PORT McNEILL—To paraphrase the Tom Hanks character in the film A League of Their Own, “There’s no crying in curling.”
But Kathy Mitchell could be forgiven for getting a little emotional after skipping longtime partner Debbie Balcke’s rink to the championship of Broughton Curling Club’s annual ladies open bonspiel Saturday night.
Mitchell and Balcke shared other victories in their hometown spiel. But this was the first one missed by Mitchell’s father, Bill Gurney, who died last year leaving a legacy that includes laying the groundwork for the founding of the curling club in the late 1960s. “This one’s for my dad,” said Mitchell, who shared a hug and few a tears with Balcke after they came from behind to defeat Brenda Drummond 9-4 in the bonspiel’s A final.
Trailing 4-2 through four ends, Balcke, Mitchell and rink mates Shelley Downey and Cindy Fiske drew even with a two-point fifth, then stole single points in the sixth and seventh ends before pulling away with a three-point steal in the eighth and final end.
“We just tried to stay with our game plan, which was go for the steal,” said Balcke, whose rink was the only quartet to enter Saturday night’s finals with an unbeaten record in round-robin play.
Stealing seemed appropriate for the bonspiel, which carried a pirates theme that drew a wide array of swashbuckling costumes and which featured a trivia treasure hunt during the dinner that preceded the finals.
Maggie Loland’s rink of Shirley Williams, Denise Blid and Stephanie Manke sported matching outfits of black tri-corner hats, dreadlocks, red-and-black striped pants tucked into the classic high boots and topped off with adhesive “beards”.
There were more eye-patches, cutlasses, flintlock pistols and shoulder-mounted parrots than a Pirates of the Caribbean cast reunion, and local club skip Jennie-Lynn Noël stood out in her bright scarlet tavern wench ensemble.
Indeed, the bonspiel seemed as much party as curling competition. Which was not entirely by accident.
“It’s something we’re hoping will help with turnout,” said event organizer Mike Balcke, noting only 10 teams signed up for the bonspiel this year. “We’ve already got next year’s theme, which is disco. That gives everyone a year to get their outfits together.”
Instead of a traditional bonspiel bracket, competition was held in a round-robin format in two divisions. While Balcke was rolling to a perfect 4-0 record to top the Eye Patch Division, Drummond and rink mates Jen Barolet, Melody Wilson and Bonny Bramham claimed top honours in the Wooden Leg Division with a 3-1 mark to earn their spot in the A final.
Connie Cote extended her recent run of successful finishes in the Broughton ladies spiel, topping Boni Sharpe 7-5 in the B final. Cote has suffered from a hip ailment which led her to place Marcia Soper in the skip’s role, and admitted before the bonspiel that her team has been dragging the bottom of the league standings this season.
But Cote, Soper and rink mates Naomi Garrity and Tanya Friman used a three-point pickup in the seventh end to erase a 5-3 lead that Sharpe had painstakingly crafted with a series of one-pointers. They then closed out with a one-point steal in the eighth end for the win in Cote’s third finals appearance in the past four bonspiels.
Meagan Cadwallader of Port Hardy’s Fort Rupert Curling Club, fresh off an appearance in the A final of Fort Rupert’s mixed bonspiel one week earlier, cruised to a 7-2 win over Loland in the C final.
Cadwallader, curling with Naomi Stead, Babe Gray and Lisa Lonarduzzi, led just 2-1 through three ends, but picked up points in four of the final five ends, including steals in the fifth and eighth ends.
Loland said her pickup squad, which was an obvious choice for best-outfitted rink, was happy just to be in the finals.
“We’re not a seasoned team,” Loland said. “It was a gallant effort.”
Or perhaps she said it was a galleon effort.