Curler with Island ties qualifies for Nationals Masters Men’s championship in Winnipeg

Owen Sound curler Al Hutchinson and his rink will be representing Ontario at the 2022 masters men’s Canadian curling championships. The rink includes left, skip Al Hutchinson, vice Kevin Daniel, second Bruce Cox and lead Dave Haliburton.

OWEN SOUND – Owen Sound curler Al Hutchinson, (who has strong family ties to Manitoulin Island), and his rink will again represent Ontario at the 2022 Masters Men’s Curling Championship. Mr. Hutchinson’s rink represents the Blue Water Curling Club in Owen Sound.

“This is five years Al has reached this level in this competition,” stated his sister Janis Hutchinson of Evansville, who owns The Flower Hutch business in Gore Bay. “And for three years he has made it with a new team every year.”

“I’ve been curling about 53 years,” Mr. Hutchinson, (who will turn 68 in January) told The Expositor last week. “My team won the Ontario championship in December and has qualified for the Nationals Masters (60 plus years) Men’s Curling Championship.”

“My parents first got me involved in curling,” stated Mr. Hutchinson. But it was a competition he participated in, in 1972, that got him hooked on curling. “The first success I ever had in curling was in 1972 at the Ontario Schoolboys championships. He played second on the team and, “our team finished in the middle of the pack. This competition got me hooked on curling. I always like to compete and in events like this you have to elevate your game to win-something I really enjoy.” 

At that time there wasn’t a junior curling program, “so it wasn’t until I reached the age I could compete in the men’s championships that I could compete on a provincial level again. And it took a long time to have any type of success on the provincial level because of the number of good teams in Ontario, including the likes of Ed Werenich and Russ Howard.” 

Mr. Hutchinson’s first trip to the men’s provincial championship came in 1987. “My rink won the B final event in Walkerton. We were tied in the final game coming home and I had to drive through a tight hole to the button to win on the last shot. This was my first trip to the men’s provincials.”  His rink made it to the provincials again in 1989, then made it again in 1998 and again in 2004. 

Mr. Hutchinson has been on teams that also went to the Ontario mixed curling championships in 1993 and 1995, finishing as the runner-up in each.

“After 2004, I competed in the seniors’ division,” said Mr. Hutchinson. His teams went to 11 provincial championships in the years 2001-2017 and won the provincials in both 2010 and 2013.

Mr. Hutchinson has made the nationals a total of five times in the men’s masters division, in 2016, 2017, and 2018. “In 2019 we had a record of three wins and four losses. In 2020 (held in 2021) we won the provincials again but because of COVID-19, this event was cancelled 10 days before it was to start. (My sister) Janis was among those who were supposed to travel out to St. John’s New Brunswick to see us play in the nationals. It was disappointing that they had to cancel so close to the competition being held.”

Team Hutchinson, representing the Blue Water Curling Club in Owen Sound won the 2022 Ontario Master’s Men’s Curling Championship in Gananoque on Sunday, December 19 by defeating Team Dale Kelly from the Chatham Granite Club by a score of 6-1. Team Hutchinson had finished first in the round robin with a six-win one loss record.   

“This year, we used pretty well all our lives in this event. There were two rounds of competition we had to go through before provincials,” Mr. Hutchinson explained. “There is a qualifying round and we had to win one out of three games. We lost our first two games and won our last one. Then at the provincials qualifier, a double knockout competition, we lost our second game but won the B side. In the provincial finals we kind of surprised ourselves, we had a couple of new members on the team and we ended up 6-1 in the round-robin and then won the playoff.” 

Along with Skip Al Hutchinson his rink incudes vice Kevin Daniel, and newcomers to the team, second Bruce Cox and lead Dave Haliburton.

The Nationals are scheduled to take place in Winnipeg, Manitoba from April 4-10, 2022. “I’m not holding my breath on the nationals taking place with the pandemic. “What we have in our favour is time. Once the Christmas surge is over, and hopefully the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 will drop to a suitable level that we can play the Nationals. At the nationals there will be 14 teams taking part. We will have to see what happens.”

In 2014 Mr. Hutchinson was inducted into the Owen Sound Sports Hall of Fame.