Eyes glued to the ice pad and boisterous conversation abounding, it’s no wonder why folks say it’s the best way to spend a drizzly North Island weekend.
With a record 26 teams in attendance, including one bearing the name of Port Hardy’s mayor Hank Bood, the annual Hugh Fraser Memorial Men’s Open Bonspiel brings men to compete and celebrate a true Canadian pastime.
From as far away as Victoria, B.C. the event, held at the Fort Rupert Curling Club, is certainly not strictly a Port Hardy affair.
According to Port Hardy Curling Club President, Doug McCorquodale, the event grew by eight teams this year, and membership numbers for the club itself have also grown by 30 per cent. Despite the strong local numbers, the annual men’s bonspiel relies heavily on the out-of-town teams.
“This club survives on events like this. Our locals support this so well, but we really rely on out-of-town teams, and for them to come up, it’s just such a huge, huge boost for us and they support us every year and it’s just great,” McCorquodale said.
However, this weekend bonspiel isn’t merely a pleasure cruise. At times it means real business. With a selection of prizes fit for any man cave including numerous power tools, appliances, and even round-trip tickets to Vancouver, up for grabs, the more than two dozen teams locked in sub-zero mortal combat over the three-day-long event gripping the seaside enclave in suspense.
The A event final started cautiously, with both teams trading shots before the Balcke rink scored a single point. Although early in the game, the pivotal end was the second in which Evans was forced to make a tough hit and roll which happened to slide right by the intended target and allowed Balke to steal three and take a commanding 4-0 lead.
It was a gutsy and aggressive match with the lead changing six times before the victor would emerge. “I understand why he did it. I would have done the same as he did for the win. He could have gone the other route, gone for a draw for a single point for a tie and force it to an extra end, but he went for the win and I totally understand ‘cause I would have done the same thing,” said Balcke. The final score was 9 – 7.
The final standings were as follows:
Division ‘A’ – 1st Balcke Rink which included Mike Balcke, Lee Mitchell, John Branham; and Ray Abdai. 2nd Evans Rink, 3rd Schmeland Rink, 4th Coté Rink.
Division ‘B’ – 1st Maday Rink, 2nd Cowles Rink, 3rd Zealand Rink.
Division ‘C’ – 1st Johnson Rink, 2nd Bood Rink, 3rd May Rink
Division ‘D’ – 1st Walker Rink, 2nd Gaudet Rink, 3rd Wright Rink.