For the first time in more than 15 years, Thompson’s Burntwood Curling Club will host a Curl Manitoba provincial championship in March.
Beginning March 8 and continuing until March 13, the club’s sheets will be occupied by 16 men’s and five women’s teams competing in the Manitoba Credit Unions Master Men’s and Women’s Provincial Championship, says Sam Antila of the host committee and also one of the competitors.
Master’s curling is open to competitors aged 60 and over and Antila says this will be the fourth time he has competed at master’s provincials.
“It’s very competitive, a very high calibre of curling,” he said. “We’ve had winners from Manitoba go on to be Canadian and world champions. We’re hoping that a few spectators will come out and watch because the calibre will be pretty high.”
The last time Thompson hosted a Curl Manitoba provincial championship event was in 2006, when the Scotties Tournament of Hearts women’s championship was held here. The Burntwood Curling Club was, however, the site fo the 2018 Manitoba Games 15-and-under curling competition, and Antila said the reviews he heard back then make him confident that Thompson can make the master’s a similar success.
“There was a handful or more people that came up to me and were just so pleased with the way things were done here and how well they were treated, the hospitality and the quality of the facilities, and our ice conditions at our club are second to none in the province so I have no concerns at all about hosting events like that,” Said Antila.
Though it can be harder to round up volunteers for such events now than it was in the past because the club has fewer members, Antila says he’s pleased with how many volunteers the host committee has gotten involved.
“There’s not much left to do other than dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s,” he said. “We’re anxious.”
The event gets underway with a banquet on March 8 and the curling begins the following morning. There will be four draws a day in the men’s competition and two draws a day in the women’s, which will conclude with the final on the morning of March 12. The men’s final will be on March 13 at 1 p.m. with the closing ceremony immediately following.
Antila said he put bids in for the Burntwood Curling Club to host the master’s provincials starting a few years ago but they never went anywhere.
“Then last year, I got a call asking if we’re interested in hosting the master’s and I said, ‘Absolutely, we’ll jump all over that.’”
As a Thompson resident, Antila is well-accustomed to having to travel long distances to compete in curling tournaments but some people from the province’s south are a little less willing.
“I know there’s been some grumbling in some sectors,” he says, but he’s heard positive reactions as well, especially from some of the teams competing that have former Thompsonites among their members.
“I’ve talked to all of them actually and they’re all keen on coming back,” Antila says. “I was in Brandon last week and I ran into one of the guys from the south in Brandon. They’re stoked They’re excited about coming up here. He was telling me that most of the rural guys are really looking forward to it. This is not an issue for them, coming up here.”
The winners of the men’s and women’s master’s provincials will qualify to compete at the national master’s championship in Saint John, New Brunswick in April.