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Paul Lefebvre - MP for Sudbury
T. Michael Hennessy, Law Office
Friday, Sep. 21, 2018
The true masters of their sport
2018-02-18
by Randy Pascal


You really can take some of the competitiveness out of the curler.

Just don’t take too much, regardless of age.

That was the conclusion to be drawn as the pensioners gathered recently at the Idylwylde Golf & Country Club, just as they do at countless curling facilities in Canada, from one ocean to the other.

“At our age, it you don’t win, that’s fine,” stated Sergio “Satch” Medina, a long-time teacher who spent the bulk of his career at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary. “Sure, you get frustrated. But you don’t get frustrated at the other guys, you get frustrated at yourself.”

“You know that you should be able to do the shot, but you know that you’re getting old, and maybe you didn’t come up fast enough, or you turned your wrist. As you get older, there’s too many things to think about,” Medina summarized with a laugh.

Joining many of those in attendance on this particular day, Medina will take part once again this year in the annual CTV Masters Bonspiel, beginning next week, piecing together a team that also includes Mike Cummins, Al Herold and Mike Preen, with his traditional sidekick, Mike Kurdell, unable to take part this year.

Within the Masters’ ranks, health concerns present a constant reality, with lineups requiring adjustments and alterations on a perpetual basis. Thankfully, for now at least, the social gathering that is curling for retired folks still gives rise to the necessary fill-ins. “We just picked up Mike Preen a couple of weeks ago,” noted Medina.

“He started coming out on Wednesdays, we saw him curling and we needed a guy.” That said, he wasn’t prepared to tip his hand about just how much he had scouted his new recruit prior to bringing him on board. Given his three decades of taeching background at the home of the Knights, it comes as little surprise that Medina’s first introduction to the sport came via the tradition that is the Thursday Night Teacher’s League, a loop in which he still competes.

In fact, he beams when announcing, with great pride, that is team’s combined age of 300 years makes them easily the most experienced squad in the bunch. The weekly assembly of educators on ice was also the entry point for Cummins, certainly no stranger to Canadian winter sport pastimes. “I had played oldtimers hockey for years, but injuries took the hockey away,” explained the 71 year old, who recalled writing a university paper on curling while pursuing his Physical Education degree at Laurentian.

“I started in the Teachers’ League, but when I retired, I came over here to play. I’m so glad that I did. I’ve met people from so many different walks of life and made some very good friends over the past 15 years. Curling is a great thing for retired people.”

Blessed with a natural athleticism, Cummins pursued the “imitation is the greatest form of flattery” approach in trying to get his mind wrapped around a new on-ice venture those many years ago. “I kind of just tried to copy other people, copied their skills and technique,” he said. “But you’ve got to play and practice.”

“It doesn’t matter how old you are, the more you play, the better you get. I’m still trying to learn if my release is off.” With a lifelong involvement in sports, Cummins provides yet another example of where exactly these just on the other side of their prime curling talents balance the social and competitive aspects of the game.

“You just want to be in the game,” he said. It makes it a little more exciting.” Local drawmaster Craig Partington can relate. Turning 61 in April, he was thrilled to be able to enter the CTV Bonspiel for the first time last year. And like Cummins, he is also a transplanted hockey player.

“I was a goalkeeper in hockey and I just couldn’t play anymore because my knees went,” he explained. Ironically, it’s also knee issues that will befall many a curler, the strain of lowering down in their crouch in the hack at regular 15 minute intervals taking a toll. “You’re not up and down as much (as a hockey goalie), not moving left to right. It’s not quite as bad, but my knees were still pretty sore for a while.”

Canvas much of the current membership of the pensioners curling league and it’s safe to say that lifelong curlers, those who started with the sport in their youth, are the exception to the rule. Partington was just north of forty when he became hooked. “Weight control was the hardest part,” he said. “Learning not to push the rock, not to pull back, developing a nice clean release.”

Some five years later, he and his team were crowned club champions in Port Elgin, with work commitments finding him spending five days a week at the Bruce Nuclear Plant, returning home to Sudbury for weekends. Partington also points to a North Bay Masters Bonspiel title while curling with Chucker Ross, and notes that his CTV entry which includes Dick Anderson, Mark Carmichael and Doug Foreman should be in the mix in the end.

Still, perspective is everything. “We’re all about the same age, so we don’t take ourselves or the game too seriously,” he said. “I know of some guys who have given up the game because they can’t play at the same level that they once did, they would just rather not play. That’s a very foreign concept to me.”

“I love the game. To win is nice, but the social aspect is what’s important.” That is exactly the way it should be, according to CTV Bonspiel organizer Pat Thompson. "As a competitor, I've been involved in the event for five years now - I really enjoy the competition," he said.

"I like being able to progress through the event. But I also enjoy the camaraderie." Come next week, Thompson and his co-horts will enjoy a healthy mix of both.

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