McNeill hosts Legion curling playdowns

Port McNeill Royal Canadian Legion Branch 281 to host BC-Yukon Command Playdowns.

PORT McNEILL—Port McNeill Royal Canadian Legion Branch 281 has not entered a rink in the BC-Yukon Command Legion Curling Playdowns for more than 10 years. But hosting the 2013 championships this weekend at Broughton Curling Club should kick-start a long-term involvement in the games.

“We’re planning to enter it from now on,” said Grant Anderson, the branch commander who has spearheaded organization of the Jan. 31-Feb. 2 playdowns. “I’m hoping the job we’ve done gets around to the rest of the branches and the different zones and brings it back to the forefront. The (playdowns) had been slowly dying off.”

The resurrection will start modestly, with no more than eight rinks from other B.C. and Yukon Territory branches participating. They will, however, get the red carpet treatment from local volunteers, which include Broughton Curling Club members.

The playdowns will feature opening ceremonies Friday beginning at 9 a.m. at the club and wrap up with closing ceremonies following the finals Sunday. A skills competition will be held Saturday afternoon following the qualifying draws, and that evening a banquet for players and Broughton Curling Club members will be hosted at Port McNeill’s Community Hall. Anderson has also arranged a tour of the Quatse Salmon Stewardship Centre in Port Hardy for visiting curlers and their guests.

When the BC-Yukon command sent out invitations last January for local branches to host various events, Port McNeill initially glossed over the curling playdowns. But when no other branch submitted an application to host the games, Anderson looked a little deeper into what would be required to host the playdowns at Broughton Curling Club’s four-sheet arena.

“We thought there was no way we’d be able to host it, thinking there were, like, 40 teams or so,” Anderson said. “Then we found out, no, it’s generally eight or 10 or 12 teams. Well, we can hold that here.”

After gaining approval from the executive and general membership of Branch 281, Anderson submitted the application in February of 2012. Port McNeill’s selection was approved by the BC-Yukon Command in June.

“We’re looking forward to this weekend,” said Mike Balcke of Broughton Curling Club, whose members will run the concession and lounge and maintain the ice for the playdowns. “We actually talked about this years ago. From our point of view, it’s nice to be able to be involved in these kinds of events.”

The last big competition hosted by the club, beyond its own bonspiels, was the Pacific Cup qualifying bonspiel more than 12 years ago. Balcke said the club is trying to put together a bonspiel for North Island fire departments this March, but that it is difficult to bring large-scale events to Port McNeill.

“We’re not really big enough with four sheets to do a lot of the big competitions,” he said. “And we are a bit off the beaten path.”

This weekend’s playdowns are the qualifier for the Royal Canadian Legion’s national championships, to be held in Prince Edward Island.

Tim Chester, who will skip the local rink that includes Paul Bastarache, Scott Mitchell and Chris Walker, has no expectations of making that trip, but did admit his foursome has committed to it in case they win. The four do not compete together in regular league play, though Chester said they are all currently active in the sport.

“We’re going to have fun and we’re going to be good hosts and we’re going to welcome all the teams that are coming to kick our butt,” Chester said. “We actually had to sign a form saying we would curl all the games and, if we won, that we’d go to the (national) playdowns.

“We don’t have any expectations, but I guess if we win, we’ll go. We signed and said we would.”

 

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