As local icemakers prepare to put the finishing touches on their respective works of art, they do so armed with the knowledge that they will soon be welcoming back a Sudbury based curling community that has only broadened its impressive resumé of results in recent weeks.
Tom Leonard, at Curl Sudbury, took a brief break from the task at hand, the three latest NOCA banners to be added to the collection not yet strung to the rafters at the venerable Howey Drive facility, pondering a slightly different approach to a seasonal traditional that he knows all too well.
Thanks to a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Leonard and company had spent much of the summer installing a cement foundation pad where a sand base previously existed, with the ultimate benefits far more attached to the club, itself, than any particular top-end curler.
“There is no real advantage to working with a cement or sand base – you can make quality ice on both,” said Leonard. “The biggest advantage from a club aspect is that you can utilize the space in the off-season with a pad. With sand, it’s not easily usable.”
Given the fact that the local competitive curling crew have been just itching to get some practice time in without driving hours to do so, a schedule that mirrors most other years is a virtual pre-requisite for the folks at Curl Sudbury.
“Because it’s a new pad, there is a specific cure time that you have to follow, and a specific temper time to the floor,” said Leonard. “And then we were thrown another wrinkle, having to replace a condenser that we didn’t expect to.”
“Typically, you can put ice in on a good level cement pad in seven to 11 days. In our situation, with it being new and with the condenser, we’re looking at two weeks to 18 days. But we’re starting when we would normally start curling, right after Thanksgiving.”
At least as exciting as the venue developments, for Leonard, has been the starting of a local collaborative initiative in the curling community. “We, along with Copper Cliff, the Idylwylde and Coniston, had an initial meeting about how the four clubs can work together and promote the game together and move forward together,” explained the long-time curling gentleman.
“Our collective goal is to simply tell everyone, “Just Curl”. It doesn’t matter where you curl or when you curl, we just want people curling. The more people are curling, the better for all of the venues.”
For as much as there is a degree of inter-competition between the clubs, the fact is that there are also times when a helping hand across venues is dearly needed. Nowhere was that more evident than in the middle of last winter, when the Coniston Curling Club was forced to close their doors, for the season, due to some structural concerns with the roof.
Roughly nine months later, the community mainstay is right on the verge of re-opening.
“Everyone was super helpful, in terms of allocating ice time for our members, for our leagues,” noted Coniston Mixed League Coordinator Christine Dubuc, one of the driving forces behind the fundraising efforts that helped allow the necessary repairs to take place.
“Curlers from other clubs came to help out, we had people from the community, donations from past members,” she explained. In chatting with some of those involved yesterday, we are told that curling should begin right around October 21st or so, virtually the same time as in every other year.
Good thing, as locals have been making noise already, in venues stretching right across North America. The biggest news last weekend came courtesy of the Jacob Horgan junior rink (Scott Mitchell-vice, Mitchell Cortello-second, Chase Dussesoy-lead), who earned a berth in the Stu Sells Open Men’s Tankard this week by virtue of the fact that they claimed top spot at the Junior Tankard.
After posting a 2-2 record in round robin play, the new team caught fire in the playoff round, edging former Horgan team member Nicholas Bissonnette 7-6 in the quarter-finals, Sam Mooibroek in the semis (5-4 in an extra end) and Jordan McNamara in the final (6-3).
Up against the big boys this week, Team Horgan have a split to show for their efforts to date, tripling Michael Fournier from Montreal by a final count of 6-2 in their opening game but dropping a 7-6 decision to American Korey Dropkin and his rink Thursday afternoon. The Jordan Chandler rink (Trevor Bonot, Colin Koivula, Kyle Chandler) is also in Toronto, competing at this event, bouncing back from a first round loss to knock off Cameron Goodkey from Ottawa in the “B” qualifying bracket.
Dropkin is apparently no stranger to facing Sudbury-based curlers, having beaten two time Olympian John Morris and his northern Ontario mixed doubles partner, Kira Brunton, in the championship final of the Colorado Curling Cup event last Sunday in Denver.
Meanwhile, local skip Tracy Fleury and her rink of Selena Njegovan, Liz Fyfe and Kristin MacCuish also had to settle for second place, defeated 8-3 in the final of the Colonial Square Ladies Classic last Monday in Saskatoon.
After cruising through the “A” qualifier bracket with an undefeated record of 3-0, the Fleury foursome edged Amber Holland of Regina 5-4 in the quarter-finals, before slipping past Jennifer Jones 3-2 in a tightly-contested final four match-up.
While the Fleury squad is enjoying a little time to catch their breath, Brunton and her junior rink of Lindsay Dubue, Calissa Daly and Jessica Leonard are back in the GTA, on the ladies side of the draw at the Stu Sells Toronto Tankard. Brunton and company have started well, downing Megan Balsdon of Woodstock 7-4 in their opening game.