It is the people you meet in the sport of curling that make the game great.
This was evident three weeks ago when Thunder Bay hosted the top rock throwers in the world at Pinty’s Grand Slam event held here before packed crowds at the Thunder Bay Tournament Centre.
Flying back from Ottawa on Friday, a WestJet agent saw my Pinty’s/Sportsnet red jacket and said you must be a curler.
I replied, ‘No, I am just a curling fan who has friends that are good curlers.’ As our conversation continued I found out she is Brenda Nichols, a known curler in her own right, but also the sister of Mark Nichols, the third on the Brad Gushue rink who were in Thunder Bay three weeks ago.
Brenda told me the team was disappointed with their result in Thunder Bay, but gave praise to our city and the volunteers for putting on such an outstanding event.
This weekend, the Gushue Gang will be competing at the Grand Slam event on their home ice in Conception Bay, N.L.
Curling fans from Thunder Bay will be among the national audience who will be tuning in to the Sportsnet broadcasts to see how the event compares with ours, as it too is basically sold out.
Thunder Bay proved it is a curling town and will be in for another major curling event in the near future. What that event will be is the question.
However, Brandon and Kingston with populations less than Thunder Bay have been selected as the hosts for the next two Briers in 2019 and 2020.
The Brier was held here, but that was way back in 1960 — 48 years ago when the Fort William Gardens was a newer facility.
The Gardens’ seating capacity of 3,700 is not big enough to house a present Brier and the Fort William Curling Club ice surface next door too small for a Brier Patch.
Thunder Bay has the hotel room capacity (2,300 rooms) and the air connectivity (16 daily flights to Toronto) to host. Is a new arena complex the final piece to the puzzle?
MAJOR LEAGUE TONIGHT: The Bryan Burgess and Trevor Bonot rinks will look to build on their 7-1 first-place records when the TBaytel Major League of Curling resumes tonight with Draw 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the Port Arthur Curling Club.
Burgess continues to get positive results from his young rink made up of his son Dallas at third and Wil Hollins and Evan Grunys on the front end.
Rebounding from a loss two weeks ago, Team Burgess have a showdown with their junior rivals on the Myles Harding rink as they shoot for their eighth win tonight.
The Harding rink will try to snap a four-game skid after they started the season with three straight wins.
Harding and Burgess are both using the major league to prepare for upcoming junior and Canada Games playdowns.
Meanwhile, the Trevor Bonot foursome is coming off the weekend competing at the Curl Mesabi World Curling Tour event in Eveleth, Minn.
Bonot playing with Kory Carr, Jamie Childs, Gary Champagne and Al Hackner are on a quest to repeat as Major League champs.
hey look to further solidify their hold on first place as they take on Liane Fossum (2-5) and her mixed squad. Fossum needs a win to have a shot at a top-six playoff berth.
Another game to watch tonight is the Mike Desilets rink (subbing in for Scott Henderson) taking on Frank Morissette.
Desilets has his squad of senior shooters Rob Shubat, Andy Peloza and Bill Peloza solidly in third place with a 6-2 record.
Morissette and his lineup of Pat Berezowski, Dan Grant and Craig Hollins will be up for the challenge as they look to stay above 500.
Morissette is one of four teams with four wins that can improve their chances to secure a top-six finish and a spot in the championship playoffs with a win tonight.
Two of the other teams — Colin Koivula and Ben Mikkelsen — have the same goal going into Draw 9.
Koivula, at 4-3, draws Gary Weiss (3-4), while Mikkelsen, at 4-4, plays Chris Silver and his junior rink looking for their first win.
Mike McCarville, the other four-win team, has the bye.
Rounding out the six-game slate, Krista McCarville and Hailey Beaudry clash in a showdown of two rinks preparing for the Northern Ontario Scotties playdowns later this winter in Nipigon.
McCarville has a 3-4 record, while Beaudry is 1-6. The two teams, like Bonot, are also coming off a weekend at the World Curling Tour event in Eveleth, Minn. Krista McCarville won the women’s title in Eveleth after going 7-0. Beaudry reached the semifinals, losing to McCarville.
AROUND THE CLUBS: The Kakabeka Falls Curling Club hosts their first bonspiel of the season this weekend. The Throwback Bonspiel gets underway Friday night and wraps up Saturday.
This is the third year for the bonspiel that brings back the corn broom era to the game, hence, Throwback Bonspiel.
John Cameron’s curling column appears Wednesdays. If you have news on upcoming ’spiels or bonspiel results in Northwestern Ontario, contact John at email@example.com or call 623-3135.