The 12 competing teams in the Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts presented by Bayer were the first Manitoba curlers to throw a brand new set of CurlManitoba curling stones when they practiced today in Carberry. (CLICK HERE for a copy of the Scotties Draw)
A few twigged to the fact that they were different stones, a few figured out they were brand new stones, a few, playing for the first time on Manitoba Scotties ice had no reason to even think about it. For the record, the new rocks should not have been a surprise. The curlers were told they would be playing with new stones in pre-event information but it is fair to guess that sometimes the pre-event information does not always get read completely.
Veteran coach and volunteer Lorne Hamblin was one who wondered about them. The coach of Terry Ursel’s Neepawa team was matter of fact in his assessment of the new stones as an overall first impression. “A fair bit of swing, nice ice, the rocks reacted consistently,” he said. That’s all you can ask!
CurlManitoba Executive Director Craig Baker advised that new stones became a priority after there were issues with the old rocks at the Scotties in Rivers two years ago.
CurlManitoba knew at that time that had to replace the legendary “MCA rocks”. The Viterra championship that year was played with Curling Canada stones borrowed for the occasion.
New Red Trefor granite with insert running surfaces were ordered from Canadian Curling Stone almost immediately, after an appropriate tender process, and would have been available last year for CurlManitoba’s arena events if the season had not been covid-cancelled.
“The new stones are as perfectly matched as it is possible to make them – and each weighs 44 pounds,” says CurlManitoba’s Chief Ice Technician Greg Ewasko. He is very happy with how they have performed through the first day’s practice sessions. However, like every Ice Technician, Ewasko is always expecting something could go wrong so he is cautious in predicting anything about the new stones until he has seen them through an entire event.
In a nod to the need for caution and the value of good insurance, the ‘old’ CurlManitoba stones are also in Carberry “just in case”.
The former stones reached legendary status in Manitoba from decades of very limited service, mainly in the men’s championship which at one time was the MCA’s only arena event. As their legend grew however, they travelled the country, used in many different Briers, Scotties and other events.
They were re-conditioned several times and, as they retire from service, they have reached the stage where they are very near and perhaps very slightly under the standard minimum weight of 36 pounds.
What happens with those old stones? Baker says it is still under discussion and a plan will be announced, perhaps by the end of this curling season.
One thing he knows, curlers are sentimentalists! Maybe there is a market in the memories arena – perhaps the guy who remembers throwing a specific rock to win the Manitoba championship would like to buy it and give it a good home.
One thing I’ll tell him – I have no interest in the rock that I left short of the rings in the Tankard final in 1981 but maybe Mark Olson would be interested in the one that the Burtnyk team buried behind it.