It should be an exciting curling season next year, with Virden hosting the biggest event in Westman.
For the last two years, Virden has shown off its new Tundra Oil and Gas Place to the hockey community by hosting the Telus Cup western regional tournament before the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Winnipeg Saints moved to town a year ago to become the Virden Oil Capitals.
In 2014, the province’s best female curlers will invade Virden for the provincial Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
The event will run from Jan. 8-12 and it will be an opportunity for the town’s curling club to kickoff its fundraising campaign to build a new curling club as part of the complex.
It will also be a test for Westman’s women’s teams, which have not fared very well in the last few provincial Scotties. Brandon’s Stacey Fordyce and her team of Kelsey Russill, Janelle Schwindt and Roz Ripley have confirmed they are sticking together to compete for a spot in Virden. The first-year squad posted a 2-5 record at the Scotties in Stonewall this year.
Neither Liza Park, who skipped a team at this year’s Scotties to a 1-6 record, nor Tina Kozak, who skipped a team out of Carberry that lost in the Westman playdowns, have talked to their teammates yet about sticking together for next season.
While the Scotties will be the biggest event in Westman, the largest event in the province will be the Roar of the Rings Olympic trials, which will be hosted in Winnipeg from Dec. 1-8.
No Westman teams have clinched a berth in the event, which features eight men’s and eight women’s teams battling for the right to wear the Maple Leaf at the Sochi Olympics. However, there will be some curlers with Westman ties.
Former Brandonite Mike McEwen will skip his men’s team at the event. Nolan Thiessen, another former Brandonite, will also be there playing lead for Kevin Koe’s Alberta squad. The men’s field will also include Kevin Martin, Glenn Howard, Jeff Stoughton and John Epping.
There is a chance for more Westman representatives as Brandon’s Rob Fowler and his team of Allan Lyburn, Brendan Taylor and Derek Samagalski will fight for one of the two remaining spots at the pre-trials, which will be held in Kitchener, Ont., in November. The Fowler foursome, will have to get past the likes of defending Brier champion Brad Jacobs, 2006 Olympic gold medallist Brad Gushue and 2006 Brier champion Jean Michel-Menard, among others.
The women’s side of the Roar will feature Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones and Chelsea Carey as well as Heather Nedohin, Stefanie Lawton, Rachel Homan and Sherry Middaugh.
There is an opportunity for history to be made in Brandon in the winter. No team has ever won four straight Brandon Sun Westman Super League of Curling titles before, but Terry McNamee’s squad of Steve Irwin, Travis Taylor and Travis Saban will try to do just that. McNamee, however, won’t curl with them during the competitive season. Irwin will step up to skip the other two with Carberry native Joey Witherspoon joining their effort to reach the Safeway Championship.
Big changes have also taken place in the junior ranks in Westman. Carberry’s Braden Calvert has left his team to move to Winnipeg for university. His third, Shayne MacGranachan, will take over as skip and has added Donovan Hickson to round out the lineup.
Meanwhile, Westman’s two representatives at the junior women’s provincials — skipped by Schwindt and Minnedosa’s Jennifer Curle — have split up.
EXTRA ENDS: Martin’s third John Morris confirmed yesterday that he is leaving the team.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition April 25, 2013