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Stirring up feelings of curling nostalgia from just twenty years ago
2021-04-03

It’s easy to assume that nostalgia only relates to a period of time that involves recollections four or five decades or more in the past.

In fact, a google definition provided the following: “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations”.

Now consider the following quote, courtesy of Sandy MacEwan, one of the members of the Lasalle Lancers team that captured OFSAA curling gold in March 2001.

“We realized that a lot of things had changed in our lives, but for that weekend, it felt like we were back in high school again.”

Yep, there were clearly elements of nostalgia in play as MacEwan reunited with Jamie Morphet, David Daoust and Randy Sauve (Glen Larsenwas the fifth for Lasalle) for a late season bonspiel at Curl Sudbury in April of 2019.

Almost 18 years to the date, still decked out in the colourful orange that is such a tradition on the campus of the New Sudbury secondary school, Team MacEwan/Morphet was more than thrilled to relive the memories.

Though all four of the lads were only in grade ten, the fact that the very same Lancer quartet had advanced to OFSAA quarter-final play, one year earlier, with a rink full of high-school freshman, gave rise to an optimism twelve months later, despite having dropped the SDSSAA final to skip Mike Jakubo and the St Charles College Cardinals.

“Based on our experience the previous year, we knew that we would have a chance, anyways, to compete,” suggested MacEwan.

The truth is that MacEwan, Morphet and Daoust had actually emerged victorious while the trio were still in the elementary school ranks, donning the colours of Carl Nesbitt Public at the Terranet sponsored unofficial provincial playdown in Parry Sound in 1998. They would arrive at Lasalle to form the nucleus, the avid competitive core that is so often required to create a foundation for high-school success.

“In the last ten years or more, there are a lot more opportunities for younger curlers, which is fantastic,” said MacEwan. “They have U18s, U15s, all that kind of stuff. Back then, we didn’t have all of that. It was juniors which we definitely focused on. I wouldn’t say that high-school was top priority, because junior curling was - but it (high-school) was really the only other opportunity that we had.”

“And we took pride in representing our school, especially coming from a high school that really was known for basketball.”

Truth be told, the boys knew they had stumbled on to something pretty special.

“You usually end up with a couple of people that were regular curlers or competitive curlers that ended up on the high school team, but it was hard to have all four,” noted Morphet.

And though Randy Sauve may not have enjoyed quite the curling background as his more avid teammates, he was more than just the quarterback of the football team filling in the remaining slot.

“Randy was a natural,” said Morphet. “He picked up everything really quick. He was phenomenal at sweeping and he had a really good delivery.”

“Back then, you didn’t play football and curl,” chimed in MacEwan. “Randy is just an all-around good athlete. He’s always been a natural athlete, with whatever he does: football, curling, baseball, ultimate frisbee, beach volleyball.”

As luck would have it, the 2001 OFSAA Curling Championships were also awarded to Sudbury, one more factor that favoured the local entries. “Home ice advantage is always a big enough deal, I think,” said Morphet. “With familiar surroundings, you have a feel about what the ice might do - which is not to say that the ice makers won’t play a trick on you at some point.”

“And having more friends and family coming out to watch is a big part of any sport.”

“We certainly expected to make the playoffs, if only because of what we had done the previous year,” added MacEwan. “I think we all had a sense that playing on our home turf, we knew the ice, we knew the rocks. We knew that if we played well when it mattered, we would stand a good chance.”

In a sense, it really came down to the curlers staying out of their own way and just playing to their strengths.

“We tried to focus on playing a simple game,” recalled Morphet. “If we kept the strategy simple, don’t let the opposition have too many stones in key areas and keep it as wide open as we could, it made our shots easier. Keeping that open mindset every end, that was kind of the key.”

Beyond that, details are a little sketchy.

There are memories of having to battle through the Sault Ste Marie powerhouse that were the Harnden brothers at the NOSSA level (Sir James Dunn would win the OFSAA banner in 2002) in order to secure the slot at provincials. There are memories of a 3-1 record in round robin giving way to three straight playoff victories, though none were recalled as requiring final end heroics.

In fact, the busyness of their curling schedules was central to the images that did come to mind.

“After we won the final, I remember my junior coach (Don Sutton), standing at the door of the club, waiting for me because we were driving down to southern Ontario for a bonspiel,” said MacEwan.

Family connections were rampant. Though Claude Daoust, Blair Morphet and Don MacEwan all helped coach the team, to some degree, all three were also critical components of the organizational committee, joining forces with the likes of Alan Arkilander and others in welcoming high-school curlers from across the province, a challenge they would tackle again in 2004.

To some extent or another, curling remained in the picture for MacEwan, Morphet and Daoust. Morphet would lead a team that included Matt Dumontelle, Ryan Lafraniere and Paul Arkilander to a Northern Ontario junior crown just a few years later, while MacEwan has seen success both in open men’s play, while also earning an NOCA champions crest in mixed play in 2019.

Still, the memories of 2001 are held near and dear, memories that clearly conjure up feelings of nostalgia, even if not from thirty or forty years ago.

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