McKenzie still sweeping strong
St. Albert curler smooth as ice at the senior level
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Feb 16, 2013 06:00 am
Don McKenzie is not ready to slide into the sunset when there are still provincial championships to be won.
The 54-year-old McKenzie is sweeping up a storm and making pinpoint shots as the second rocker for the Brad Hannah rink at the senior 50-plus men’s provincial curling championship at the Granite.
Hannah was 4-0 after Thursday’s draw in the eight-team competition.
“That competitive stuff stays with you. We’re still trying our hardest out there to win, but it’s not as important as it used to be obviously. It meant a ton more back then than it does now. Before, you spent so much time practicing and you’re trying so hard to have success. Now, we’re happy for the other guys if they beat us,” said McKenzie, a front-end specialist with the three-time Alberta men’s champion, two-time Brier winner and 1989 world gold medallist with the Ryan Express.
McKenzie learned to curl at Sir Alexander McKenzie School and credits the legendary Hec Gervais as his mentor in those early days.
“I just love the game,” said one of the inaugural six inductees into the St. Albert Curling Club’s wall of fame in 2011. “For me right now it’s a good lifestyle. It motivates me to go to the gym to take care of myself because we’re sweeping out there and we try and stay in as good a shape as we can because you never know when you might be forced into not playing anymore.”
McKenzie and Hannah’s third, Gary Greening, are the still best of curling buddies from their high school days at Paul Kane.
They, along with Hannah and lead Lance Dealy, won the 2011 Alberta senior title and lost the Canadian final 7-5 to Kelly Robertson of Manitoba.
“I like the guys I'm playing with. I’ve played with Gary on and off over the years, and Brad as well. I used to compete against Brad when I was younger and then we played together for a long time as well,” McKenzie said. “We also know the competitors that we play against, and a lot of these guys are great guys, so that makes it a lot of fun, too.”
McKenzie said the senior game is not that much different from the men’s competitive level, except the recovery time “is a little tougher” after every game.
“I think we play pretty well the same game. Everybody can throw pretty hard still, and with the free guard zone now you pretty well have to play a lot of finesse shots; a lot of guards, a lot of tap backs and things like that. It’s just the style of the game right now so it’s similar but we don’t make as many shots as before,” he laughed.
The highlight of McKenzie’s career was winning the 1989 world championship with Pat Ryan, Randy Ferbey and Don Walchuk after losing the final the year before.
“We were a team that took baby steps to get there …We went to the Brier and lost the Brier final. We went to the Brier again and finally won the Brier. We went to the world championship and lost the world final. The next year we won the Brier again, went to the world championship and we were able to win it so after all those steps and losing all those big games it was great to come through and cap it off with a world championship,” said the NAIT pipe trades instructor.
HOG LINES: The Wade White rink of St. Albert was tied for second at 3-1 at provincials going into Friday’s draw. White, third Doug McLennan, second Dan Holowaychuk and lead George Parsons rattled off three wins after losing their opening game 5-4 to Hannah on Wednesday.
If there are no tiebreakers, the men’s semifinal is 7 p.m. tonight or 9:30 a.m. Sunday. The final is 2 p.m. Sunday.
Nationals are March 16 to 24 in Summerside, P.E.I.
Visit www.curlingprovincials.com for results.