North Bay mixed duo named Northern champs at Little Current playdowns

Eric Gelinas and Courtney Chenier of the North Bay Granite Club will represent Northern Ontario at the national mixed doubles curling championships next month. The Northern Ontario playdowns were hosted by the Little Current Curling Club.

LITTLE CURRENT—The familiar skirl of the bagpipes and procession of banner carrying curling team members and officials opened the second Northern Ontario Regional Mixed Doubles curling playdowns in Little Current on Friday night (February 14), and by Sunday afternoon only one team would remain to go on to the provincial play downs on March 19 to 23 in Ottawa. The winner of the Ottawa event will go on to the world championships in Dumfries, Scotland from April 23 to 30.

Eric Gelinas and Courtney Chenier of the North Bay Granite Club will carry the brooms for Northern Ontario in Ottawa, after defeating their Sudbury Curling Club rivals David Daoust and Meri Bolander in the championship playdown on Sunday afternoon.

Joan Sheppard of Mindemoya, regional director of the Northern Ontario Curling Association, presented the duo with individual plaques commemorating their victory and green and white curling sweaters and jackets to adorn them as they take to the ice sheets in Ottawa.

“I want to thank the Little Current Curling Club for hosting this event,” said Ms. Sheppard as she conducted the awards ceremony. “We are always so grateful for this club’s support for our events.”

The Little Current Curling Club is the only Northern Ontario Curling Association member club on Manitoulin and provides an important role as a link for regional curling play with the Island, noted Ms. Sheppard.

“I just want to say thank you, on behalf of myself and Eric, to the officials and volunteers this weekend,” said Ms. Chenier. “Everything was run very well.”

The duo is relatively new to mixed doubles curling play, having started out with the fast growing sport only two years ago. “We didn’t compete in the mixed doubles last year,” said Ms. Chenier. “We spent all of the past year curling and practicing.” That dedication obviously paid off, as the duo will be going on to Ottawa following their win last weekend.

The curlers were welcomed to the Northeast Town Friday evening by Mayor Al MacNevin, who spoke on behalf of the citizens and council of the township. The ceremonial first rock was tossed down the ice sheet by veteran curler Cam Spec of Little Current.

Mixed doubles curling, which has been growing rapidly in popularity in Europe and now Canada, is played in a similar fashion to regular curling with some notable differences. There are only two members of each rink, one male and one female, and with no spare player. Each team has six rocks, one of each is prepositioned on the ice prior to the commencement of play. The first player has first and last stone, while the second throws three. Both players may sweep and the two players may exchange positions for each round.

The prepositioned rocks consist of one placed at the back of the button by the team who possesses the hammer (last rock) and a guard rock is placed on the centerline, just past the hog line on a set mark, explained Northern Ontario Curling Association judge Claude Peloquin of North Bay. Along with fellow judge Debbie Fortin of Sudbury and Sheguiandah’s own Jim Keatley as timekeeper, the officials kept a close eye on the teams. Curling is known as the most cordial of sports, but you never know, laughed Ms. Fortin. “Something might come up.”

Time is of the essence in mixed doubles curling because one of the key differences in play is that each team has only 46 minutes combined time for play, instead of the traditional 73 minutes allotted in regular curling.

What also remains the same in mixed doubles curling is the camaraderie and bonhomie exhibited by the players themselves. Mr. Daoust and Ms. Bolander were the first to congratulate the winners and they were obviously good friends.

Mr. Daoust said that he and his fellow curlers were very impressed with the host community of Little Current. “It is a great little town,” he said. “We had a great time here. The folks at the Anchor Inn were amazing.”

The provincial championships will take place on Wednesday, March 19 to Sunday, March 23, 2014 at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club in Ottawa. The Ottawa Hunt is a six sheet facility.

Michael Erskine