Hosting curling events a Thunder Bay tradition

in

By Diane Imrie
I may not have picked the 13-point spread correctly, but I am sure glad my prediction about the Toronto Argos winning the Grey Cup came true.
As a fan of Toronto teams, including the Leafs, I don’t often get the chance to celebrate victories, so this win was extra special, especially given it was the 100th anniversary of the awarding of the trophy that symbolizes excellence in Canadian professional football.
It was also great to see that my last article provided the opportunity for myself, and others, to learn about another Grey Cup champion from our community, Hammarskjold student Jorma Kuisma, who won the Grey Cup in 1970 with the Montreal Alouettes.
Ironically, Kuisma won his Grey Cup in Toronto in a 23-10 victory over the Stampeders, another 13-point spread victory.
I was in Toronto the weekend of the Grey Cup, but I was there to attend another great sporting event, The Dominion Curling Club Championships.
Thunder Bay is hosting this national championship next November which will welcome the top curlers from clubs all across Canada to our community.
I have volunteered to help out with the event, so I was at the Scarboro Golf & Country Club to see how this year’s hosts carried out their duties.
They pulled it off with great success, just as I have no doubt our volunteers will do next year at the Fort William Curling Club as will the volunteers at the Port Arthur Curling Club in April when they host the 2013 Canadian Masters Curling Championships.
As I watched the volunteers in action, making sure that all the t’s were crossed and the i’s dotted, it reminded me, yet again, how much sport relies upon volunteers to make things happen.
As anyone involved in event management will tell you, it is one of the most stressful jobs out there. That is why it is that much more amazing to me that so many people are willing to donate their time and talents to help out in hosting events, with their only goal being the desire to put on a great event and proudly showcase their hometown.
Our community has had a great history of hosting sporting events, from the local to the world level, and none of them would have been possible without the incredible efforts of our volunteers.
It truly would be mind boggling to add up all of the volunteer hours that have gone in to hosting sporting events, as well as the economic impact that these events have had for local businesses and the tourism industry.
I cannot possibly highlight all of the sporting events our community has hosted over the years, but I thought I would take a look back at some of the events that our curling community has hosted to give you an idea of just one of the sports that has a proud event-hosting past.
In addition to the many bonspiels, regional and provincial playdowns and annual fundraising events that the curling community has hosted, they also have a great tradition of welcoming the finest curlers from across Canada, and throughout the world, to our community.
National junior curling championships hosted in our community have included the 1956 and 1968 Canadian High School Championships, the 1976 Canadian Junior Women’s and the 2006 Canadian Junior Curling Championships.
As hosts to the 1998 World Junior Curling Championships, our local fans got the chance to see Team Canada, skipped by a young John Morris, defeat Scotland in a 5-3 final.
In 1965, we hosted the inaugural National Senior Curling Championships and in 1966, 1972 and 1991 the top mixed curling teams from our nation were in our city
Jeff Stoughton, who recently led his team to victory at the Canada Cup, skipped Manitoba to the 1991 Canadian mixed curling title.
In 1960, the cities of Fort William and Port Arthur co-hosted the Macdonald Brier Tankard, the Canadian men’s curling championship, with the Fort William Gardens welcoming over 26,000 spectators throughout the week.
The championship was won by the famous Richardson rink from Saskatchewan, which was skipped by Ernie Richardson and included his brother Garnet and his cousins Arnold and Wes.
In 1969, the Fort William Curling Club was the site of the Canadian Ladies Curling Championship and, in 1996, the Fort William Gardens hosted thousands of curling fans at the Scott Tournament of Hearts in February of that year.
In fact, one of the officials that I met in Toronto at The Dominion championships skipped the Prince Edward Island team at the Scotties that year and recalled the event with much fondness.
And for good reason, as it truly was a great event.
Some of the skips that were leading teams during the week-long competition included the likes of Colleen Jones, Marilyn Bodogh, Sherry Scheirich (now Middaugh), Connie Laliberte and Cheryl Kullman (now Bernard).
The final came down to an Alberta versus Ontario matchup, with Bodogh and her team of Kim Gellard, Corie Beveridge, Jane Hooper-Perroud and Lisa Savage taking home the title with a 7-4 victory.
Thunder Bay also received some great television coverage by hosting the TSN Skins Games, with local skip Heather Houston winning the 1996 JVC TSN event.
In 2003, the Fort William Gardens was again alive with activity with the top curlers in the world on hand to compete in the Continental Cup of Curling, with Europe taking the title over Team North America.
Over the years we have also welcomed such events as the national firefighters and postal employees curling championships.
Our community’s most recent curling hosting success came last year with the Fort William Curling Club serving as the site of the 2011 Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championship.
All of these events have come about because of the initiative and contributions of volunteers.
Chances are, if you are reading this column, you have volunteered for a sporting event at some point, and, for that, our community thanks you.
Quite simply put, they would not have happened without you.
Until next time, keep that sports history pride alive.

Diane Imrie is the executive director of the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame. Her column runs every second Thursday.