Birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and CIS (now U SPORTS) Final 8 basketball. These were all celebrated as yearly traditions for my family growing up in Bedford, Nova Scotia. The timing was always perfect as my brothers Anthony, Nick and I would be on a break from our seasons with the Bedford Eagles due to March Break.

My father tried to coordinate a plan for the four of us to watch every game, which usually started with an afternoon trip to Midtown Tavern. I still give my brothers a hard time for ordering chicken fingers at a place known mostly for its steak, but that shows how young they began attending games as chicken fingers and fries were ordered for every meal when they were kids.

Part of why I loved attending the Final 8 was how much of the basketball community would come out to watch. You would be hard pressed to find anyone at Midtown who was not attending the basketball games later that evening.

Coaches, referees, opposing players, and teammates could all be found at the Metro Centre (now the Scotiabank Centre). Games were always packed due to the huge basketball community in Halifax, especially if local schools like St. Mary’s, St. F.X., Dalhousie or Acadia were playing.

I can remember ordering my first sub while attending the Final 8. Thankfully the worker at the time just made me a cold cut sub when I asked for an “all meats sub.” At the games, I loved being able to point out to my Dad players I recognized from the Community Y Panthers, North Preston Bulls, Norwood Knights or Halifax Osprey that we played against in the previous weeks.

Playing for Basketball Nova Scotia provincial teams, more relationships were formed among former opponents that made attending the Final 8 even more special. Some of these teammates I’d watch the Final 8 games with such as Casey Fox and Josh Beattie ended up having big games at the Metro Centre during AUS playoffs.

Though my brothers may be too young to remember, I was very fortunate to witness local greats like Randy Nohr, Fred Perry, Jordan Croucher, Dennie Oliver, Jonah Taussig, Nate Anderson, and Gabe Goree. Then to be able to witness Carleton’s dominant run from 2003-2007 was very special. Watching the top players and coaches in the country perform was the highest level of basketball was something my brothers and I could witness in person.

I am ecstatic that the Final 8 is back in Halifax and look forward to seeing the basketball community come together once again. The fact that my brother Nick and I will be competing in the Final 8 next year and have a chance to do so this year is very surreal. I don’t know if others have the same tradition as my family, or maybe their tradition will start next year in 2017. One thing that I do know is no one hosts the Final 8 like Halifax!

Danny De Palma
Men’s & Women’s Assistant Coach, Acadia Axemen
Bedford, Nova Scotia