Mar 15, 2009
“You can’t take the country out of the boy” the saying goes. Even here on the Caribbean sea.
I grew up in a small town in Saskatchewan. Winter evenings were spent either at Stotski’s pool hall or more usually at the village social center, our little curling rink. Almost all students from grade 7 to 12 were involved in curling, and then in our senior school years, we were drafted to teams for the two big bonspiels, the farmer’s and the town- spiels.
In grade 12 I was chosen to play for our Buchanan High School team along with Russell Shukin, Alex Kozlow, and Jimmy Shushetski. As I remember, we did okay in the regionals in Yorkton that year, but did not advance to the Provincials.
I have only played a few games in the many intervening years, but I have maintained my belief that curling is one of the most skillful, strategic and exciting games of all. So once again this year, I followed first the Scotties, the Canadian Women’s Curling Championship and, just finishing tonight, the Tim Horton’s Briar Canadian Men’s Curling Championship. Many of the games went down to the classic last rock. In the semifinal, Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton made a double raise and stick with his last rock to defeat Ontario's Glenn Howard. Wow! Tonight's final was an easy win for Alberta’s Kevin Martin’s team which set a record of two straight years without a loss in the round robins and the play-offs.
Back in my day, the Saskatchewan team of the Ernie Richardson, a farmer, along with his farming brother and two cousins dominated Canadian and world curling. To this day, Ernie’s is the only team to win four world titles. We all tried to emulate their flamboyant (for its time) style, chin tucked broom sliding, and noisy wapp-wapping of the narrow corn brooms.
Nowadays, the big-name teams are playing almost year-round, with mind-boggling precision, and those funny little brushes. If you have the time and patience to learn to play, or to follow the curling game, it will impress you with the chess-like complexity and the athletics.
And you can yell until you are hoarse, “Hurry! Hurry hard!”