It was a great weekend of camaraderie and cards in Spruce Grove, Alta., at the Dominion Command Cribbage Championships, held April 24-26.On Saturday morning, Spruce Grove Branch hosted the tournament’s opening ceremony, with Spruce Grove Mayor Stuart Houston giving the opening address. “May your cards turn up so you can avoid the skunk line,” he joked to the assembled players. President Rob Coates then declared the tournament open and, without delay, play began.
First up was the doubles competition. It was close from the start, but with three rounds remaining, four teams had distanced themselves from the pack. Just a few points separated them and it was anyone’s game right down to the wire. Going into the final two rounds, Saskatchewan held a slim lead with 11 points while the other three front-runners had 10.
As the last cards hit the table, it was clear that the Saskatchewan team of Eleanor Adams and Linda Beckman were not going to be beaten. The team from Tecumseh-Stoughton Branch in Stoughton finished with 15 points. The team of Betty Yeomans and Linda Anderson from Lancaster Branch in Saint John, N.B., came second, finishing with 13 points.Adams and Beckman are a mother-daughter duo with a long history of competitive play, having made it to the dominion level twice before in the team competition. “It was stiff competition out there,” said Beckman, shortly after they secured victory. “Our opponents were excellent, but we started out playing really, really well and ended better.”
As with almost all of the competitors, Beckman insisted on pointing out the “great comradeship” at the meet. “We started out playing against Ontario and we beat them, skunked them actually, and they were still all smiles. It was run very professionally. The whole weekend was good. It’s like we’ve known these people for years.”
Later on Saturday afternoon, singles play began but didn’t finish until midway through Sunday morning.
On Saturday evening, most of the nearly 50 competitors present made their way to the branch for lasagna and Caesar salad, with some live country-and-western music.In singles, Cyril Slade of Fairview Branch in Halifax pulled into the lead after the fifth round and never looked back, finishing with 16 points, two points ahead of second-place finisher Andy Gauthier of Lacombe Branch in Alberta.
Slade, who turned 80 on Jan. 10, has been playing competitive cribbage for 60 years. This wasn’t his first time at the dominion; he won the doubles in 2010. “It was just excellent,” said Slade. “Everybody was great and friendly and honest and everything was 100 per cent above board. I feel great about winning, everybody played excellent, no complaints and no problems.”
As for whether Slade has a competitive future ahead of him, he just chuckles. “At 80 years old, I got my doubts that I’ll be doing it again. All the travel is a bit hard,” he said. “But if they talk me into it at the Legion, well, I probably will.”
With only a few hours left before the closing banquet, the team competition had to keep to a tight schedule in order to complete play. The main room at Spruce Grove Branch was packed as 40 players from across Canada split up to form 10 different tables of four players in two flights. At the end of the day, the total score from both flights would be added together to determine the winner.
Halfway through, it was too close to call; all of the teams were still in the hunt. But then with a slow but inexorable surge, singles winner Slade and his team from Fairview Branch–Bob Hamilton, Roy Driscoll and Kirk Conrad–carved out the top spot in the standings and never relinquished it, going on to win the championship.
“It’s the first time we were ever in it and we won! All the people are fabulous and we couldn’t have done it any better,” said Hamilton. “Everything’s been run so well. It’s all been good.”
President Coates was certainly happy to hear that the players enjoyed the event. “Putting on this event was honestly a pleasure. It was great have to have a really good team on the Local Arrangements Committee,” he said. “And our branch got to bond and everybody really came together.”
At only 35 years old, Coates is an unusually young president. “I come from a line of other presidents,” he explained. “Both my father and my mother served as branch presidents. I was youth officer when I became a member at 19.”
The highlight of the weekend for Coates was when the local Global TV news crew showed up to cover the event. “We’re doing a big push to get the Legion into the community,” said Coates, “so hopefully that coverage will really help.
Dominion Command Sports Committee representative Dan Kidd–who is also the president of Manitoba-Northwestern Ontario Command–also enjoyed his first trip to a dominion-level sporting event. He came away a supporter. “I think it’s very, very important to have dominion sports. You have coast-to-coast camaraderie. And if you don’t have dominion sports, what do you have for your members?” said Kidd. “I would like to keep it going. It’s important to our members. Cribbage and darts are very popular.”
The next dominion cribbage championships will be held in Charlottetown in 2016.
Team: N.S./Nunavut (Fairview Br., Halifax) 26; Sask. (Tompkins Br.), P.E.I. (Montague Br.) 24; Ont. (Lt.-Col. Harry Babcock Br., Napanee) 23; N.B. (Lancaster Br., Saint John) 22; Alta.-N.W.T. (Lacombe Br.) 21; Nfld.-Lab. (Carbonear Br.) 20; B.C./Yukon (Maple Ridge Br.) 17; Man.-N.W.O. (Morden Br.) 15; Que. (Hon. John Diefenbaker Br., Laval) 14.
Doubles: Sask. (Tecumseh-Stoughton Br.) 15; N.B. (Lancaster Br.) 13; Alta.-N.W.T. (Lacombe Br.), B.C./Yukon (Chase Br.), Man.-N.W.O. (Selkirk Br.) 11; N.S./Nunavut (Fairview Br.), Nfld.-Lab. (Carbonear Br.), Que. (Hon. John Diefenbaker Br.) 9; Ont. (Lt.-Col. Harry Babcock Br., Napanee), P.E.I. (Montague Br.) 8.
Singles: N.S./Nunavut (Cyril Slade, Fairview Br.) 16; Alta.-N.W.T. (Andy Gauthier, Lacombe Br.) 14; B.C./Yukon (Tony Bos, Alberni Valley Br., Port Alberni), Sask. (Charlene Vandal, Big River Br.) 12; N.B. (Dot Arbeau, Lancaster Br.) 11; Ont. (Paul Mason, Lt.-Col. Harry Babcock Br.) 10; Nfld.-Lab. (John Murphy, Carbonear Br.) 9; P.E.I. (Lynda McCarron, Montague Br.) 8; Que. (Ernie Michaud, Hon. John Diefenbaker Br.) 7; Man.-N.W.O. (Robert Ritchie, Red Rock, Ont., Br.) 6.