The one place James Kay does not look when playing serious cribbage is at the scoreboard.
“If you start doing that then you start being cautious and I don’t want to play that way,” said the Port Coquitlam, B.C., Branch member who found himself defending his 2008 cribbage singles championship title at this year’s Dominion Command Cribbage Championships held April 23-25 at Aldergrove Branch in British Columbia’s Lower Fraser Valley.
Kay had successfully moved through provincial playoffs to once again be representing British Columbia/Yukon Command in the tournament which would see 10 teams gather in the branch for the exciting tournament to determine singles, doubles and team championships.
While each command is welcome to send different players for each of the three categories, only B.C./Yukon, Saskatchewan and Manitoba-Northwestern Ontario commands continue to do so. The others, for economic reasons, send one four-person team from which the single and doubles players are chosen.
Players and officials were met at the airport in either Vancouver or Abbotsford and driven to the rural community 45 kilometres east and south of Vancouver. The United States-Canada border is only a short distance away and much of the rural land is taken up by what was once Canadian Forces Station Aldergrove, now known as Naval Radio Station Aldergrove which is controlled by Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt.
British Columbia was sorting itself out after an unusually harsh winter and players gathered outside the branch in the cool air for a wreath-placing ceremony at the cenotaph on the branch property.
Teams formed up behind local cadets who led them in a parade to the cenotaph carrying signs for each command. Dominion Chairman Tom Irvine, representing the Dominion Command Sports Committee, placed a wreath assisted by British Columbia/Yukon Command Second Vice Bob Brady.
Inside the branch, Irvine brought greetings on behalf of the Sports Committee. Words of welcome were also offered by Aldergrove Branch President John L’Henaff, Township of Langley Deputy Mayor Bev Dornan and B.C. Housing and Social Development Minister Rich Coleman, the local MLA and a branch member.
Tournament co-ordinator Doug Hadley got things started afterward with singles and doubles competition being played simultaneously. In each category competitors play nine rounds, two games per round. One point is awarded for each win and a skunk is worth two points. Scorekeeper Jerry Strelic, whose name is on the championship cup from a few years ago, watched over the day’s play.
By the end of the sixth round of singles play, those who were watching the scoreboard could see a four-way race beginning. Ken Jakeman of Roblin, Man., Branch was leading the way with 10 points, followed closely by Kay and Saskatchewan’s Patti Paul of Dr. Harold Anderson Memorial TVS Branch in Saskatoon, both with nine points. New Brunswick’s Roy Flowers of Marysville Branch in Fredericton had eight.
In the seventh round Kay took two points to take the lead with 11 points while Jakeman lost both of his games. From then on in Kay got two points in each of the remaining rounds, giving him 15 points. Paul came on strong getting both games including one with a skunk in the final round to end with 14 points.
In doubles, newcomers Dick and Joan Thibideau of Miscouche Branch in Prince Edward Island were moving ahead but were equally unaware of their standing. By the end of the seventh round three teams were sitting with 10 points each—P.E.I., Quebec’s Lise Gaudreau and Paul Bergevin of Ste-Therese Branch and Newfoundland’s William Squires and William Corcoran of Dermot Lee Memorial Branch in Riverhead.
P.E.I. scored both points in their next round while Quebec and Newfoundland could only score one each. In the ninth round, P.E.I. again scored two while Quebec gained one and Newfoundland lost both games. The final score was P.E.I. 14 and Quebec 12. Newfoundland tied for third place with Nova Scotia’s Judy O’Leary and Gordie MacDonald of Arras Branch in Antigonish each scoring 11 points.
“I had no idea where we were in the scoring,” said Joan Thibideau. “It wasn’t until near the end when the Ontario team said, ‘P.E.I., you are on top. All we have to do is skunk you and take all the rest to win.’ And that didn’t happen.”
It was all quite a surprise to Thibideau who was grateful for the trip since she has a brother living in the Vancouver area. “This is something. We’ve never been to the dominion level before. We got the trip out here. And we won,” she said.
After play ended for the day, card players adjourned to the lounge next door or back to the hotel before a Saturday night banquet. An excellent roast beef dinner was served.
Irvine congratulated the Local Arrangements Committee chaired by Margriet Vankesteren. “On behalf of Dominion Command, I want to thank the branch and the Local Arrangements Committee for the good time we have all been having,” he said. Irvine also presented President L’Henaff with a plaque in recognition of the branch being host to the championships.
The next day, players seemed a little more serious as they went into the team play. The four-person team split into A and B teams and played in the same manner as doubles with their scores added together at the end.
With the doubles victory already under their belt, Dick and Joan Thibideau were joined by teammates Eldon Doucette and Sherry Wright. Both sides were performing strongly, keeping neck and neck with New Brunswick’s Carl Nash, Paul Leslie Calhoun, Daryl Alward and Roy Flowers. “Yesterday I couldn’t get good cards if I tried. The cards seem to be a lot better today,” said Calhoun at the midway point.
Among those playing was Peter Piper with the Saskatchewan team from Tecumseh Stoughton who is first vice of Saskatchewan Command.
Much camaraderie was had by Alberta-Northwest Territories Command team from Sylvan Lake Branch. While they were representing the command here, the team of Bonnie Olson, Laura Olsen, Wanda Olson and Jean Podridske were all members of Sylvan Lake Ladies Auxiliary. They had won in L.A. cribbage championships and went on to claim the command title.
By the end of the seventh round P.E.I. was barely ahead with 21 points while New Brunswick was breathing down their necks with a combined total of 20. Behind them with 18 was Ontario’s Garry Frost, Dave McQuillen, Gord Legacy and Joe Summerfield of Dunnville Branch. Both Quebec and Nova Scotia were still in contention with 17 each.
However, there was no sweep at the end. Both P.E.I. and New Brunswick could pick up only four of the possible eight points remaining. Still, it was enough to give P.E.I. the title with 25 points while New Brunswick came in second with 24.
“Prince Edward Island had a title to defend but it was a different branch that won last time,” said Doucette, referring to the members of George Pearkes VC Branch in Summerside who came away with the title last year in Grand Bend, Ont.
The game over, players gathered for a short ceremony with Hadley acting as master of ceremonies while Irvine presented the trophies to the winners and runners-up.
“I’ve been to a few of the Dominion Command cribbage events. It’s really just the people that make it such a great event,” commented Kay when it was over. “The hospitality couldn’t be better.”
Teams: P.E.I. (Miscouche Br.) 25; N.B. (Marysville Br., Fredericton) 24; Que. (Ste-Therese Br.), Ont. (Dunnville Br.) 23; N.S./Nunavut (Arras Br., Antigonish) 22; B.C./Yukon (Lake Cowichan Br.) 19; Man./N.W.O. (Red Rock, Ont., Br.) 18; Alta./N.W.T. (Sylvan Lake Br.), Sask. (Tecumseh Stoughton Br., Stoughton) 15; Nfld./Lab. (Dermot Lee Memorial Br., Riverhead) 14.
Doubles: P.E.I. (Dick Thibideau, Joan Thibideau, Miscouche Br.) 14; Que. (Lise Gaudreau, Paul Bergevin, Ste-Therese Br.) 12; Nfld./Lab. (William Squires, William Corcoran, Dermot Lee Memorial Br.), N.S./Nunavut (Judy O’Leary, Gordie MacDonald, Arras Br.,) 11; B.C. /Yukon (Catharine Hine, Paul Rougeau, White Rock Br.), Man./N.W.O. (John Callarec, Anthony Lubinieck, Dauphin Br.), Ont. (Joe Summerfield, Gord Legacy, Dunnville Br.) 10; Sask. (Angela Bird, Sonny Bird, Moose Jaw Br.) 9; Alta./N.W.T. (Jean Podridske, Bonnie Olson, Sylvan Lake Br.) 8; N.B. (Paul Leslie Calhoun, Carl Nash, Marysville Br.) 5.
Singles: B.C./Yukon (James Kay, Port Coquitlam Br.) 15; Sask. (Patti Paul, Dr. Harold Anderson Memorial TVS Br., Saskatoon) 14; Man./N.W.O. (Ken Jakeman, Roblin Br.), N.B. (Roy Flowers, Marysville Br.) 12; Que. (Denis Lepage, Ste-Therese Br.), P.E.I. (Eldon Doucette, Miscouche Br.) 11; Alta./N.W.T. (Laura Olsen, Sylvan Lake Br.) 10; Nfld./Lab. (Wayne Corcoran, Dermot Lee Memorial Br.) 8; N.S./Nunavut (Tom Connors, Arras Br.) 6; Ont. (Dave McQuillen, Dunnville Br.) 4.