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Manitoba-Northwestern Ontario Takes Curling Title

The teams were so experienced and well-matched that the final standings bore no relation to the quality of play at the 57th Dominion Curling Championship March 16-21 in western Prince Edward Island.

The teams were so experienced and well-matched that the final standings bore no relation to the quality of play at the 57th Dominion Curling Championship March 16-21 in western Prince Edward Island.

“Really, it could have been any of the other skips standing here,” Manitoba-Northwestern Ontario skip Blair Goethals said after the 6-3 playoff with Nova Scotia/Nunavut. The team, Goethals, his brother Dale, Barry Sunaert and Lorne Sambrook of Deloraine, Man., Branch were defeated only once—by Nova Scotia/Nunavut, their playoff foes.

“It’s not about winners and losers,” Goethals said. “It’s about comradeship.” Comradeship on and off the ice was the constant in a week of contrasts—a blizzard followed by sunshine and puddles, the rink’s finger-numbing chill contrasted with heart-melting hospitality.

“They help each other out. I’ve seen them offer tips to their opponents,” said Dominion Command Sports Committee representative Mike Atkinson. “I’ve never seen a bunch of people at one time in one place get along so well. It’s true comradeship.”

Participants got to see a bit of western Prince Edward Island as host St. Anthony Branch, in Bloomfield, is about a 45-minute drive along the North Cape Coastal Drive from Summerside, itself 60 kilometres west of Charlottetown. Curlers stayed at Rodd Mill River Resort, overlooking Mill River Provincial Park, a 10-minute drive from the branch. The bonspiel was held in the Western Community Curling Club in Alberton, 20 to 30 minutes away, depending on route.

They also experienced first-hand the storied Island hospitality—dinner invitations to private homes, offers to drive people on special errands, donations of mussels, clams and lobster for meals and snacks, offers to take people lobster fishing in the summer and enjoyable music.

The fun began Saturday night. As Linda Dunn, Natasha Dunn, and Betty Earnshaw sewed badges on jackets, host committee co-chairs Cletus Dunn and Geoffrey Irving urged curlers to try the seafood chowder. Then followed a St. Patrick’s Day dance, for which the Saskatchewan team had obviously planned, as they were garbed in green—coincidentally their provincial football team’s colour.

Monday evening’s entertainment was a kitchen party, during which several guests took the stage to sing and play instruments. Michelle Arsenault and Natasha Dunn kept the laughter rolling at a round of trivia and a “shine-in” Tuesday evening, an event featuring Anne of Green Gables costumes, potatoes, a foul-tasting drink and kissing of a lobster.

After a practice session and skips’ meeting Sunday morning, a colour party from St. Anthony Branch led the procession onto the ice for the official opening. Greetings were given by St. Anthony Branch President Paul Arsenault; Father Art Pendergast, the president of Western Curling Club; Prince Edward Island Command Sports Chair Eldon Doucette; former P.E.I. Command president Alan Curtis and Atkinson. Korean War veteran Earl Murphy placed a wreath.

Then it was right down to business with the first draw; the second came after supper. In the round robin each team would play all the others; one team would have a bye each draw, due to the uneven number.

The Manitoba and Nova Scotia teams were strong right out of the gate, winning their Sunday games with seven- and eight-point spreads. On Monday both teams suffered their only round robin losses. Nova Scotia was beaten by the British Columbia/Yukon team from Cowichan Branch in Duncan, B.C., Bob Gallaugher, his son and daughter Robbie and Shannon and James Turner. Manitoba-Northwestern Ontario lost 8-3 to the Nova Scotia team of Steve Elder, John Montgomery, John Flinn and Larry Crewson, from Fairview Branch in Halifax.

Clear leaders emerged Tuesday.

Both B.C./Yukon and the Prince Edward Island team—Mel Bernard, Blair Jay, Lou Nowlan and Earle Proude of George Pearkes VC Branch in Summerside—were facing difficult last shots in the fifth draw. Each team was three points behind, with the hammer, and needing luck to tie and force an extra end. Neither succeeded. P.E.I. fell behind the leader, and B.C./Yukon, at one win, three losses, was out of the playoff.

Quebec, competing in their fourth championship, knew by the end of the day their 3-3 standings put them out of contention. Jim Putnam, Mike Normandeau, Matt Stephens, Jim Tisdall and spare Lynda Putnam are all second- or third-generation Legion curlers from Hudson Branch.

At the end of draw six Tuesday afternoon both Manitoba and Nova Scotia had four wins, one loss. Wednesday they respectively were to face P.E.I. and Saskatchewan, both sitting at 3-2. A four-way tie for first would result if P.E.I. and Saskatchewan both won their morning games.

Everyone arrived at the rink a little on edge Wednesday morning through a blizzard that tested the team of drivers, led by transportation chairman Glenn Adams.

Nova Scotia easily trumped Saskatchewan 7-1; but the P.E.I.-Nova Scotia game was close. Tied at three going into the 10th end, it came down to P.E.I. skip Mel Bernard’s final throw. Manitoba and P.E.I. were both biting the four foot line. Bernard had to squeeze through a narrow opening to nudge the P.E.I. stone closest to the button; he wrecked, and the Manitoba team won 4-3.

Entering the playoff game Wednesday afternoon, skips Blair Goethals of Manitoba and Steve Elder of Nova Scotia had the same strategy: keep it close until they could capitalize on an opportunity. Manitoba had the first opportunity in end three, bumping and nudging their own stones and guards to create a spread across the tee line. Elder missed a difficult triple takeout, allowing Goethals to steal a point.

“I think that was the turning point in the game,” said Goethals. “Right away we could start putting pressure on.” Another two-point steal in the fourth end was rewarded by thunderous foot stomping from spectators on the second floor. The Manitoba cheering section, Bev and Pam Goethals, Debbie Sambrook and Kim Sunaert, was swelled by the Quebec team as well as Saskatchewan fans Donna Clancy and Helen Hay.

Nova Scotia got on the board in fifth end bringing the score to 3-1 at the halfway mark. Manitoba managed to blank the sixth end, but Elder, wanting the hammer back, forced them to take a point in the seventh, bringing the score to 4-1. It is a decision he came to rue when two shots later missed the house, allowing Manitoba to pick up two more points. “We made it tough on ourselves,” said Elder. “Uncharacteristically, we missed some wide open shots.”

Judging the 6-1 spread too great to overcome, Elder was ready to concede, but his team wanted to try for a comeback. They managed to score two points in the ninth end, but couldn’t bridge the gap in the tenth. Final score: Manitoba-Northwestern Ontario 6, Nova Scotia/Nunavut 3.

There was quite a lot of discussion about defeat of the resolution at dominion convention calling for cancellation of curling as a national sport. Ontario, Alberta-Northwest Territories and New Brunswick commands no longer participate.

“Initially, I did join the Legion for the curling,” said British Columbia lead Turner. Not only has he made friends, but the Legion’s commitment to commemoration has made him appreciate his family’s military history more. “My father and uncle served in the Second World War. This has made me appreciate…those memories. I’ll always be a Legion member.”


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