Wall of fame honours for King

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A modest Jamie King basked in the glow of the spotlight as the ninth inductee into the St. Albert Curing Club wall of fame.

“This is truly very humbling and it’s a great honour for me and my family. We’ve loved this club for a lot of years and it’s very special,” said a beaming King with a smile that lit up the Friendly Giant Lounge during Saturday’s ceremony.

King, 44, joins St. Albert’s curling royalty with Hec Gervais, Jackie Rae Greening, Don McKenzie, Marc Kennedy, Cathy King and Scott Pfeifer as the inaugural 2011 inductees, Dan Holowaychuk in 2014 and Doug McLennan in 2016.

“To go up on the wall of fame with the athletes that are up there and ambassadors for our club that they are, again it’s very humbling,” said King with a voice gripped with pride.

McLennan’s introduction speech highlighted a list bigger than an eight-ender, a feat King and his legendary Hootie and the Old Fish rink in the Thursday night men’s league have pulled off an amazing four times.

“I’ve had the pleasure of playing against Jamie on a number of occasions,” said McLennan, before club manager Nicole Bellamy chimed in: “Don’t leave him the out turn,” prompting McLennan to reply, “Well, don’t leave him anything.”

As for the happy-go-lucky King, “Don’t let that easy-going sort of pleasant whole thing he’s got going on fool you. He’s one of the best rock tossers out there and a fierce competitor,” McLennan said.

“It’s been a lot of fun playing with you at times and against you and beating you every once in a while,” King told McLennan before thanking just about everybody in attendance for the main event at the annual Curlers and Sponsors Appreciation Night.

King’s career as a sure-shot curler started in junior high at Camrose before his arrival in St. Albert coincided with the first provincial banner in Bellerose Composite High School history in the 1990/91 season.

“I was playing hockey in Camrose and I just wasn’t enjoying it any more. My dad (Craig) actually was curling in the Camrose Rec Centre, which had the hockey rink and the curling rink attached to it, and he said, ‘Let’s walk through these doors.’ We walked through the doors into the curling rink and I never played hockey after that,” said King, who cut his teeth in the roaring game in the St. Albert afternoon junior league. “It’s here where I grew my passion for the game and because of that passion I continued on in curling.

“I was also fortunate enough to meet my wife, Marie, through curling and because of that I have two special and beautiful girls, McKenna and Lexi, who are a big part of my life and so because of that, the St. Albert Curling Club means more than just the curling aspect. It’s life as a whole.”

One of King’s best buds is Pfeifer, an honoured guest Saturday at the King’s round table of family and friends. They bonded together as juniors and remain thick as thieves.

“My claim to fame is that I was Scott’s first skip so next to his mom (Wendy) and dad (Brian) I’ve probably had the most influence on him,” said King of the future Canadian curling hall of famer as a five-time Brier all-star second, five-time Alberta champion, Brier winner in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2005 and three-time world gold medallist with the Ferbey Four as well as the alternate for the Kevin Koe rink, the 2016 Brier and world champions and Team Canada at the 2018 Olympics.

“Scott is a world class curler. He’s been a hero of mine for many, many years. He’s been fantastic. I’ve had the chance to play with him over all the years. I’ve played against him and he’s beat me a couple of times in the provincial finals (2003 and 2005 with the Ferbey Four) but I’ve forgiven him for that,” King said. “But overall Scott is a true professional and a gentleman and someone I’ve always tried to be like so to go up on the wall with Scott is pretty humbling.”

King paid homage to Gervais, a St. Albert curling icon.

“When Scott and I first started curling here in St. Albert we were actually on a team that practiced out of the Avonair and Mr. Gervais at the time was the general manager so we had the pleasure of seeing him on a fairly regular basis and to actually have an opportunity to learn the game and chat with the living legend is something that’s had a huge impact on my career. A lot of things he taught me with regards to using your sweepers and if you want to have good draw weight is stuff my dad and I have talked about for years too and it was truly an amazing experience to start off my career being in the same place where Mr. Gervais was,” King said. “Now, he’s got the moniker of the Friendly Giant but there were a few practices where Scott and I rattled a couple off the hacks and for a big guy he moved pretty fast and there was nothing friendly about him those days but he’s a true hero of mine and to go up on the wall with him is pretty amazing.”

Blake MacDonald, another of King’s curling buddies at the ceremony, was also singled out as another major influence. As the alternate on Koe’s Brier and world championship team in 2010, King did the “famed walk down the ice” with MacDonald.

“Blake’s been like a brother to me and back in 2010 I was part of Blake’s team that was fortunate enough to be in worlds in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy and it was a special moment in my life to share with my brother Blake who’s had a huge impact on my career,” said King, who was also an alternate on Koe’s 2014 Brier championship team that placed fourth at worlds and at the 2015 Brier.

Another big shout-out was dedicated to King’s parents, Susan and Craig.

“My mom and dad have meant so much to me in my life in regards to the life skills they’ve taught me, whether it be in curling or golf or academics or work or you name it, just a huge impact on my life. My mom has taught me how to overcome so many obstacles that she’s faced and persevered and it’s served me well in sports. My dad has been someone that I’ve looked up to as well for so many years and to be able to curl with him every Thursday night is something that’s truly special to me, so thank you Mom and Dad for everything you’ve done for me and my family. You’re heroes to me.”

Aside from the 12 World Curling Tour victories, 14 appearances in the men’s provincials and many other accolades on and off the ice, curling with his dad, Ralph Killips, Brian Pfeifer and fifth man Elson Keown on Hootie and the Old Fish, along with cameo appearances by Pfeifer and MacDonald as subs, has a special place in King’s heart.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to be on a few teams that’s had some success but for me the best part about my curling is on Thursday nights, just getting a chance to spend time with the guys and we’ve had some success. Anytime we had the chance to represent our club it’s meant a lot to us but playing with these guys has meant the world to me. They’re true gentlemen and a lot of fun to be around,” King said. “I think we’ve been together for 30 plus years now and we’re at the stage where we can’t hear each other so if we have arguments we don’t even know what’s going on.

“I think were up about a 1,000 games now so it’s been a pretty good run for the first 1,000 so I’m looking forward to the next 1,000.”

The most highly decorated men’s rink in St. Albert Curling Club history has celebrated one Manager’s Cup and 11 President’s Cup playoff championships in St. Albert and won the Edmonton and area Tournament of Champions in 2006, 2011 and 2013 as well as finishing second in 2009.

The first club title for King and his men was 1996 and the last, so far, was 2016.

“One of things that we’re most proud of is that we made it to the club championship final game 11 times and we’ve always won that game and we’ve made it to the city finals, the very final game, four times and we’ve won it three out of the four and the only time we’ve ever lost a final game was to Jamie Fletcher in an extra end so that says a lot about the character of these guys. They may look like they’re here for a good time but they’re pretty fierce competitors. They like winning too,” King said.

So, who came up with the nickname Hootie and the Old Fish?

“I think it was Wendy Pfeifer. She said, ‘Well, there is a Hootie and the Blowfish but you guys really are Hootie and the Old Fish,’ so we’re named after the rock group.”

Asked to pick out what the best of the best is as a wall of fame curler, King replied: I don’t know if I can. I think everything we’ve done here in St. Albert has meant a lot to me. Winning Bellerose’s first championship back in ’91 has meant a lot and then to win a Brier and to win a worlds and to do it with my best friend Blake, to be able to say that you’re a world champion, they’re all pretty special to me. Each of them is different but they’re special.

“But any chance I have to represent the St. Albert Curling Club means a lot to me and that’s what keeps bringing me back here and I hope to do it as long as I can.”

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Jeff Hansen

Jeff Hansen joined the St. Albert Gazette in 1991. He writes about sports, athletes and teams from St. Albert and area.