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Shared Memories!

Saturday Jan 19 2013

I was excited to see the draw posted with my son Matthew (the one home from Toronto for the spiel) and his team playing Rod Hunter, and his team which includes Bob Jenion and John Bubbs. These guys are famous in Manitoba curling – they are a part of the history of our sport at the Brier level. But I had to remember, they are part of my memories, not my son’s. To him, it was another bonspiel game which turned out to be another loss to a group of really good people and whose company & competition he enjoyed for a couple of hours.

I turned out to be the winner. I sat for a couple of hours with Rod Hunter, who sat out the game allowing fifth John Bubbs to play his first game of the weekend.  And it turned out to be among the most enjoyable two hours I have spent in a curling club (off the ice) in years.

At 69, compared with my 63, Hunter and I are more or less the same age. But 40 years ago, the six years difference in our age was a lifetime. He was THE ARROW – the guy with the perfect delivery. I was a guy who thought he could play a bit but dreamed of being as good as he was, dreamed of playing against him, dreamed of going to the Brier. My team will tell you I never made it on point one – I can tell you I never played against him – history shows I missed going to the Brier by that one 1981 final game loss to Burtnyk.

We talked about the challenges facing the sport – the difficulty of expanding the younger generations of players to replace those of us who will not be playing for all that many more years. The example of the previous draw was proof of what we were discussing. Among the ten teams at Victoria this morning – there were 4-5 young people (under 25); there were probably 10-12 curlers in the 25-40 age group; my guess would be 16 curlers in the 40-60 age group; and a couple of teams worth of guys in the over-that category. Those percentages (10% U25; 30% 25/40; 40% 40/60; 20% over 65) are probably fairly representative of the bonspiel and the sport in general. The low front end numbers and the higher backend numbers are a challenge across the country.

We talked about the future of the MCA bonspiel. He played in the 75th (his first), the 100th, and this 125th. He gave me the example that I knew existed somewhere. When Hunter moved to Alberta, the NACA (Northern Alberta Curling Association) bonspiel attracted over 200 teams. It was their equivalent to the MCA Spiel and numbers declined over the subsequent years until it simply died from lack of interest. I fear that without conversation, that is the MCA’s future as well.

We talked about history – he told me about hockey legend Tom Johnson from Baldur who won seven Stanley Cups to go with a Manitoba High School curling championship. I knew of Johnson’s hockey prowess because I was Habs fan in my childhood. I’m not sure I had ever been told he was the same guy as in the Manitoba curling record book. And Hunter got it when I told him my first ever MCA game story – if you a regular reader you have heard it. 1967, the then famous, now legendary Bruce Hudson, sheet 2 at Granite. Hunter knew instantly what that game had meant to a farm kid from the Melita area because he, too, grew up in rural Manitoba and he recounted the story of his first spiel with Terry Braunstein being in Maple Leaf Gardens in the eight-team international tournament of Champions.

And Hunter shared some stories with me that I had never heard, including about the time Don Duguid and Terry Braunstein were involved in a club game with Duguid having a last shot opportunity to score an eight. I gather it was a difficult last shot (or maybe it wasn’t) but apparently Braunstein stole the end. I had never heard that one and a few other stories.

I can only hope the MCA bonspiel continues to create these kinds of memories and I can tell you that Matthew and I made a plan after he played that game against Bubbs & Co. We plan to play in the 150th annual MCA bonspiel – Resby, Michael, Matthew, and my new grandson Austin – who will be 25 years old that year.

There are so many “I HOPES” involved in the plan that I can’t begin to list them. But, I plan to be there – I’ll only be 88. I’m still building memories and that one will be pretty special.

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