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Tuesday, Sep. 18, 2018
Tales of the Traveling curlers
by Randy Pascal

Jason Strelezki could well be the very epitome of a club curler.

A Manitoba native who challenged in the junior ranks, provincially, before moving to Sudbury in the late 1980s, Strelezki has remained a long and active member with the Copper Cliff Curling Club.

In essence, the Travelers Curling Club Championships (formerly Dominion Club Championships) were created for the likes of Jason Strelezki.

This week, he is making his third appearance at the NOCA Club Provincials in a span of six years. While both Chris Gordon (vice) and Derek Crew (lead) have been at his side in both of the previous jaunts, the 2018 edition of the team sees former junior sensation Rob Shalla coaxed out of a 13 year retirement, stepping in as second.

“We try to have a lot of fun, try to keep it light,” said Strelezki, prior to leaving for Sault Ste Marie on Thursday. “Chris Gordon is basically the brains of our operation and I just make shots,” he added with a laugh. “We're only club level curlers.”

That might be a tad of an under-sell. Make no mistake, you would not want to have to face these guys in your workplace bonspiel if your idea of being a “club curler” involves stepping on the ice one or two weekends per winter, all while trying to remember to keep your beverage consumption in check until after your final game is done.

The men and women who make up the 12 team field (six on each side) at the Community First Curling Centre can play.

“It's very competitive, but it's definitely not like the regular (Open Men's) provincials or the Brier,” stressed the 49 year old soon-to-be senior eligible curler. “I play twice a week, but I don't practice or anything like that. We love the competitive edge to it. On any given day, we can play pretty well. I don't think we have the consistency, because we don't put the time in – but it's some good quality curling.”

In 2013, Strelezki joined Gordon, Crew and Jason Gauthier in capturing the Northern Ontario banner, earning a berth at nationals. In 2015, with Matt Gordon at second, the team lost in the final to Mike Assad from Thunder Bay. The local quartet clearly have an appreciation for what is required to enjoy bragging rights come the Sunday morning finals.

“We are very capable of winning, but we have to play well, we have to make some key shots, read the ice well, hopefully pick up on the rocks,” said Strelezki. Not that he is about to lose perspective any time soon. “We love to win and love to put on a good show, but we're there to have fun. Club level curling is definitely different. You share stories with the other teams after the game – I don't find the pressure of winning to be everything.”

Yet another familiar face at this event, Janice Vettoretti echoes the sentiments expressed by Strelezki. The Curl Sudbury representative is making her fourth appearance at club provincials, joined yet again by the familiarity of vice Jess Orford, but also with relative newcomers Jill Dutrisac (second year with the team) and Deb Beitschat (first year).

“Jess and I have seen a good number of the teams that are there at provincials that we've been to,” said Vettoretti. “We have a pretty good chance. It's a possibility, we're hoping.” With years of experience, not only in club level competitions, but also right across the spectrum of curling in the north, the Curl Sudbury rink has no trouble whatsoever handicapping the field they are about to face in round robin play.

“There are a couple of strong teams that we know of that are there from northwestern Ontario – Kathy Jackson (Fort Frances) and Jodi Judd (Port Arthur),” said Vettoretti. “Those are two of our strongest contenders, but there are no easy wins. We have to play well and be on our toes and hope that some things go our way.”

This particular version of Team Vettoretti have assembled each and every Monday night, at their club, part of the wide variety of squads that make up the Monday Night Open League. “Part of club championship criteria is that you have to curl together in a league in a club,” said Vettoretti.

“The Monday night is a pretty competitive league. It's broken into groups, an “A” section and a “B” section, and we've managed to hold our own and stay in our group. We get some pretty strong games and for what we are curling for club games, it should be comparable.”

Much like Team Strelezki, the notion of regular team practices, at this level, is something of a foreign concept. “We've put in maybe one or two extra days on a weekend, where we go out and throw some rocks and try and establish a consistent hit weight for all of us.” Other than that, it's simply a matter of going out and having fun, and hopefully making a few nice shots along the way.

Still with the local curling community, a couple of upcoming opportunities for fans of the sport to come out and support some of the incredible young talent in Sudbury. Both local teams who will be representing Northern Ontario at the upcoming Canadian U18 Curling Championships in St Andrews (New Brunswick – April 9th to 14th) will be hosting fundraising “send-off celebrations” next week.

The Idylwylde Golf & Curling Club foursome of Bella Croisier, Jamie Smith, Lauren Rajala and Piper Croisier will host family, friends and others to the club on Tuesday, March 27th at 8:00 p.m., with a short program taking place 30 minutes later. Tickets are selling for $10/person and are available either at the Idylwylde admin office, or via email at teamcroisier@gmail.com.

Two nights later, it will be time for the Curl Sudbury rink of Jacob Horgan, Max Cull, Nicholas Bissonnette and Shane Robinson to hold court off Howey Drive, welcoming folks for a gathering that is scheduled to run from 8:00 until 10:00 p.m.

Tickets are being sold for $10/person, which includes a complimentary beverage and snacks.

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