The 2011 Dominion Command Cribbage Championships, held at Chomedey Branch in Laval, Que., April 29-May 1, was a time for seconds. Two teams from Atlantic Canada each took home dominion trophies for the second time and it was the second time Chomedey Branch played host to the competition, after first doing so in 2002.
The team from Marysville Branch in Fredericton took home the doubles title in 2011, following their win of the team competition in 2010. For the second time since 2005, Dermot Lee Memorial Branch in Riverhead, Nfld., won the team championship.
“If you have one chance (to attend a dominion championship) in a lifetime, you’re more than happy,” said Roger LeBlanc of Marysville Branch. “We’re lucky to come, let alone two years in a row,” added his doubles partner Dean McLaughlin. It’s the third straight year a team from the branch has made it to the national competition.
Dermot Lee Memorial Branch has had a team in the national championships five times since 2003, all with some combination of members of the Corcoran clan from St. Mary’s Bay, Nfld. The 2011 team consisted of Brian Hayward and William, Wayne and Paul Corcoran. William and nephew Paul were also two of the team champions in 2005. When asked to what he attributed the win, Wayne laughed and instantly responded “Lamb’s Rum!” He then quickly credited the team’s long history of playing together.
Many players and accompanying family members flew in to Montreal from across the country Friday and were whisked the 20 kilometres to Chomedey Branch and host hotels by volunteer drivers. Visitors got a chance to renew friendships and make new friends Friday evening around the branch pool table and over breakfast before the official program began Saturday. After the parade at the opening ceremony, wreaths were placed by President Christopher Wheatley and Dominion Command Sports Committee representative Paul Poirier, who also read the Act of Remembrance.
Play began shortly afterward. Each team played nine two-game matches. One point was awarded each for a win, skunk and double skunk, “a recipe for ties,” said Poirier. Indeed, at the end of the eighth game in each competition, it looked like a playoff was certain, with three-way ties in the team and singles categories and ties for first and second in doubles. But in each case, the winning team pulled off a double win in the final match to walk away with the title.
Play kicked off with the doubles competition Saturday morning. The Alberta-Northwest Territories team from Bashaw Branch and the Saskatchewan team from Carrot River Branch were leading with nine points apiece at the mid-point, followed by Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador with eight each. But things changed after a short lunch break, with New Brunswick’s LeBlanc and McLaughlin winning every game of the four remaining matches, chalking up a total of 15 points and winning first place.
“We lost our first two games (to Quebec) and had to come back from that,” said LeBlanc. At the mid-point “Alberta and Saskatchewan had nine points and we only had six, but the key there is we had to play both of them, and we took them.”
Jim Sisson from Saskatchewan worked hard Saturday, playing three dozen straight games, coming in second in doubles with partner Ken Campbell before clinching the singles championship with a total of 15 points. He edged out Robert Michaud from Hon. John Diefenbaker Branch in Laval, despite the fact that Michaud out-scored him 2 to 1 when they faced each other earlier.
“I was playing consistently all day long,” said Sisson, who works in a gold mine in Dawson City, Yukon. It was his first time in provincial and dominion championships, but he enjoyed himself so much he joked he is going to stack a team for next year so he can compete again.
The team competition on Sunday “was a real nail-biter,” said Larry Belyea, whose Marysville Branch teammates had hoped to take home the team title two years running, but had to settle for second place. It was his second time in nationals. “The first time I played was in Moncton, and it took me 21 years to get back.”
For the team competition, the four-person teams from each province were divided into A and B divisions and their scores were added together. The Newfoundland teammates scored their only zero in the first match of the day, and at mid-point of play found themselves well behind the B.C. team from Lumby Branch, sitting comfortably in the lead with 16 points, two ahead of the New Brunswick team, which had been performing with characteristic consistency.
But the lunch break changed everything. A series of double wins and several skunks in the last four games clinched the win for the Newfoundlanders with 27 points. While their scores consistently improved after the break, B.C. began racking up zeroes, ending in third place with a score of 24, behind New Brunswick at 25.
As with every Legion national sporting event, the 2011 cribbage championship had its share of exciting, funny and warm moments.
The excitement came for Wayne Corcoran from Newfoundland and Madonna Boch of Quebec in 28-point hands, sparse achievements in cribbage careers, and one point away from a rare perfect hand.
Although Carl McNea of Stewiacke Branch in Nova Scotia wore for good luck a medal he’d previously won for a perfect hand, he was delighted instead by an unexpected reunion with cousin-in-law Dorothy MacNutt of the Ontario team from Mackenzie Branch in Woodbridge. They hadn’t seen one another for five or six years. “I didn’t even know she was a Legion member,” said McNea, though MacNutt has belonged for 34 years compared to his 20. And the Corcoran clan also had a reunion; William’s son Keith flew in from Fort McMurray, Alta., and Wayne’s namesake drove over from Guelph, Ont.
Many teams took advantage of breaks in play to do a bit of touring in Laval or Montreal, often shepherded by branch volunteer drivers. Albert Rose of Kenora, Ont., Branch thanked Chomedey’s volunteer driver Dean McKay for going the extra distance to ensuring the team from Manitoba-N.W.O. had a great time. “Dean was really, really good to us, taking us all around the city.” The women particularly enjoyed a calèche (horse and buggy) tour through Old Montreal and everyone enjoyed eating “at the best hot dog stand in the city—the Montreal Pool Room,” which first opened in 1912.
The event wrapped up with a banquet and dance, during which visitors were enticed to join in the Continental, a group dance reminiscent of western line dancing. Poirier thanked the Local Arrangements Committee, chaired by Bob Graves aided by Les Stockwell, Wheatley, McKay, Maurice Fortin, Pat Vezina, Janet Adams and Brigitte Bourbonnière. Bourbonnière, a veteran who served with the Canadian Forces between 1989 and 2005, ran the competition Saturday and Sunday, aided by Poirier and Norman Shelton of Quebec Command. Poirier also thanked sponsor Bicycle Cards, which provided cards and boards for the competition and $1,500 to the branch to help with costs.
Several speakers applauded the kitchen staff, headed by sisters Claudette and Janet Adams, for the tasty breakfasts, lunches and final banquet. The Newfoundland team was especially appreciative of the supply of bologna laid in for breakfast.
Poirier presented the Newfoundland team with a poster advertising the championship which had been signed by all participants. The Saskatchewan team’s Darrell Webster presented a City of Melville flag as companion to the provincial flag on display in the branch since 2002. Teammate Harry Parachoniak, who had competed at the branch in 2002, also presented the branch with a Melville licence plate.
Newfoundland’s Wayne Corcoran summed up the weekend: “The comradeship was perfect.”
Teams: Nfld.-Lab. (Dermot Lee Memorial Br., Riverhead) 27; N.B. (Marysville Br., Fredericton) 25; B.C./Yukon (Lumby Br.) 24; P.E.I. (Kingston Br., New Haven) 23; N.S/Nunavut (Stewiacke Br.) 23; Man.-N.W.O. (Kenora Br., Ont.) 23; Sask. (Robert Combe VC Br., Melville) 21; Ont. (Mackenzie Br., Woodbridge) 19; Que. (Hon. John Diefenbaker Br., Laval) 17; Alta.-N.W.T. (Bashaw Br.) 17.
Doubles: N.B. (Dean McLaughlin, Roger LeBlanc, Marysville Br.) 15; Sask. (Ken Campbell, Jim Sisson, Carrot River Br.) 14; Que. (Madonna Boch, Mike Norton, Hon. John Diefenbaker Br.) 13; Alta.-N.W.T. (Tyler Schicke Rowsky, Eldon Schicke Rowsky, Bashaw Br.) 13; Nfld.-Lab. (Paul Corcoran, Brian Hayward, Dermot Lee Memorial Br.) 12; Man.-N.W.O. (Lorne Morrison, Raymond McConnell, Flin Flon Br., Man.) 7; B.C./Yukon (William Miron, Eric Nielsen, Cloverdale Br., Surrey) 6; P.E.I. (Linus Alchorn, Ray Tremere, Kingston Br.) 8; N.S./Nunavut (Larry Collier, Alma Paul, Stewiacke Br.) 7; Ont. (Leone Zerafa, Dorothy MacNutt, Mackenzie Br.) 7.
Singles: Sask. (Jim Sisson, Carrot River Br.) 15; Que. (Robert Michaud, Hon. John Diefenbaker Br.) 13; Nfld.-Lab. (Wayne Corcoran, Dermot Lee Memorial Br.) 12; N.B. (Larry Belyea, Marysville Br.) 12; B.C./Yukon (Frederick Maniak, Comox Br.) 11; N.S/Nunavut (Carl McNea, Stewiacke Br.) 11; Man.-N.W.O. (Pete Peters, Morden Br., Man.) 10; Ont. (Bob Delahunt, Mackenzie Br.) 10; P.E.I. (Charles MacKinnon, Kingston Br.) 5; Alta.-N.W.T. (Tyler Schicke Rowsky, Bashaw Br.) 4.