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Cribbage Titles Stay In The Maritimes

The tides were in the home team’s favour April 23-25, as the Dominion Command Cribbage Championships turned into a Maritime sweep for cribbage players from across Canada meeting at Sussex, N.B., Branch.

Prince Edward Island won the singles competition while Nova Scotia won the doubles and the host province, New Brunswick, took the all-important team title in a gruelling three-way contest with Nova Scotia and British Columbia.

For the New Brunswick team of Paul Calhoun, Carl Nash, Roger LeBlanc and Dean McLaughlin of Marysville Branch in Fredericton, it was a sweet victory. Calhoun and Nash had been part of the team representing New Brunswick last year at the dominion tournament in Aldergrove, B.C. They finished a close  second to the winning P.E.I. team.

“I told the boys we were coming here to end up in one place,” said Calhoun. “But I can’t help thinking we had a bit of help.” Calhoun thinks some of that luck came from the late Lena MacDonald who had been his partner for six years. “She said she would look after us if she could.”

Camaraderie was abundant throughout the weekend. Drivers met the teams and guests at the airport in Moncton and drove them along the Trans-Canada Highway to Sussex, 115 kilometres east of Fredericton. The town, known as the Gateway to Fundy, is a local tourist attraction for its proximity to the Bay of Fundy and the abundance of murals painted on the sides of downtown businesses.

Hosting the event was a huge accomplishment for the branch. The building had been all but destroyed a few years earlier when on Dec. 17, 2007, a fire broke out in the kitchen (Fire Destroys New Brunswick Legion Branch Building, March/April 2008).

“It was a series of events that led to the fire,” said First Vice Anthony de Hoog who acted as building chairman during the reconstruction.  The accident occurred after an ice storm when a delivery truck struck a drooping electrical line. The electrical line in turn fell on the three propane tanks at the back of the building near the kitchen. One exploded, sending a fireball right through the building. Three people were inside at the time. “We were lucky there was no loss of life. The people who were inside were preparing for a dinner for seniors.”

The roof had to be taken down to get at the fire, but in the end, three of the four walls were still standing. Firefighters had saved almost all the memorabilia and the branch was able to rebuild using the walls that were still good.

President Ervin Ellis referred to the fire when he welcomed cribbage players at the opening ceremonies held inside the branch on Saturday morning. Cribbage players walked in carrying their provincial flags and lined up along the side of the room. A simple remembrance service was performed and then greetings were given by Dominion Command Sports Committee Vice-Chairman Ed  Pigeau, who is also president of Ontario Command, and New Brunswick Command President Clayton Saunders.

Opening ceremonies over, tournament co-ordinator Barry McManus, a member of Lancaster Branch in Saint John, called the doubles players together to start the play. A half hour later singles play commenced, so that the two tournaments were played simultaneously.

The competition was round robin. In each category, players play nine rounds, two games per round. One point is awarded for each win, a skunk is worth two points and a double skunk three points. While each command may send different contenders for the single, doubles and team, only British Columbia/Yukon and Manitoba-Northwestern Ontario did so. Most commands sent only one four-person team and picked the single and doubles players from it.

In the singles play, Cathy Kerr of Charlottetown Branch found herself the only female playing against nine male opponents. “I had to play all the men and I beat them,” said a delighted Kerr.

While she was consistently in the lead, Kerr was being closely followed by fellow Maritimers Roger LeBlanc from New Brunswick and Chris Lutley of Fairview Branch in Halifax representing Nova Scotia/Nunavut Command.

By the end of the seventh round, Kerr had 11 points while New Brunswick and Nova Scotia each had 10. Alberta’s Jack Eby from Cremona Branch and Saskatchewan’s Peter Piper of Tecumseh Stoughton Branch in Stoughton were close behind with nine points each. With Piper, the president of Saskatchewan Command, there as a player, it was a rare occurrence when three provincial command presidents were all together during a members’ sporting event.

Kerr went on to get a skunk and a win while New Brunswick and Nova Scotia faced each other in the eighth round with New Brunswick taking two points. Kerr was held to one point in the final game. Nova Scotia got two, but it wasn’t enough. P.E.I. came in first with 15 points while New Brunswick took second with 13 and Nova Scotia third with 12. Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador’s Terry Hancock of Botwood Branch all came in with 11.

“I wasn’t looking at the scoreboard at all. It was only around the eighth round when I could sense everyone watching me that I figured I must be in a position to win,” said Kerr who is also Queen’s Country Zone commander.

In doubles, Nova Scotia/Nunavut’s Rick Walkden and Cyril Slade got off to a big start, taking three points in the first two games. They maintained their lead, but again were challenged by New Brunswick’s Calhoun and Nash. The two teams met in the eighth game with Nova Scotia picking up three points, which pretty well settled the competition. Nova Scotia came in first with 17 points, while New Brunswick finished second with 14 points.

The following day was the team competition. The four-man teams were divided into A and B divisions with the points added together to reach a final score.

The Alberta team of Eby, Anthony Cusson, Jim Barbaro and Lois Barbaro got off to an early lead, skunking the Saskatchewan team twice on the B division and taking both points and the A side. However, as the day continued the match turned into a three-way race with Pigeau and McManus contemplating the way to handle a tie-breaker if it became necessary.

In the eighth game New Brunswick had 21 points facing Nova Scotia with Lutley, Walkden and Slade joined by Audrey McNeil, close behind at 20 points. The A side split, each winning a point but Nova Scotia’s B side got two points over N.B.

The British Columbia team of Dave Daskoch, Rick Ward, Walter Millar and John Williston from Mount Arrowsmith Branch in Parksville who were sitting back at 18 also moved into contention, picking up three points. That left the scene set for the final game with Nova Scotia at 23, New Brunswick at 22 and British Columbia with 21.

New Brunswick’s A side split its last game, gaining one point, but LeBlanc and McLaughlin on the B side got two skunks in a row, giving them four points. New Brunswick came in first with 27 points while Nova Scotia came in with 26. B.C. was just behind with 25 points.

All wrapped up with an evening banquet. Pigeau thanked the branch and especially Local Arrangements Committee Chairman Cindy Coates and her committee members. Several speakers commented on the efficiency of the volunteers and the quality of the food provided both at the banquet and throughout the tournament. Tribute was also paid to 92-year-old Harley Geldart who first suggested that the branch apply to host the tournament.

All in all, the cribbage players all left feeling that new friends had been made and a good weekend had been held. “It’s all just fun but it does give us bragging rights for a year,” said Calhoun.


Teams: N.B. (Marysville Br., Fredericton) 27; N.S./Nunavut (Fairview Br., Halifax) 26; B.C./Yukon (Mount Arrowsmith Br., Parksville) 25; Alta./N.W.T. (Cremona Br.), Man./N.W.O. (Elmwood Br., Winnipeg) 22; Nfld./Lab. (Botwood Br.) 21; P.E.I. (Charlottetown Br.), Sask. (Tecumseh Stoughton Br., Stoughton) 18; Ont. (Temagami Br.) 17; Que. (Montcalm Memorial Br., Rawdon) 13.

Doubles: N.S./Nunavut (Rick Walkden, Cyril Slade, Fairview Br.) 17; N.B. (Paul Calhoun, Carl Nash, Marysville Br.) 14; Alta.-N.W.T. (Jim Barbaro, Lois Barbaro, Cremona Br.) 11; Nfld./Lab. (Bill Flynn, Bill Chayter), Ont. (Claude Landry, Aldege Montreuil, Temagami Br.) 10; P.E.I. (Jitter Coyle, Cy Burke), B.C./Yukon (Bob Porter, Phil Easdown, Delta Br.) 9; Que. (Ann Cormack, Doreen Rourke, Montcalm Memorial Br.), Sask. (Eleanor Adams, Linda Beckman, Tecumseh Stoughton Br.) 8; Man.-N.W.O. (Barry O’Donnell, Ronald Davies, Monte Cassino Br., Winnipeg) 7.

Singles: P.E.I. (Cathy Kerr, Charlottetown Br.) 15; N.B. (Roger LeBlanc, Marysville Br.) 13; N.S./Nunavut (Chris Lutley, Fairview Br.) 12; Nfld./Lab. (Terry Hancock, Botwood Br.), Sask. (Peter Piper, Tecumseh Stoughton Br.), Alta.-N.W.T. (Jack Eby, Cremona Br.) 11; Man.-N.W.O. (Ronald Pottinger, Henderson Highway Br., Winnipeg) 10; Que. (John Garner, Montcalm Memorial Br.), Ont. (Carmen Sargent, Temagami Br.) 9; B.C./Yukon (Andy Osteom, Diamond Head Br., Squamish) 4.


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