Pensioners are among mainstays of local curling venues
by Randy Pascal
Curling certainly wasn't the first sport that Walter Saftic picked up, but it's likely to be the one that sticks with him the longest.
The soon-to-be 82 year old is one of countless mainstays in the Curl Sudbury Friday morning pensioners' league, a grouping that fills the parking
lot when combined with the 11:15 a.m. Pensioners squad league that follows immediately on their heels.
A life-long native of Creighton until pretty much the tail-end of the mining town's existence just a few miles up the road from Lively, Saftic
actually shone first and foremost on the badminton courts.
In fact, make your way to page 137 of the Sudbury classic, Home Grown Heroes, penned back in the early 1980's by the late Frank Pagnucco,
and you will find a great picture of the man who teamed with Bob Seawright Jr to capture the Ontario Junior men's doubles title, the first of many
such honours to be claimed by members of the Creighton Mines Community Club and Sudbury Hall of Fame coach Ev Staples.
But back to curling.
Though he would throw his first stones at roughly the age of 27, Saftic would pick up the nuances of curling quite quickly, topping out, competitively
speaking, with a skip whose family name is virtually synonymous with the sport locally.
“The last three years that I curled competitively, I curled with Donny Dumontelle,” Saftic recalled. “Locally, nobody beat us.” Traditionally,
Dumontelle had welcomed aboard Gerry Cleaver and Leo Boyer on many of his teams, maintaining a strong tie to his Coniston roots. Saftic was
but one of many aspiring curlers who worked their way through the front end of the local curling powerhouse.
Like most who were on the ice yesterday morning, he simply never relinquished his love of curling, even through the technical evolution of the game.
“When I played with Dumontelle, I was always a lead,” said Saftic, noting that the date on his birth certificate now allows him to limit his involvement to
simply serving as skip.
“I could sweep well. I can't sweep with this,” he added, motioning to his broom. “Back then, it was nothing but cornbrooms. All of these guys now, they
know how to use these factory brooms. Maybe if we had them back then, we would have been just as efficient.”
For his part, John Roberts takes in the entire conversation with his trademark smile, and the occasional quick quip to add to the shared laughter.
Another long-time curler, the former teacher backed off the ice several years ago, focusing now on handling the administrative duties with the Friday
league, a task that he shares with Cec Burton (Sr) and Chuck Pearson.
“I curled when I was younger and I didn't want to give up everything with curling,” said Roberts, explaining some of the motivation behind his weekly
trek to the Howey Drive venue. “You create a whole group of acquaintances, and they are all from different backgrounds. You get to meet all of these
people – and it gets me out of the house on Friday mornings.”
There are no standings to be kept for the folks in the 9:00 a.m draw. They leave that to the more competitive squad league curlers (though some will
insist the level of play is very similar). There's is all about the fun.
“We try and have a different team make-up every week, so that you're not always curling with the same guy,” said Roberts, beginning the process of
explaining the league pragmatics. “Sometimes these guys do get annoyed at each other,” he continued with a laugh. “Even though they are all trying their
best, sometimes their best isn't quite good enough.”
“When you come in, we might know you as a second or a vice. Today, for instance, we had 31 curlers, enough for eight teams. We pick out all of the
skips, and then we pick out all of the vices, and then we fill out the teams, we announce them, and out they go on the ice.”
The league, which opened its doors to include women some four to five years ago (“we wouldn't even be going if we didn't have the women,” said Roberts),
is now preparing for their annual bonspiel taking place from December 12th to the 14th. The event is likely to attract curlers from other clubs, curlers
that are often drawn together by a similar bond.
“I think they have basically curled all of their lives, it's ingrained in them, and they're still having fun,” said Roberts.
More action in store for the competitive local rinks on a variety of fronts in the next few weeks. The junior team of Kira Brunton, Megan Smith, Sara
Guy and Kate Sherry will take part in the Listowel Women's Classic from November 30th through to December 2nd.
Providing ample competition for the quartet who have their sights set on the NOCA Junior Women's banner being contested at the end of December at
the Idylwylde Golf & Country Club, the Listowel tournament features many of the women who have combined for Provincial Scotties Tournament of Hearts
appearances too numerous to mention.
Cathy Auld, Chrissy Cadorin, Julie Hastings, Sherry Middaugh and Jo-Anne Rizzo are all part of the 20 team bracket that also features a
number of the more talented young hot shots in the province. On that same weekend, many of the men venture off to Paris (Ontario), site of the Nissan
Joining the Tanner Horgan rink (Mark Kean, Jacob Horgan, Maxime Blais) in adding Sudbury flavour to the event are Evan Lilly
(playing lead for the John Willsey Waterloo team), as well as teammates Ian Dickie and Tyler Stewart, both of whom curled for
Finally, coming off a strong performance at the Grand Slam stop in Thunder Bay, the Tracy Fleury rink travels to Omaha (Nebraska), site of the
second leg of the Curling World Cup. Fleury and company will represent Canada, with the remaining entries from the United States (Jamie Sinclair),
Russia (Alina Kovaleva), Sweden (Anna Hasselborg), Japan (Satsuki Fujisawa), Scotland, China and Korea.