St. Albert curlers stick to win
Milt McDougall and Bob McKenzie rocked the house at the two-person stick curling provincials in Wetaskiwin
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 22, 2014 06:00 am
Milt McDougall and Bob McKenzie were double trouble at the provincial stick curling championship in Wetaskiwin.
The St. Albert Curling Club duo stole the winning point in the last end to edge the hometown team in Sunday’s final for the Alberta Sturling Championship trophy.
“It’s a dream come true,” an excited 75-year-old McDougall told the Gazette on Monday. “I still have a smile on my face from yesterday. I could hardly close my eyes to go to sleep last night.
“It’s something a person doesn’t get to do very often in their life.”
McKenzie, 66, felt like a Brier champion during the trophy presentation at the 11th annual showcase of two-person stick curling.
“This is the biggest thing of my career,” McKenzie said with a grin as big as the Brier Tankard. “It’s very exciting.”
The final was too close to call as the teams basically traded singles going into the last end.
“I didn’t believe we were going to do it,” McKenzie said. “We just kept our cool and made one shot after another.”
The deciding end saw the St. Albert curlers sneak an early delivery into the house behind cover and made the Wetaskiwin team attempt a draw for the winning point. It was too hot and the rock slid through the rings.
“It kept going and going,” McKenzie said.
The game plan was to make the competition try something different with last shot.
“They had the hammer so we were playing defence,” McDougall said. “He had been playing takeout a lot and had not played that side of the house, so I was thinking let’s make him draw with his last rock and he came in heavy so it was a steal. That’s the way the game goes. We forced him to his weakness.”
The provincial champs stayed up past their bedtime during the post-game celebration.
“We made a little money at the curling and came home with a big trophy so we went to Red Lobster. We had to have the works. We thought what the heck, it’s $100 dollars, so let’s blow it,” McDougall said.
To make it to the final with only one loss was a victory itself.
“We seemed to get better every game we played, which is really good to see,” McKenzie said. “We were just lucky to win. There were a lot of good teams there. A lot of games were one point difference and extra ends.”
McDougall added: “We both curled, I’m not going to say over our heads, but better than average and we were consistent in every game. Bob pulled off some fabulous shots and I was lucky the same way. It worked out for both of us,” he said. “After the final we patted each other on the back. It was teamwork.”
McKenzie and McDougall have curled together as a team the last two years in the St. Albert 50-plus stick league.
“We get along great. He’s just a good guy to curl with,” McDougall said. “We’ve got to know each other’s weak points and strong points. We don’t criticize each other if we miss a shot. You just put it behind you and play the next one.”
Wetaskiwin marked the pair’s provincial debut together after curling in the last two Canadian open stick championships in Regina and Cornwall, P.E.I.
“We definitely curled better than we did last year at nationals and I would say we curled as equal as we did in Regina,” McDougall said. “We just about pulled it off in Regina but we got beat by an Alberta team but this weekend we got revenge against that team.”
Stick curling is a relatively new sport for people with advanced age or physical disabilities. It consists of two players, male or female of any age, per team. They can either stick deliver, slide deliver or deliver from a wheelchair.
“In the final we used stick and beat the sliders, so that was nice,” McKenzie said.
With stick delivery, curlers shove the rock in front of them while walking up to the speed they want the rock to travel. Then they let the rock go and it slides down the ice.
Each team alternates throwing six rocks per end. The two skips in each end become the throwers in the next end. There is also no sweeping between the hog lines.
Games are six ends and the average playing time is one hour.
“I started using stick three years ago and without it I wouldn’t be on the ice,” said McKenzie, who curled for about 40 years until a cranky knee made it difficult to enjoy The Roaring Game. “It gives guys like us a chance to have some fun. Every game is fun. You meet some nice people. And if you win, it’s a plus.”
Ironically, both McKenzie and McDougall are in charge of the organizing committee for the 2014 Canadian open championship, March 30 to April 2 at the St. Albert Curling Club. Teams from Halifax to Victoria have been confirmed for the 48-team draw. The provincial winners can also attend too.
Close to 40 volunteers have signed up to help make the 10th annual nationals, and the ninth west of Winnipeg, the best of the best.
“We have received a great amount of support from the community and we’re very excited to host it,” said McKenzie, noting there are about 40 stick curlers in St. Albert.
So, are McKenzie and McDougall the team to beat at nationals after their provincial breakthrough?
“We’re going to play it one shot at a time and hope for the best,” McDougall said.