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Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2019
Opportunities for junior and elementary curlers alike
by Randy Pascal

The incredible experiences that the young Sudbury and area curling talent have garnered in recent years are far too numerous to mention.

The good news is that the opportunities definitely do not appear to be drying up.

Come December 11th or so, a pair of highly successful local rinks will board a plane for China, welcomed guest of the host country in a top level international bonspiel that provides likely as much of a life experience as curling experience to the fortunate octet that have been selected to represent Canada.

Joining the women’s team of Krysta Burns, Megan Smith, Sara Guy and Laura Masters is the men’s crew of Tanner Horgan, Jacob Horgan, Nicholas Bissonnette and Maxime Blais. Both squads are nestled among fields of eight teams, with no more than one entry per country, and several thousand dollars up for grabs in prize money for a bonspiel that carries almost no team expense whatsoever.

“It was a no-brainer,” suggested Tanner Horgan, following the completion of their mid-week encounter on Wednesday evening at Curl Sudbury. “We’ll get some arena ice experience, some experience with some extreme travel. I think it’s just going to be a very valuable experience for growth in general.”

Given the success that Team Horgan have enjoyed in recent years, the room for incremental development is narrowing with every passing season. All of this, while the lads remain young enough to be vying for an astounding fifth straight trip to the Canadian Junior Curling Championships come January.

“It gets to a point where you really can’t get much better technically, you can’t get much better on anything that you can see physically,” explained Horgan. “You are either in a groove or you’re not.” Unfortunately, the width of that line between either being or not being in a groove is somewhat razor thin these days.

“It’s so exact at this level,” the skip admitted. “If you’re not getting it (draw shot) to within a foot, pretty well all the time, you’re not going to win at the highest level. We’ve had a couple of games at that level, and we really haven’t done that until this year. We had one game with a team average of 95%.”

While the field for China has not been completely confirmed, it remains a safe bet that both Horgan and company and Team Burns will need to be at or near their best in order to find themselves in the mix when the brackets narrow to a final four. “I guess there is a little bit of pressure to perform, because Canada is supposed to be at the top, no matter who they send,” noted Horgan.

“You don’t want to play under your standards. I can definitely see us making the playoffs. It would basically pay for our entire season if we were to win.”


Given the incredible progress shown by the likes of Team Horgan, Team Burns and countless other young local quartets in the past 10-15 years, it’s easy to forget that the very foundation of that development came through the introduction of the Little Rocks program at the Idylwylde, as well as elementary level bonspiels that were often supported by the likes of Tim Horton’s and the Lions Clubs.

A current member of the Jordan Chandler men’s team, Lasalle Secondary graduate Sandy MacEwan has clearly not forgotten his roots. Now an elementary teacher at Churchill Public School in New Sudbury, MacEwan is the driving force behind a new initiative that sees a total of twelve teams, representing 11 different elementary schools, taking to the ice every Wednesday afternoon at Curl Sudbury. Even more encouraging is the fact that all four of the local school boards have entries.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a few years, just to kind of get something together,” stated MacEwan. “Tom Leonard and I talked about it and there was a night where there was ice available. The obvious goal is to get more kids out curling, to enjoy the sport, and also to really encourage kids to take it up in high school as well.”

“When I curled in high school, we had lots of representation from lots of different schools, and I enjoyed that a lot. I still remember that.” Sending out a general notice to contacts with the elementary school system, many of whom also support the annual bonspiel hosted at Curl Sudbury every January, MacEwan was ecstatic with the response.

“I think kids in elementary are naturally drawn to curling,” he opined. “It’s a different game, it’s not your classic sports that they play all the time in school. We’ve done a lot of practicing, at Churchill for instance, the past few years, but you really learn the game, at a young age, by playing.”

Interestingly enough, the dynamics on the ice in many ways mirror the interaction of the youngsters at the high school level, where those who have played the game before serve an extremely important purpose in helping to grow the sport.

“We have a lot of curlers who have never curled in their life, and we have some who curl competitively in the bantams, which is nice too, because some of those more experienced kids can teach the younger kids the game,” said MacEwan.

“Moving forward, we’re hoping to grow, if we can get ice time, which is pretty tough. For now, it’s about getting them out first, and then we’ll take it from there.” Schools participating in the new league in year one include St Charles College, Confederation, Ecole Secondair Hanmer, Queen Elizabeth, Carl A Nesbitt, Churchill Public, Ecole Ste Marie, Algonquin Public, Cyril Varney, Pius XII and Chelmsford Public.

Speaking of Queen Elizabeth, teachers and kids alike were recently taken aback by the generosity that prevails within the local curling community. Informed that the team had taken to the ice with nothing close to suitable curling clothing, long-time Idylwylde member Karen Luczak drew on her contacts through the Daytime Ladies and Business Girls leagues to rectify the situation.

In short order, the groups amassed enough funding to provide a dozen hoodies, warm leggings, gloves, a broom, a stabilizer and grippers, and still had enough left over to offer a $100 gift card for the teacher/coach to supply the team with healthy post-game snacks. Just one more reason why curling in Sudbury can make one smile.

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