Sixty-one Scottish curlers are sweeping through Canada as the 110th edition of the Strathcona Cup takes place from January 10-31.
This year for the first time, the Scottish tour has been divided into three playing areas, the East Coast, Central and West Coast. When play finishes on the 31st some 1,700 Canadian will have participated against the Scots in 437 games in 105 different curling clubs.
Last Tuesday, two rinks of Scots were in Morrisburg where they played rinks from Cornwall, Winchester and two from Morrisburg. The other three rinks with the central tour (20 players total) were playing in Prescott.
Morning action in Morrisburg resulted in the local rink skipped by Mahlon Locke squeezing out a close 6-5 win over Scotland’s Rae Graham.
Playing for Locke were Jack Barkley, Wally Baker and George Rutley.
Scotland’s rink included Davie Haggart, Jim Stewart and Graham McGuire.
After dropping behind early the second Scottish rink skipped by Mike Ferguson battled back against their Winchester opponents to end it all even at 10-10.
Playing for Winchester were skip Michel St. Marseille, Don McIntosh, Bob Crummy and Joe Cass.
For team Scotland, the curlers were Ferguson, Mark Turnbull, Alistair Hendry and Jimmy Reaburn.
Before heading to the ice for the afternoon action, the curlers sat down to a lunch provided by the Morrisburg club.
Then it was back to the ice. This time out Morrisburg’s Sid Morrell with Roy Benoit, John Allison and Ron Beaupre met Rae Graham and again it ended in a tie, this time 5-5.
In the other action, Cornwall’s Bill Dickie defeated Scotland’s Graham 7-5.
On the ice with Dickie were Gerry McKenna, Wayne Lauber and Stuart McDonald.
Strathcona Cup play takes place every five years, alternating between Scotland and Canada.
Although point totals are kept, “the idea is to promote the fellowship of curling” explained Bill Rothwell who was the Canadian courier travelling with the Central/Ontario group.
Rothwell, who lives in Bancroft, Ontario, played in the event when it was last in Canada in 2003. He then successfully applied to be a team Canada member on the tour to Scotland in 2008.
“You can only go to Scotland once and vice versa for them,” said Rothwell of his curling trip of a lifetime.
Rothwell explained the Scots arrived for the current tour in Canada on Wednesday, January 9.
They played a number of Ottawa and area venues including the Ottawa Hunt Club, Cityview and then headed off to Russell, Navan and Metcalfe. On the 13th and 14th they were in Quebec, where they played Mount Royal, the Royal Montreal, Hudson, Whitlock and Pointe Claire.
Tuesday they played in Morrisburg and Prescott and then were off to the west for Quinte and Brighton later in the week.
The wrap-up is in Burlington on Thursday, January 31, when they will meet their fellow countrymen who are on the eastern and western Canada tours.
“They play 30 games in 22 games,” explained Rothwell. “It’s pretty grueling.”
“Every point is counted right across Canada. The total scores goes in and that’s how they come up with the winner.”
Rothwell explained that when the current Canadian Tour ends, committees will be formed in the two countries. On the Canadian side an application process will begin to select the Canadian team that will head to Scotland in five years time. On the Scotland side, the organization will begin preparations to host the cup in 2018.
Those selected to represent Canada are generally curlers who have contributed to the game at their club levels as well as upper levels. The curlers cover their own expenses for travel and lodging. Much of their food is supplied by the clubs they visit.
The central division Scots went into action last Tuesday up about seven points. Overall the 60 players were up about 100 shots, which according to Rothwell is normal.
“The visiting team generally leads because they are curling together through it all against teams put together at the hosting clubs.”
“So far they love it. Everywhere they go they get treated royally.
“The generosity of the Canadian curlers has been great,” said Skip Graham. “We were at the Hunt Club and it was fantastic, and we been at smaller venues which have been equally tremendous.”
His teammate Davie Haggart agreed and complimented the Morrisburg Club facility.
“It was absolutely great ice. You can’t complain about that.” he said. “And your beer is good too,” he said graciously adding with a laugh, “but I don’t like the rye.”