Stick nationals good to go
St. Albert Curling Club hosts 10th annual Canadian Open Stick Championship from March 30 to April 2
Saturday, Mar 15, 2014 06:00 am
The 10th annual Canadian Open Stick Curling Championship is ready to rock St. Albert.
Forty-eight two-person teams will compete for national honours from March 31 to April 2 at the St. Albert Curling Club.
“It’s going to be fantastic,” said Milt McDougall, chair of the St. Albert organizing committee. “A lot of the teams are quite senior. They’re up in their 70s and some are hitting 80 and they’re still going strong. It’s a great thing for seniors to be able to do this.”
Twenty-one teams hail from Alberta, including six from St. Albert and three from Morinville.
Manitoba is represented by 11 teams and curlers from British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island have also registered.
“Alberta and Manitoba have a lot of stick curlers and it’s nice to see the participation,” McDougall said.
The draw features three all-female teams and several are mixed tandems.
“You can be male or female. You can be in a wheelchair. Age is open at nationals too,” McDougall said.
In stick curling all games are six ends and the average playing time is one hour.
“I encourage everyone to come out and see how much enjoyment a bunch of people are having that can’t get down in the hack anymore and still continue in a sport that they’ve always enjoyed,” McDougall said. “Stick curling is just a great way to keep people going in the sport.”
The first draw on March 31 goes at 8 a.m. and the opening ceremonies follow at 10 a.m. with the curlers bagpiped onto the ice.
The guest speaker for the April 1 banquet is 2010 Olympic gold medallist Marc Kennedy, a two-time Brier champion and 2008 world champion with the Kevin Martin rink.
“I was happy when Marc said he would come and speak. He is a St. Albert boy who grew up here curling. It’s fabulous what he’s doing for us,” said McDougall of the St. Albert Curling Club’s wall of fame inductee in 2011.
The banquet starts at 6:30 p.m. and guest tickets are $30.
Among the items at the silent and live auction at the banquet is a signed Wayne Gretzky Titan 2020 hockey stick and a signed Kevin Martin Olympic team curling broom.
“It should create some excitement at the banquet,” McDougall said.
At nationals teams are guaranteed five games in the triple-knockout format. Eight teams qualify for the championship playoffs and a consolation bracket is also in place.
McDougall expects the finals on April 2 to start around 5 p.m. but stressed spectators should grab a seat by 4 p.m.
“We’re expecting a big crowd and hopefully we have a St. Albert team or two in the finals,” said McDougall, 76.
He teamed up with partner Bob McKenzie, 66, of St. Albert to win the 11th annual Alberta provincial championship at Wetaskiwin in January.
“Winning provincials does put pressure on us and we’re going to try and do our best but we’ve also got four teams coming with previous provincial winners so the competition is tough,” said McDougall, who joined forces with McKenzie at the open nationals in Regina in 2012 and last year they were one of six Alberta teams in Cornwall, P.E.I.
“We’re going to put a few frills on that they didn’t have in Cornwall,” McDougall said. “We’re looking forward to putting on a great show.”
A core of 38 volunteers are in place to make this year’s nationals the best of the best. Several volunteers played major roles in St. Albert hosting the 2012 provincials, consisting of 32 teams.
“I’ve got an excellent committee. Everybody has gone above and beyond what to do,” McDougall said. “Everything has fallen into place. Sponsorship is great. We’re just super excited to get going.”
The St. Albert Curling Club is also rolling out the red carpet for nationals.
“They’ve been very co-operative helping us out,” McDougall said. “It’s just great to be a part of this club.”