A decades-old basketball tournament in Cape Breton appears to be in jeopardy because of the ongoing dispute between Nova Scotia teachers and the province.

For 35 consecutive years, the Coal Bowl Classic has hosted games on the hardwood without any interruptions. But that could change if the two sides are unable to come to an agreement.

“The Coal Bowl is kind of historic,” said co-founder Lowell Cormier. “There's all kinds of things that happen around Coal Bowl with regards to the weather and strange things. Unfortunately it will be history for all of the wrong reasons.”

The union and government returned to the table for the fourth time on Saturday. It’s providing a spark of optimism for those putting the tournament together.

“We are hoping they we will come to some sort of agreement so we could have the Coal Bowl,” said tournament co-chair Jacqueline Poirier.

“The highly-anticipated basketball tournament started in 1982 and has attracted teams from all across the country. Some have been fundraising for years to get here.

“One coach from Ottawa has said they've been saving for seven years to come to Coal Bowl. Knowing that the time will come and he's been waiting to take a team,” said Cormier. 

Cancelling would mean the loss of airfare and other expenses. But organizers note graduating students will never get this chance again.

“For a basketball player in New Waterford and Cape Breton, Coal is it. This is as good as you're going to get unless you move on. Very few move on to play university, so this is it for them,” Cormier said. 

The tournament is scheduled to begin on February 6 at the Cape Breton Education Centre. Poirier says the committee will wait until the middle of January to make that final decision on whether or not it will go ahead.

“It is a big loss,” Poirier said. “On the other side of things we need to hope and pray that the government listens to what the teachers have to say about education and what's needed and at the same time we still want to have our Coal Bowl.”

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kyle Moore.