A different atmosphere in seniors and masters curling
by Randy Pascal
The Icemaker vs the Iceman.
Sounds like it has all the makings of a titanic curling battle.
Veteran Copper Cliff Curling Club icemaker Jerry Zanuttig knows better. The gregarious fixture at the well-established winter venue, just
down the road from the “Super Stack”, is not kidding himself at all in respect to his upcoming participation in the NOCA (Northern Ontario Curling
Association) Masters Provincials.
Zanuttig has assembled a team that includes Mark Zwygart, Marcel Chartrand and Wally Thistle, representing one third of the field that
will gather at the Idylwylde Golf & Country Club from January 11th to the 14th.
Unfortunately, another third comes in the form of two-time World champion Al Hackner (aka “The Iceman”) and his team of Eric Harnden, Frank
Morrissette, Bruce Munro and Al Harnden, looking to defend the title they claimed in 2017.
“We’re not in the same class,” suggested Zanuttig. “I watched him (Hackner) on television. He’s my idol.” With the Gord Williams rink from Port
Arthur Curling Club rounding out the playdowns, the local quartet are fully aware of the balance between competitive instincts and reality checks with
which they enter the event.
“We’ll never get another chance like this, it will be a good thing for the club,” said Zanuttig. “We’ll go out there and just play, we’re going to have
a blast. I’m just hoping we don’t get embarrassed and I don’t think we will, I really don’t. I think we’ll give them a game, at least. It would have been
pretty boring for those teams to just play each other twice, maybe three times.”
There is, to boot, an unexpected twist to the 2018 provincials. While Zanuttig and company would have been fine to have the competition take place in
relative obscurity, the playdowns this time around have been merged with the Scotties Provincials, meaning that the sexagenarians will be sharing
the ice, on most draws, with either the Tracy Fleury or Krista McCarville rinks.
“Now I’m going to have trouble paying attention to my game,” Zanuttig added, tongue in cheek, with a laugh. “I’ll be watching the ladies provincials.”
While both the Masters and Scotties will almost certainly come down to a battle of just two teams, at most, the same cannot be said for the 2018
Senior Men’s Provincials, taking place from January 24th to the 28th at the Tarentorus Club in Sault Ste Marie.
“There are at least five teams that could win this thing,” suggested Copper Cliff skip Chris Gordon, his team qualifying comfortably in North Bay
last month with a record of 4-1. “It’s an open field. We’ve got to get a handle on the ice right away, that’s really important. We’ve got to know where to
put the broom and get to know the speed.”
Born in Mindemoya, a proud “Haweater” until his work-related move to Sudbury, Gordon has curled, but for a short break early in adulthood, since taking
up the sport at the age of ten. A mainstay through various competitive brackets over the years, Gordon was part of the Jason Strelezki skipped team
that captured the Northern Ontario banner in the 2013 Dominion Club Championships, earning a trip to nationals in Thunder Bay.
While still active on that front, Gordon was approached about joining forces with the Copper Cliff trio of Alastair Giles, Tim Lloyd and Craig
Ramsay one year ago, ready to do battle with the likes of foursomes headed up by Robbie Gordon (Curl Sudbury), Mark Brown (North
Bay Granite) and others.
“Our goal was definitely to qualify for provincials and we accomplished that last year,” stated Gordon. “We were middle of the pack, had a good time – it
was a great experience for us.” With a wealth of curling knowledge at his finger tips, Gordon acknowledged that the game is played differently at this
stage in life.
“Speed is everything in seniors curling,” he explained. “We start to get away from these long runbacks and that kind of hard throwing game, where the
rock goes straight down the ice. We get into a little bit more of a finesse game, play those soft shots that come around the guards. Our team got better at
that this year.”
“I still play a fairly open game, depending on who we’re playing against,” Gordon continued. “My team does like to hit. But I think we can mix it up
more this year, take advantage of the softer game as well. Last year, we hit everything, and that’s good enough to qualify for provincials, but not enough
to win a provincial.”
Emerging as a top-end team from the East Qualifier in November that also included the other Team Gordon (5-0) and Team Brown (5-1), the Copper Cliff
curler likes the way his team is competing heading to the Northern Ontario battle for bragging rights.
“We caught on to the ice really early in North Bay,” he said. “That gave us a lot of the momentum to do quite well there. The ice was one of the best
we’ve seen around.” And as others have suggested before him, Gordon realized, pretty quickly, that’s it’s not just the on-ice experience that seems to
separate the memories one can garner within the senior circuit from many of their previous elite curling ventures.
“We got to meet everybody last year and we had a lot of fun with all of the teams,” he noted. “After the games, guys would invite everybody back to
their rooms. Al Hackner can sure tell stories, we really enjoyed that.”
Stories that Jerry Zanuttig knows all too well could easily be the highlight of his foray into the provincial scene this January.