Club and the teams are made up of three brackets this year: B, C, M.

President of Juneau Lions Club Ted Burke answers a few questions about this years tournament.

What is the origination of this tournament and how has it changed/grown over the years?

CCW file photo
  The gold medal basketball tournament ill be held Mar. 16-22 this year.
In 1946 When Del Hanks was a Boy Scout Executive for S.E. Alaska and traveled to almost every community, the subject of basketball was discussed at every opportunity in every place. From these conversations, and with the support from the Juneau Lions Club, the idea of holding a tournament where the fellows of Southeast could get together and play basketball, mainly out of love for the game and the spirit of friendly competition, the Lions Gold Medal Tournament had its beginning in 1947. Del conceived the idea that fun and sportsmanship would be the theme of the tournament and top individual awards were designated as All Tourney, All American, and All Star Sportsmanship.

As interest and enthusiasm grew-along with better facilities-more teams became anxious to compete. This resulted in forming a two-bracket tournament-the A and Double A-and awards designated to the present MVP and Sportsmanship.

Now we have a three-bracket tournament which allows for keen competition between teams of more equal strength.

The original idea of Del Hanks-that of friendly competition and sportsmanship conduct-still prevails and set the tone of the tournament for both fans and players.

May it always remain so.

What kind of significance does this tournament hold in Southeast Alaskan culture?

We in the Juneau Lions Club like to refer to this tournament as the NCAA Tournament of Southeast Alaska. Basketball players who have solid connections to a community compete to be a member of the team(s) that represents their community in this tournament. One of the neatest connections we experienced several years ago was a T-Shirt worn by a resident of Hoonah. It went something like this - The last out for the Gold Medal Tournament please turn off the lights. The State of Alaska Ferry System has been a terrific partner in scheduling ferry runs that connect to the start and finish of the tournament thus permitting many community residents to attend the tournament.

What do you credit the popularity of basketball in this area of Southeast Alaska?

It is an 'indoor' sport that can be played all year and it unites all the people in a community. If you have ever attended a basketball game in Southeast Alaska or other rural communities in Alaska you will always see young boys and girls on the gym floor practicing before, sometimes at halftime, and after a game. The love of this sport is unbelievable and the caliber of basketball played is OUTSTANDING.

Families and fans are a fantastic part of this tournament. They work hard during the year to raise funds for the team and save money to come to Juneau for the tournament. See families get together - the smiles - the hugs - the wonderful support for their team is just as exciting and wonderful as the basketball games.

Can you explain the way teams are separated into divisions for the tournament and how would you rate the overall competitiveness of the event?

Age and abilities play a major role in deciding the divisions. If you check the rules you will find that the "B" is for young men, "C" starts at 32 years of age, and Masters starts at 42. Over the years we have tried other Divisions as well which were Women - small community and urban community and Intermediate which was for younger men not selected for "B" Division play. As far as competitiveness is concerned, you only need to attend one of the Finals Championship games to see some of the best played basketball in the world.

In what way(s) are some of the proceeds from the tournament returned to the communities that participate?

a. First off - we distribute a portion of the proceeds to every team that traveled to the tournament. Average distribution has been $300.00

b. We always had a scholarship program which is now handled in the following way. Every S.E. community that provides a team is given a scholarship. The selection of who get the scholarship is determined by the local school administrators. They then notify us who got the scholarship and what school they will attend. The average scholarship is $500 for each community

c. Additionally, we make distributions to Non-Profit organization in Juneau and other locations. Many of the Juneau Non-Profits serve the S.E. communities such as Catholic Community Services, AWARE, Salvation Army, and Community Cultural Education Camps etc. Our average distributions are $500 with a list of approximate twenty plus recipients.

d. We also make donations to the Lions International Programs that handle Sight Programs and Aid/Assistance to areas experiencing disasters.

We measure our success by how much good we can do in the Southeast Alaska communities, as a result of the tournament. Spectators getting to experience terrific games of basketball, see outstanding sportsmanship, and the opportunity for a player to represent their community to the best of their ability being some of our highest priorities. Sure it is about dollars and cents, but it is also about much more than that. It's about more than 6 decades of volunteering to serve our friends and communities in many ways.