My Early Season Highlights

A busy fall and it has taken me a bit longer than usual to re-launch my efforts here at – but here I am, and here I’ll be for the season.

Of course, it is impossible not to acknowledge the early season accomplishments of Kaitlyn Lawes and Jennifer Jones/Mackenzie Zacharias with the new lineups, and of Kerri Einarson and her champion team and to be excited by the prospects of a great event at East St. Paul when they host the Manitoba Scotties. Add in Chelsea Carey, Beth Peterson and Abby Ackland and you just know it will be a great event (and of course I know Kerri is Team Canada and won’t be there). On the men’s side it look more like a two-horse race with Matt Dunstone and Reid Carruthers headed for a final showdown in Neepawa – and what are the chances that one of them will be facing Mike McEwen as Team Ontario at the London Brier?

However, if you’ve followed my efforts over the years, you know that I am at least as interested in providing attention for more local events and curlers as I am in the stories and results you can get from regular TV coverage and on-line scoring.

So here are some of my early season notes and highlights.

CONGRATULATIONS to (l-r) Dewar McKinnon, Neil Okumura, Gord McKay, and Jim Griffiths. They might make a pretty good curling team but it is for club leadership at the Pembina CC that they were honoured in early September. A highlight of 75th anniversary celebrations was the presentation of club Honorary Life Memberships to the foursome. It was a privilege for me to be asked to MC the evening event and I look forward to being there again for the Canadian Masters Championships in November.

CONGRATULATIONS as well to (l-r) Lance Wadelius (Beausejour), Gail Cabana-Coldwell (Deer Lodge), and Ray Baker (Dauphin) who received CurlManitoba Honorary Life Memberships at this year’s Annual General Meeting. And BEST WISHES to Fort Rouge’s Keith Johnston (at right) who will serve as CurlManitoba President for the next two years. Lance and Gail were honoured for their service to curling as volunteer, coach/instructor and official. Ray was honoured for his service as a Board Member and President after a a long career of service and leadership in the Dauphin CC. Joyce Wyrchowny (Stonewall), a dedicated club and regional volunteer, was also honoured but unable to attend the AGM.

Ray Baker has had a pretty good last couple of months. As noted above, he ended his term as CurlManitoba President and an Honourary Life Membership acknowledged many things but particularly his leadership through the two years of the pandemic. A week later he was elected to the Board of Curling Canada, joining Darren Oryniak in providing solid Manitoba leadership at that level. But he was also a big success on the ice. (l-r) Baker, Dwight Bottrell, Bob Scales, and Keith Pottle won this year’s Canada 55+ Senior Games curling gold medal. A few weeks later, Baker skipped a different team to a 4th place finish at a bonspiel in North Carolina.

Due to an injury Bottrell missed some of the games and Baker, Scales, and Pottle played with three – which may explain something about the accumulation of rocks in this provided highlight photo. Important to point out that Team Baker was throwing RED and somehow scored a deuce on this end.

In recent times, I have become quite involved in 2-person stick curling events and competitions – so appropriate to acknowledge Paul Batchelor and Leroy Clarke (pictured with Warren Johnson) who were the winners of the start of season Ernie Oliver Bonspiel. It was also fun to be involved with a “high-performance” stick curling technical session with a group of five teams at the Morris – Cargill Curling Training Centre. It was an interesting challenge for Lorne Hamblin to apply his years of coaching and instructional experience to this newer form of the sport – but in the end the keys to the game are all the same: line of delivery, rotation, consistent release, weight control. About the only thing that 2-person stick players don’t have to worry about is sweeping!

Not many weeks after the Ernie Oliver Bonspiel, I was back on the ice at AMCC with my granddaughter’s team as they join the AMCC youth program this season. I have always admired Murray Peterson and his dedication to training young curlers to throw a good stone. After just one session my admiration is even greater. He seems even more dedicated to ensuring the kids under his tutelage have fun. What a great foundation – learn to throw the stone well – and HAVE FUN!

A final pre-season highlight came about as far from the curling ice as it is possible to get! I still do occasional media assignments (yes – real work!) and a recent assignment was the Manitoba Metis Federation’s Annual General Assembly. An interesting event in its own right but it won’t get any coverage here. However, I am always delighted when my sport gets positive attention in unexpected settings – and very unexpected was the introduction of our Canadian champion Kerri Einarson. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve seen the MMF logo on Team Einarson’s knee – great visibility when you get as much TV time as they do these days. Kerri was there to express her pride at wearing the logo and her appreciation for the MMF’s support. She had another important message as well – a word of encouragement to youth who were there or would hear the message from their parents/grandparents. It is a message we have heard from Kerri before but it bears repeating – she wants to be (and is!) a role model for youngsters, saying she’s a small town girl who set some goals and is achieving them and if she can do it, they can do it. It is a message which can’t be repeated often enough.

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