Eight-ball championships a success despite floods

October 16, 2019 by Stephen J. Thorne
Past President Dave Flannigan awards the team trophy to Manitoba-N.W.O. players (from left), Richard Urbanik, Neil Shore, Richard Martinson and Curtis Beaudoin of Norwood-St. Boniface Branch. Urbanik and Beaudoin won the doubles.
Stephen J. Thorne

A transplanted Prince Edward Islander representing Miramichi, N.B., Branch won his second singles crown while the Manitoba-Northwestern Ontario squad from Norwood-St. Boniface in Winnipeg swept the team titles at The Royal Canadian Legion’s 2019 Dominion Eight-Ball Championships held May 25-26.

But the real winner may have been the host Fredericton Branch, which overcame two floods, a last-minute move, and a broken pool table to mount a competitive and congenial tournament.

With only three tables to play on instead of four, singles matches stretched to 16 hours on the Saturday, with P.E.I. native Greg Gauthier going a perfect 6-0 in Sunday’s four-man finals round to win his second title in three years.

Curtis Beaudoin and Richard Urbanik fought through two Labrador City teams in the doubles finals round, finally defeating Bob Hall and Carl Pike to take the title. Along with Neil Shore and Richard Martinson, the team from Norwood-St. Boniface Branch also won the overall team championship.

“This is exactly what makes Canada great,” said Beaudoin, an army brat who was born in 1959 just a block from Fredericton Branch’s temporary home next to an old harness-racing track. “We all get together, we compete, we struggle, we have fun and, at the end of it, we’re all friends. And that’s everything.”

No one struggled more than the dedicated volunteers of Fredericton Branch, who were still moving furniture into the hall they will call home for at least the next three years the day before play officially began.

Their home since 1958, at 199 Queen Street in downtown Fredericton, fell victim to the floodwaters of the Saint John River in April 2018, soaking the branch’s basement and main-floor offices, dance hall, sports areas, service centre and VLT rooms.

Furniture and other items were placed in storage, while operations were moved upstairs to the building’s second floor. Pool, darts and bridge were suspended indefinitely. The revenue stream all but dried up.

“We needed to come up with something,” said President Joanne Gibson, former executive assistant to one-time federal cabinet minister Andy Scott and a 40-year Legion member.

That is when a local developer came forward and offered to buy the place, build a nine-storey mixed-use apartment complex, and rent 10,000 square feet of second-floor space back to the branch at a preferred rate.

Gibson put the proposal before the membership, the majority of whom approved it. The sale was finalized early this spring.

Meanwhile, Gibson and her team had to find temporary accommodations, a process accelerated by the fact the 400-member branch was hit by a second flood in early April of this year.

Referee Jack Agnew of Fredericton (above) arbitrates during team finals. Greg Gauthier (inset) of Miramichi Branch in New Brunswick won the singles. Richard Lee and Wayne Westbury from Swift Current, Sask., (right) take advantage of a decision to suspend the prohibition of partners coaching at the doubles tables.
Stephen J. Thorne

They eventually got city approval to take up residence and renovate a two-storey former lounge. By the time the pool tournament was scheduled to begin, only the top floor was ready—barely. Gibson was expecting the first floor would be finished and dances, cards and bingos would be resuming within a few weeks.

“The most important thing for us to get to this building was to have the upstairs done to host this tournament,” said Gibson, who was supervising the last of the painting just two weeks before the championships were slated to begin.

The tables had to be lifted by crane, and the slate on one of them was cracked. No replacement could be found in time.

“It was quite a thing to see how it all came together, thankfully to our volunteers, with setting them up, putting lights up over the pool tables…and getting our bar going,” said Gibson.

The kitchen was not up and running, so the tournament was catered.

Nine teams competed in the 2019 event. Eight commands were represented and the host branch entered a team. Quebec and British Columbia/Yukon commands did not compete.

In the team standings, Manitoba-Northwestern Ontario (Norwood-St. Boniface Br.) had 64 total points, while N.B. (Miramichi Br.) finished second with 62. Newfoundland and Labrador (Labrador City Br.) was third with 61, followed by Alberta-Northwest Territories (Drayton Valley Br. and Bowness Br. in Calgary) with 50, Saskatchewan (Swift Current Br.) with 45 and the host Fredericton team with 43. Nova Scotia/Nunavut (Iqaluit, Nunavut, Br.) had 37 points, while Ontario (Mount Hamilton Br. and Long Branch Br. in Toronto) and P.E.I. (Tignish Br. And Charlottetown Br.) logged 35.

Dominion Past President Dave Flannigan was on hand to oversee the proceedings and issued a ruling early suspending a rule that prevented doubles partners from consulting over shots at the table.

“We’re all winners here tonight,” Flannigan said at the closing banquet and awards presentation. “This was a fabulous success.”

Added P.E.I. shooter Joey Arsenault: “This is my fourth time here (at the nationals) and I’ve never had so much fun. This was a great event. What they’ve done in the last week to set up this place is unreal.”

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