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Curling club unveils wall of fame

The St. Albert Curling Club unveiled its wall of fame in Tuesday's star-studded affair. Recognized for putting St.
The St. Albert Curling Club’s inaugural wall of fame inductees were Marc Kennedy
The St. Albert Curling Club’s inaugural wall of fame inductees were Marc Kennedy

The St. Albert Curling Club unveiled its wall of fame in Tuesday's star-studded affair.

Recognized for putting St. Albert on the curling map was Olympic gold medallist Marc Kennedy, world champions Hec Gervais, Don McKenzie and Scott Pfeifer, Canadian champion Cathy King and provincial champion Jackie Rae Greening.

"To be included in this group is really, really humbling," said McKenzie, a three-time Alberta men's champion, two-time Brier winner and 1989 world gold medallist with Ryan's Express.

Pfeifer was overwhelmed to be associated with so many distinguished curlers.

"That is a pretty select group. I'm very honoured," said the five-time Alberta champion, four-time Brier winner and three-time world gold medallist with the Ferbey Four, the Alberta Curling Federation's Team of the Century.

Greening was almost speechless by the magnitude of the moment.

"It's huge," said the Alberta junior women's champion and three-time Scotties Tournament of Hearts competitor. "My mom and dad [Betty and Casey Anderson] are honorary life members and for me to be up on the wall of fame means a lot because they helped build this club."

It was also an emotional moment for the son of the late Hec Gervais.

"It was very touching that they did this," said Stan Gervais. "As a son, whenever anybody remembers your dad for anything, it is an honour. Something like this is a privilege in my mind that he is being honoured. It shows what kind of man he was. Not only was he a legend in curling, he was a great father and grandfather.

"Randy Ferbey said it best in his book; when you're with Hec Gervais you know what a champion is because you get treated like one. "

Friendly Giant

Gervais started curling in the early 1950s and helped his father build the original club. The potato farmer won city zones in five straight decades and appeared in four Briers and was victorious twice. In 1961, at age 27, he became the youngest skip to win a Brier. He would go on to capture the world title. His second Brier triumph was 1974.

"When he won his last zone in his fifth decade [in 1990], I was playing second for him and we had Ron Anton playing third and all of a sudden they got this spark in their eyes and we were almost unbeatable for awhile. We got to the A and B finals in northerns and lost the C semis but it was an awesome experience," said Stan, 48, the youngest of five children in the Gervais household.

Gervais was also credited with revolutionizing the game of curling in the 1960s with corner guards — placing rocks in front of the rings and drawing around them for protection.

Stan's fondest memory of his dad was at a Yuletide bonspiel in Edmonton.

"When he was semi-retired he put in a team. It was a bunch of St. Albert curlers and they ended up winning. There was $1,200 for first place and they beat Paul Devlin in the final and he was the defending [1979] Alberta champion," he said. "I was more into curling then and I watched it and I appreciated how good he was."

The Friendly Giant was also a mentor to McKenzie, who cut his teeth in the sport in 1970 while going to school at Sir Alexander Mackenzie.

Rink rat

"The people around here introduced me to Hector and my curling coach had talked to me about him being a world champion and I really looked up to up to him," said McKenzie, who curled one season with Gervais and his sons Stan and Hec junior. "I remembered Hector had just gotten back with one of his players, Ron Anton, and he was one of the premier players around. I went to play in a bonspiel at the Ottewell Curling Club and Ron and Hector were sitting together during one of the breaks between games. Those guys saw me hanging around the club quite a bit and they said, 'Hey Don, come on over." They sat me down and we talked curling. They were happy to see me and showed some interest in who I was curling with. They really made me feel included and these guys were curling icons to me back then."

McKenzie went from being a rink rat to lord of the rings through his St. Albert connections.

"I used to come down to the club when I was 14 or 15 years old and pick up the odd game wherever I could and practice if there was an open sheet," he said. "It's the people here in the club that allowed people like me to succeed. One of the things my curling coach told me when I came here was that there are good players out of this club that are world champions and if you want to try and be a world champion you've got the area, the background, the culture and the heritage to be in that environment to succeed."

Family affair

Greening was born to be a curler. Her parents played major roles as curling pioneers in St. Albert.

"I grew up in this club. They used to have day care here when mom curled in the afternoon league so I was honestly really young when I started here," said the noted radio personality and tireless promoter of the sport. "It's nice to carry the torch on after how dedicated my parents were."

Greening made her curling debut in 1973 and her coach for more than 20 years was the legendary Gervais. She captured club and city championships and at the Scotties was named to the all-star team at third and was voted the most sportsmanlike player.

"I will never forget the time I went to the Canadian junior championships representing Alberta in 1980 and I was skipping. There were 36 people from St. Albert that flew to Charlottetown. They even flew the icemaker at the time, Ray Kremer, out to watch as well," she said. "The support from this club was just always so amazing. Every time you walk in it's like coming home so that's why I love the club."

Greening remains active in the club as a director. Her notorious Dream Team always has more fun than wins in league play.

"Four years ago when I was competitive curling I told my competitive team every other Wednesday I'm not going to play in the [Edmonton] super league, I'm going to play out in St. Albert because I want to get back into the club here and I'm glad I did. I'm just having an incredible time."

Southpaw star

Pfeifer is another St. Albert rock star that has never forgotten his curling roots.

"Even though I've represented and played out of many clubs, whenever someone asks me what my home club is I always say St. Albert. This is where I grew up and the place where I spent the first 23 years of my life. I love it here," said the first curler to earn all-star selections at five Briers, starting with a second-team berth in 2001 before winning four-straight first-team honours.

Pfeifer was 11 when the southpaw attended a learn-to-curl clinic in St. Albert.

"I was honestly hooked right off the bat. I was playing in two junior leagues and at nights whenever I could find a game. I basically lived at the club for five to 10 years of my life learning to play the sport that I love right now," said the U20 world junior champion in 1994 and bronze medallist in 1997.

The wall of fame ceremony was held in conjunction with the grand re-opening of the club's newly renovated facility.

"To come back here and see what they've turned it into, it's a very warm feeling," said Pfeifer, a member of the all-time Alberta all-star team in voting conducted in 2005. "I'm very, very happy for St. Albert and all the members they have here. They have a brand new facility and it's wonderful."

HOG LINES: King was unable to attend Tuesday's function. Her glowing resume as a skip includes seven championships in 14 provincial appearances. In three finals at the Scotties she was crowned the Canadian champion in 1998 and at worlds won bronze. The two-time Alberta junior champion played in two leagues in St. Albert in the late 1980s and early 1990s while winning club and city titles.

Kennedy is another highly decorated St. Albert curler who has won almost everything possible in the sport, including an Olympic gold medal in 2010 with the Kevin Martin rink. For more on Kennedy's story, see page 51.

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