The 2020 Curling Club Provincial Championships (March 12-15) will always be remembered for a couple of reasons. The first will be it was held during the Covid-19 pandemic and was among the few events that were not cancelled and secondly for the power outage on Friday, March 13 toward the end of the 5:30 draw. When the power was restored, the unfinished games were continued by starting the end over that was in play when the power went out, or if the skips agreed the end was finished as to how it was set up at the blackout. Also memorable was one of the Women’s round robin games in which a team scored a seven-ender and still lost by one! And. . . in lieu of the traditional handshakes before and after the games, the “elbow-bump” was born. Yes indeed, history was made at this event!
The Melita and Deloraine curling clubs collaborated in hosting this event. Deloraine Club had six draws, four on Thursday and two on Friday. The remainder of the bonspiel was played in Melita. The host rink from Deloraine was Liza Park (Skip), Meaghan Astle (Third), Kristy Park (Second) and Megan Vandenberghe (Lead). Melita’s host rink included Brian Barker (Skip), Gary Barker (Third), Randy Barker (Second) and Darren Stewart (Lead).
The 12 rinks in both Men’s and Women’s competition were divided into two Pools of six – Asham Black Pool (Men) consisted of Loreth (Granite), Anderson (Charleswood), Forsyth (Dauphin), Marnoch (Carberry), Johnson (Baldur), Young (Gillam). Asham Express Red Pool (Men): Barker (Melita), Croy (Petersfield), Lowdon (LaSalle), Csversko (Neepawa), McFarlane (AMCC), Wickman (Fort Rouge).
Women’s Pools: Asham Black Pool: Lang (St. Vital), Mackie (St.Vital), Davie (Neepawa), Lea (Manitou), McCreanor (LaSalle), Park (Deloraine). Asham Express Red Pool; Russill (Brandon), Johnson (Baldur), Purdy (AMCC/Assiniboia), Balshaw (Winnipeg/Thistle), Colwell (East St. Paul), Briscoe (Burntwood).
Every rink played a round-robin with the other teams in their respective pools which concluded with the 7:15 draw on Saturday night. Tie-breakers were needed, one game in the men’s and two games for the women. Three women’s rinks held a 3 win – 2 loss record following round-robin play, including Host Team Park from Deloraine, McCreanor (LaSalle) and Burntwood (Graham). The Burntwood rink got the bye to Sunday’s morning tie-breaker and Park and McCreanor played six ends at 9:15 p.m. on Saturday. Park won this game and went on to win the Sunday morning tie-breaker against Graham - putting them in the finals against Lang (St. Vital). This final was anyone’s game until Lang cracked a 5-ender in the 7th end giving them an 11-7 lead going into the 8th and final end. Park’s team battled hard in the final end but they were run out of rocks. After nine curling games, Team Park posted a 6 win 3 loss record overall and were finalists in Curl Canada’s Manitoba Curling Club Championships! And the champion rink was the St. Vital foursome of Marlene Lang, Pamela Kok, Jackie Henrickson and Megan Pauls.
Melita’s host rink (Barker) posted a 2 win 3 loss record in the round robin play. Unfortunately this wasn’t enough to advance, but they were excellent representatives and competitors for their home town. And, they had a good game against the eventual winner of the competition. Following the round robin for the men, there was a tie-breaker between Johnson (Baldur) and Forsyth (Dauphin) – won by Johnson.
Semi-final games saw Johnson lose to Wickman (Ft. Rouge) and Csversko lose to Loreth (Granite), setting up the final Wickman vs Loreth. This was quite a game to watch. They played the first six ends very quickly, keeping everything very clean. Loreth scored one point in the second end, the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th ends were blanked. Wickman scored one in the 8th to force an extra end and also scored one in the 9th for the provincial title!
Resby Coutts was inducted into the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame in 2019 and just a few weeks ago, he was inducted into the Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame as a Builder. He was thrilled to be on hand at the 2020 Manitoba Curling Club Championships to present the trophies, crests and hardware to the winning teams - Wickman (Ft. Rouge) for the Men and Lang (St. Vital) for the Women.
“What a wonderful weekend of curling. As most of you know I am proud to be from southwestern Manitoba and so it’s always good to come “home”. I am also very proud to say that of the four curling clubs represented in the finals - Granite, Ft. Rouge, St. Vital and Deloraine - I have been a member at one time or am still a member. Thank you to all the teams, we especially appreciate the attitude and spirit you had for the event, in light of the unprecedented situation with the Corvid 19 virus. Everyone handled it so well and Curl MB wishes to pass on their thanks. Thank you to “Mad Markus” and his ice crew that have devised many styles and techniques that will be legendary. Thank you to Curl Manitoba officials for being present and keeping things running smoothly. Finally, a big thank you to the organizing committee Darren Stewart, Monica Skelton and Brenda Banks and all the many volunteers it takes to host such an event.
Resby called on Darren Stewart to say a few words. Darren thanked Deloraine Curling Club for co-hosting and for lending Kelly Wells (help with ice). He also thanked Resby for all his contributions to the weekend. “Thank you to the curlers - we’ve enjoyed having you and we hope you come back some time.”
Cam Barth of the Fort Rouge Club and member of the winning Men’s rink thanked Melita and Deloraine ice makers, the organizers, and “most of all the bar staff and the handi-van drivers,” he joked.
“Congratulations to Melita for a successful event. I hear this is the 7th championship Melita Curling Club has hosted since this curling rink was built. I think with this new facility (Enns Bros Place) the way it is, Melita could be eligible to host a Scotties in the future,” concluded Coutts.