The Manitoba Open, the longest running and largest bonspiel in the world returns this year after the Covid-cancellation seasons and here’s a reminder that the entry deadline is DECEMBER 29.

The bonspiel offers, first-and-foremost, an opportunity to play the game and enjoy the competition (and comradeship) of like minded individuals. Although smaller than in days of yore (old guys like me yearn wistfully for the days like 1988 when nearly 1,300 teams took part) – it is still a magnificent undertaking.

By the time entries close, my projection is there will be in the range of 200 teams participating. The bonspiel presents a rare opportunity to play a team you have never met, on a sheet of ice neither of you have ever played on. What a great test of curling – the challenge of learning the ice while you figure out the strengths and weaknesses of your opponent, at the same time as you try to show your opponent only your team’s strengths.

Whatever level we play at – we all get pretty comfortable playing in our own clubs/leagues/bonspiel circuit – against the same teams all the time. Generally, we have a pretty good idea what they are going to do AND which ones we are likely to beat – which will likely beat us – which will be a flip-a-coin game.

I repeat, the beauty of the bonspiel lies in embracing the fact that you don’t have any idea what the game is going to be like when you step on the ice.

I curl regularly at Fort Rouge and Charleswood, and have played a few bonspiel games at Assiniboine Memorial this season. So I have an idea what that ice is like. Watching the Canadian Masters at Pembina and the recent regional playoffs at Deer Lodge, I know their ice represents a different challenge. I have not curled at Elmwood or Fort Garry or St Vital this year – I am excited by the prospect!!

I have always said, since my very first game in 1967 against the great Bruce Hudson on sheet #2 at Granite, that the MCA Bonspiel (now Manitoba Open Bonspiel) is my favorite event of the year.

How much do I like it? So much that I have actually got a team entered in both the Open and the Half Spiel. Obviously I can’t play all the games. Inevitable overlap of schedules and the fact that all five players on both teams (yes, two completely different line-ups!) will play about the same number of games make that impossible.

But I’ll play as much as I can – what better way is there to spend a winter weekend in Winnipeg?

Whether I win 8-9 games in a row (which happened once a long time ago) or lose 9 in a row (which has potential to be the case) I really don’t care. I’m just excited by the prospect of being on the ice with good friends (and my two sons on the Half Spiel team), by the opportunity to encounter (and perhaps share some time with) folks I have only ever met in previous bonspiels, and hopefully to play some more teams I have never played before.

I am lucky to report my circle of curling friends is huge – I hope I can add you to it when I play you in January!

Please act now (or at least by December 29) and get your entry in – otherwise I may never have the privilege of playing against you!

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