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Thursday, Jun. 22, 2017
Curling for everyone, from Sudbury to Syria
2017-01-21
by Randy Pascal

Like countless other sports in Canada, curling will thrive in the long-run, to the extent that it is able to be introduced to as wide a spectrum of young athletes as possible. That is, in part, the attraction of the annual “Rainbow Elementary Bonspiel” to organizer Jason Bissonnette, taking on the torch from others who have continued to grow this January tradition for the past several years.

While I did not take the time to complete a formal survey, common sense would suggest to me that a large percentage of those in the field of more than 20 rinks were enjoying their first taste of the joy that is curling via the school that they attend.

That was definitely the case for 13 year old Rida Alzahran, representing C.R. Judd Public School in Capreol roughly a year after making the move from Syria to Northern Ontario with his family.

“It’s different in Syria,” he explained. “We play soccer a lot, basketball a little bit, just with friends. We would play at fields, but not like the ones here with a fence. Our fields would have good grass and flat ground, so we would play there. But no curling, ever, ever.”

Not that a lack of knowledge or even general awareness of the sport was about to slow this young outgoing teenager one iota. “When I got to school, all of my class were going to curling, so I got to try it. It’s a little bit hard to learn the rules in curling, like when you try and tell your friends how and where to throw the rock.”

The reason this would be important, for Alzahran, was that he has ascended to the role of skip after just one game in this bonspiel, as his team progressed from a game 1 loss to a game 2 tie.

Still, the way he saw it, he was probably not the best person to ask about why he might make a good skip. “Maybe I’m good, I don’t know,” he said with a smile. “You would have to ask the coach.” In any event, he was thrilled with the progress than his team was enjoying, even in the early stages of the event.

“We got better at knowing who should play where,” said Alzahran. “Now, if there is a rock for the other team in the middle, I move it from the middle.” The new Canadian and his team may not have advanced to the finals, but judging from the smiles, that was the least of their concern.

Come Sunday morning, fans on hand were treated to an impressive display of shot-making, as A.B. Ellis held a 4-3 lead going into the eighth and final end over Churchill #1 (they fielded three entries, in all).

Setting up the end nicely, the Ellis team of Ethan Lamothe, Ryan Forcier, Thomas Morrow, Quinn Sheppard and Sophie Ferridge forced the Churchill quartet (Brendan Rajala, Troy Kirkwood, Jonas Norrie, Brandon Radey) to make a really tough shot, picking up a steal of three and capturing gold with a 7-3 triumph.

Silver lining for the Chargers (Churchill) was the fact that not only did the team take top spot in the “skills competition”, but by virtue of that first place finish, actually moved on to the playoffs round as a wildcard entry.

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Missed one: In reporting on the recent U18 regional playdowns, I focused on the event that was staged at the Copper Cliff Curling Club, which made sense, since all Sudbury and area rinks form part of Region 5.

I neglected, however, to recall that the notion of “combined” teams, drawing together curlers from a variety of different parts of Northern Ontario, was becoming more and more common.

Joining the teams that qualified directly out of Copper Cliff is the Jamie Smith rink (Kendra Carriere, Breanna Hamilton, Erin McLean), who finished first at the Region 4 competition hosted in Sault Ste Marie.

While both Smith and Carriere are Sudbury residents, the balance of the rink represent natives Saultites in the form of Hamilton and McLean. Team Smith swept the Hannah May rink from Blind River (10-7 and 9-5), and also beat Marah Bos from Thessalon (9-1).

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It may or may not mean anything in the end, but the Tracy Fleury quintet donning the Idylwylde Golf & Country Club colours has drawn first blood in their anticipated provincial showdown in Nipigon.

Fleury and her team of Jennifer Wylie, Jenna Walsh, Amanda Gates and Crystal Webster held on to beat the defending champions Krista McCarville, Kendra Lilly, Ashley Sippala and Sarah Potts 10-7 in draw three of the NOCA Scotties on Thursday.

As expected, both teams entered the anticipated matchup with records of 2-0, but with a full double round robin format followed by a first vs second championship encounter, the initial win for Team Fleury does not count for much, beyond perhaps a little extra confidence.

Though the teams have staged a number of memorable games over the years, the Fleury side took control of the latest edition in a hurry, leading 7-1 after five ends and survived a late scare, as McCarville countered with two in the sixth and four in the eighth, drawing to within one.

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Finally, the North Bay Granite Club is playing host to their 38th Annual Masters Bonspiel from January 23rd through to the 25th, with plenty of local flavour at the event. The 2016 champions are back, in the form of Richard Anderson, Mike Kurdell, Craig Partington and Chucker Ross, with the event looking to bump up slightly from the 24 entries they enjoyed last year.

Kurdell might be feeling the aches and pains a little more than the others by the end of the week, with his current weekend busy with curling as well, playing vice for the John Headley rink at the 2017 NOCA Masters Provincials.

Headley and Kurdell are joined by Bill Sloan and George Lalonde, carrying the Sudbury Curling Club hopes into the event in Sault Ste Marie, a bonspiel that features a total of five teams vying for the right to represent Northern Ontario at nationals April 2nd to 9th in Guelph.

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