Northern Men’s curling championships draws high praise for Island organizers

Team Jacobs is presented with the Travelers Men’s Curling Championship trophy by Lise Bourgeault of Espanola’s McCulloch Insurance, local agents for Travelers. The Jacobs rink will be going to the Tim Horton’s Brier in Regina in March representing Northern Ontario. In photo from left are coach Caleb Flaxey, lead Ryan Harnden, second E.J. Harnden, third Ryan Fry and skip Brad Jacobs.

LITTLE CURRENT—Competitors, coaches and curling officials taking part in the opening ceremonies of the 2018 Travelers Northern Ontario Curling Association (NOCA) Men’s Provincial Championship filed into a Little Current arena that had been transformed into a championship curling venue. The weekend that followed provided plenty of tense excitement, but in the end it was the Jacobs Rink that prevailed in the last end of the Sunday night final. (See coverage of the play on this week’s Section Front.)

The procession of curlers and organizers lined up along the side of the centre sheet facing the stands for the opening remarks.

“On behalf of Travelers Canada, it is my pleasure to welcome you to the 2018 Travelers Northern Ontario Curling Association (NOCA) Men’s Provincial Championship in Little Current,” said Heather Masterson, president and CEO of Travelers Canada. “Whether you are participating in our annual Travelers NOCA Men’s Provincial Championship as an athlete, organizer or spectator, I hope it is a memorable experience for everyone.”

Region 4 Northern Ontario Curling Association executive board member Joan Sheppard welcomed the crowd. “The host committee has been working very hard to ensure that the competition will enjoyable for all of you,” said Ms. Sheppard, “and to ensure most of all a great event.”

Travelers Championship organizers co-chair Jordan Chandler and chair Crystal Morra were
congratulated on a job very well done by all of the speakers at the closing ceremonies and to much applause from the

“On behalf of the Little Current Curling Club I would like to welcome you to the 2018 NOCA Men’s Provincial Curling playdown,” said Little Current Curling Club president Joe Cooper. “It is very exciting for our club to be involved with hosting this very important curling event. We would also like to thank the township of NEMI and as well as all the clubs (hockey and figure skating) that have had to postpone their activities for a week while the arena ice surface is transformed into a curling surface. Without you, this event would not be possible.”

Mr. Cooper also noted that his club was very excited to have one of their own, the Jordan Chandler rink, representing their club on the ice.

“It is my pleasure to welcome you to the 2018 Travelers Northern Ontario Men’s Curling Championship,” said Mayor Al MacNiven. “Our community and council is proud to support the volunteers that worked so hard to make all this happen.”

The 2018 organizing committee included chair Crystal Morra, co-chair Jordan Chandler, administrator Margot Bickell, treasurer Mandy Case, officials coordinator John Hodder, beverage manager Mike Wall, marketing and social media manager Jeremy Rody, transportation coordinator Ron McQuarrie, information technology manager Mike Wright and players appreciation luncheon coordinator Kim Cooper.

Following piper (and then master of ceremonies) Scott Mosher into the arena were: Team Jacobs from the Community First Curling Club, skip Brad Jacobs, third Ryan Fry, second E. J. Harnden and lead Ryan Harnden; the youthful Team Horgan representing Curl Sudbury (who would go on to be undefeated in the bonspiel right up until the final) skip Tanner Horgan, vice Jacob Horgan, second Nicolas Bissionette and lead Maxime Blais; Team Johnston representing the Fort William Curling Club, with skip Dylan Johnston, vice Mike Badiuk, second Cody Johnston and lead Travis Showalter (the Johnston crew had a fifth Chris Briand; hometown favourites Team Chandler were doing double duty representing Curl Sudbury and the Little Current Curling Club with skip Jordan Chandler, vice Sandy MacEwen, second Luc Ouimet and lead Lee Toner (the Chandler rink also had a fifth, Kyle Chandler); Team Koivula, also representing the Fort William Curling Club had skip Colin Koivula, vice Brennan Wark, second Jordan Pott and lead Mark Adams; Team MontPellier out of the Copper Cliff Curling Club included skip Dustin Montpellier, vice Eric Gelinas, second Artie Trudel and lead Matt Gordon (fifth for the Montpellier crew was Chris Gilbota). (Matt Gordon is the grandson of Little Current residents Bruce and Helen Gordon); Team Robert, also out of the Community First Curling Club in the Sault included skip Charlie Robert, vice Dan Mick, second Clint Cudmore and lead Marc Barrette; and the North Bay Granite Company Curling Club team brought up the end of the procession with skip Matt Dumontelle, vice Jeff Brown, second Gavan Jamieson and lead Bobby Ray. Joining the teams in the procession were the Manitoulin Special Olympics (MSO) team of skip Regan Millsap, vice Rebecca Strain, second Randy Corbiere and coach Ellen Holroyd.

The MSO team threw out the first rock, an honour awarded to Regan Millsap.

“They were very excited,” said Ms. Holroyd. “It was quite an honour for them and they got to meet all the teams.” The MSO team will be travelling to Sault Ste. Marie in March to compete in the regional playdowns and if successful there they will go on to the provincials next year and then the nationals the year after. “It is a four-year cycle,” said Ms. Holroyd.

Following an intense weekend of top calibre competition in which the Horgan rink came through undefeated only to fall to the experienced veterans of Team Jacobs in the final, the closing ceremonies still played to packed stands.

Pastor Paul Allard sports an appropriate hat as part of the packed house that greeted every day of the championships. The crowds approached capacity on most days, with standing room only. The crowds were appreciative and respectful throughout the weekend.

In fact, the stands were standing room only for every round of the competition. Of course it helped that the hometown favourites Team Chandler remained in contention throughout the championships, also falling in a tight semi-final game to the Team Jacobs veterans. There was no mistaking the local favourites going by the cheers that met each well-played Chandler rock. Of course this is that most Canadian of sports, curling, so polite applause also greeted the opponents’ plays as well.

When it came to the finals, however, the cheers were heartfelt and enthusiastic for both sides.

Skip Brad Jacobs was magnanimous in victory, commending his opponents play and noting that “there is no better preparation for the Tim Horton Brier for us.” The calibre of play was evident in the tight run the Jacobs rink faced through the competition, losing earlier in the weekend to the Horgan rink, who got the bye into the finals.

“That Horgan rink gave us everything we could handle and more,” he said. “This is exactly what our team needed going into the Brier.” In fact, Tanner Horgan is now listed as the alternate (or fifth team member) for the Jacobs team going into the Tim Horton’s Brier taking place the weekend of March 2 in Regina.

Hometown favourites Team Chandler worked hard and kept the scores close throughout the weekend, losing a heartbreaker in the 10th end of the semi-final to the ultimate champions, Team Jacobs.

Mr. Jacobs also had high praise for the Little Current Curling Club, the event organizers and, especially the fans who filled the stands throughout the weekend. “It is the volunteers who make this possible,” he said. “We play in a lot of events, provincials. You guys are unbelievable. Thank you very much for coming out. This is a better crowd than many of the grand slams we play in.”

Individual plaques were presented to each member of the Jacobs Rink by Northern Ontario Curling executive director Leslie Kerr, while the Travelers trophy itself was presented to the Jacobs team by Lise Bourgeault of Espanola’s McCulloch Insurance, one of the Travelers Insurance brokers.

It’s interesting to note that Tanner Horgan, who skipped a rink that defeated all of the other rinks  participating in the tournament  during round-robin play and lost the championship at the very end of the tenth end in the championship game, is just 19 years old. His brother (and his vice-skip,)  Jacob Horgan is just 17 and the other team members are of similar ages. We can look forward to much success from this team and it’s good to see that Brad Jacobs has incorporated the young skip into his team as the ‘fifth member’ for the Brier in what looks very much like a mentoring move. Nice to see.