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Canadian curling history being chased in Vernon

Saskatchewan seeks sixth consecutive Sr. women’s crown; 28 women’s and men’s rink taking part
Team Diane Gushulak from New Westminster is representing B.C. at the 2023 Everest Canadian Senior Men’s and Women’s Curling Championships, which start Sunday, Dec. 3, at the Vernon Curling Club. (Contributed)

When the 2023 Everest Canadian Senior Curling Championships kick off Sunday, Dec. 3, at the Vernon Curling Club, Saskatchewan’s Team Nancy Martin (Martensville) will look to give that province its sixth consecutive women’s gold medal, after the five straight victories piled up by Saskatoon’s Team Sherry Anderson.

Six straight victories by one province has never happened at the Everest Canadian Seniors in either gender, and it’s only happened once at any of the national championship events — six straight wins by, coincidentally, Saskatchewan at the Canadian Women’s Curling Championship from 1969 through 1974.

Martin, backed up by Deanna Doig, Nancy Inglis and Cathy Inglis, will kick off their quest for gold in Sunday’s opening draw at 4 p.m. against Newfoundland/Labrador’s Team Pam Osborne of St. John’s.

Saskatchewan chasing a share of that record is just one of the numerous storylines that will play out in Vernon.

Alberta’s women’s team, with players from Okotoks, Irricana, Calgary and Sherwood Park, features a pair of Olympic medallists. Skip Atina Johnston was the alternate for Sandra Schmirler’s legendary team that won gold at the 1998 Winter Olympics as well as a gold at the 1997 World Women’s Championship in Bern, Switzerland. Lead Cori Morris played the same position for Cheryl Bernard’s silver-medal team at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Team Manitoba, meanwhile, features vice-skip Maureen Bonar, who won gold at the 2014 Canadian Senior and 2015 World Senior Championships as a member of Lois Fowler’s team. Joelle Brown is skipping this year’s Manitoba team, which hails from Winnipeg.

Another player with significant past national and international experience is Ontario second Kristin Turcotte, who won the 1990 Scotties Tournament of Hearts playing with Alison Goring’s Ontario team. That lineup went on to win a bronze medal at the 1990 World Women’s Curling Championship in Sweden.

On the men’s side, there are a few former champions in the field, led by Saskatchewan’s Team Bruce Korte of Saskatoon. Korte, backed up by vice-skip Darrell McKee, second Kory Kohuch and lead Rory Golanowski, captured gold at the 2019 Everest Seniors in Chilliwack, but was unable to play for world gold as both the 2020 and 2021 World Senior Championships fell victim to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Three members of the 2016 Canadian gold-medallists (won at Digby, N.S.) and 2017 World silver-medallists also are in the field in Vernon, as Bryan Cochrane’s Ontario team from Ottawa takes a run at a second national championship.

Cochrane, vice-skip Ian MacAulay and lead Ken Sullivan also finished second to Korte’s Saskatchewan team in 2019 in Chilliwack. This year’s Ontario team is rounded out by second Graham Sinclair.

New Brunswick skip Mike Kennedy will be chasing his second Canadian title after he prevailed as a member of Wayne Tallon’s team in 2013 in Summerside, P.E.I. That team also won gold at the 2014 World Senior Championships.

While Team Quebec, skipped by François Roberge, doesn’t have a national senior title on its resumé, it does have a Brier win — in 2006 at Regina, followed by a World Championship silver medal a few weeks later in Lowell, Mass. Roberge, vice-skip Maxime Elmaleh and second Éric Sylvain were all members of Jean-Michel Ménard’s 2006 Brier team, while lead Jean Gagnon served as the alternate for that 2006 team.

Fourteen men’s and 14 women’s teams (representing the 10 provinces plus Northern Ontario, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon) will compete and have been seeded into two pools per gender, playing a round robin within their pool through Wednesday.

B.C. is represented by Diane Gushulak of New Westminster in the women’s tournament, and Wes Craig of Duncan in the men’s draw.

The top four in each pool then advance to the Championship Pool for crossover games against teams from the other pool, while the remaining teams go to the Seeding Pool.

After the Championship Pool round robin wraps up on Friday, Dec. 8, the playoffs will start Saturday, Dec. 9, at 8:30 a.m. (all times Pacific) with the semifinals, pairing the first-seeded team against the fourth-seeded team and the second- and third-ranked teams in the second semifinal.

The winners advance to their respective gold-medal final, while the losers will play for bronze. The men’s medal games will be at 12:30 p.m. and the women’s medal games commence at 3:30 p.m.

The Canadian finals begin Sunday, Dec. 3, with the opening draw at 4 p.m., followed by the official opening ceremonies at 6:30 p.m., and Draw 2 wraps up opening day at 8 p.m.

Men’s and women’s teams will be on the ice at the same time in this tournament. Both B.C. skips see their first action Monday, Dec. 4, at 10 a.m. Craig plays Alberta while Gushulak draws Saskatchewan in her opener.

Each tournament is divided into two pools of seven, where teams will play a round-robin. Top four teams in each pool advance to the championship bracket where they’ll play the top four teams from the other pool.

Top four teams advance to the semifinals.

Draws Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday go at 10 a.m., 2 p.m., and 6 p.m. There are four draws Thursday, Dec. 7, as the championship bracket gets underway, at 8:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 4:30 and 8:30 p.m.

Action Friday, Dec. 8, sees the championship round-robin conclude with draws at 10 a.m., 2 p.m., and 6 p.m.

B.C. has won eight national senior women’s titles: Team Christine Jurgenson of Victoria in 2010; Team Pat Sanders of Victoria in 2008; Team Flora Martin of Victoria in 1980, ’79, ’75 and ’74; Team Vi Tapella of Burnaby in 1977; and Team Ada Calles of Kimberley in 1973. Team Jurgenson and Team Sanders both went on to win world championship gold medals.

On the men’s side, B.C. is looking for a fourth national title. Previous winners were Team Ken Watson of Richmond in 1999; Team George Beaudry of Trail in 1974; and Team Don MacRae of Nanaimo in 1970.

The championships were conducted separately and were combined in 1985 at Yorkton, Sask.

This year’s winners will represent Canada at the 2024 World Senior Curling Championships from April 20-27 in Östersund, Sweden.

Tournament passes, which include every draw, are $75. Daily passes are $20 and single-draw tickets are $10.

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The Wes Craig rink from Duncan is representing B.C. in the men’s draw at the 2023 Everest Canadian Senior Men’s and Women’s Curling Championships starting Sunday, Dec. 3, at the Vernon Curling Club. (Contributed)

Roger Knox

About the Author: Roger Knox

I am a journalist with more than 30 years of experience in the industry. I started my career in radio and have spent the last 21 years working with Black Press Media.
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