Men’s Iceworm Basketball Tournament is back

After a long hiatus, it’s nice to see the Men’s Iceworm Basketball Tournament is back.  At one time this popular event attracted a number of visiting teams, mostly from Anchorage, and featured very

good players to face off against local talent.

One team, Barretts, sticks out in particular. It was a bunch of old-timers who often out-smarted locals with their shooting and passing skills plus cagey guile. 

I remember their big center who mentioned before the game that he always won the opening tip.  Watching the game from the sidelines, I discovered why. With the arm not visible to the referee who was about to toss up the jump ball, he put his heavy hand on the shoulder of his opponent, who consequently went nowhere upward.

Ah, city league basketball – a sport that defies description. One thing that becomes evident as the game literally wears on is lack of conditioning. Which is why I am surprised the games are being played at the Cordova High School court. Most fans and players don’t know that for reasons unexplained the floor there is 10 feet longer than regulation, which is 84 feet. And Bidarki’s floor is about 20 feet shorter. 

Add on that extra 30 feet to each trip up and down the floor, and no wonder the team with some younger players is likely to prevail.

Besides, as a former Wolverine, Bidarki has some special memories for me. Up until 1967 that was where CHS played, and much of the schedule was against Men’s League teams such as the Moose, Elks, American Legion, Coho, Alaskan and Powder House to mention a few.  The contests between the high school squad and men were usually somewhat disciplined affairs, but boys will be boys when it was men versus men. The Cordova Times, which covered the games in much detail, often had colorful descriptions of players being hauled down the stairs (Bidarki court is on the second story) and directly upstairs to the hospital, which happened to be located in a two-story building across the street.  This was before the days of EMTs, but I am sure they had staff on hand during Men’s League nights.

Of course, it helped that most of the sponsors also provided free postgame libation for their players to salve the wounds that didn’t require hospitalization.

Anyhow, the tournament is back.  Attend and enjoy. Root for your favorite players. Applaud their efforts.  And let’s hope it’s here to stay.

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Dick Shellhorn is a lifelong Cordovan. He has been writing sports stories for the Cordova Times for over 50 years. In his Cordova Chronicles features, he writes about the history and characters of this Alaska town. Alaska Press Club awarded Shellhorn first place for Best Humor column in 2016 and 2020, and third place in 2017 and 2019. He also received second place for Best Editorial Commentary in 2019. Shellhorn has written two books about Alaska adventures: Time and Tide and Balls and Stripes. Reach him at