A pair of Kootenay curlers joined Canada’s best senior rock throwers in Digby, Nova Scotia on Monday to compete in the Senior Canadian Curling Championship.
Trail’s Don Freschi and Nelson’s Fred Thomson held down the front end of Kelowna’s Bob Ursel rink as they opened the week-long event with a 9-3 pasting of Newfoundland’s Jeff Thomas rink. With Freshi playing second and Thomson lead to skip Ursel and third Dave Stephenson, the team got off to a good start taking a 3-1 lead through three ends. Each team exchanged deuces with Ursel leading 5-3 in the seventh when the Kelowna skip broke it wide open, scoring four to end it.
It’s Freschi’s first trip to the senior nationals but he and Thomson played with the Deane Horning’s provincial championship team in the 2005 Brier. The Ursel rink formed this past year and won the Okanagan zone playdowns and the BC Senior championship last month in Richmond. The skip is also a past World Junior Curling champion, 1985, and curled in three Briers in 1999, 2003, and 2008.
His opposition is also a who’s who of Canadian curling, with 14 teams rounding out the Men’s side. Team BC plays in Pool B with Newfoundland, the 2014 senior champion Alan O’Leary’s Nova Scotia rink, and Brier veterans Rod MacDonald of PEI and New Brunswick’s Grant Odishaw. Quebec’s Richard Faguy rink and Nunavut’s Edmund Sattleberger round out the pool.
The men’s A-side features Alberta’s Ed Lukowich, a two-time Brier (1978, 1986) and one-time (1986) world champion. Other skips with Brier experience include Saskatchewan’s 1995 Brier runner-up Brad Heidt, Northern Ontario’s Rob Gordon, and Ontario’s Bryan Cochrane. Randy Neufeld of Manitoba is also last year’s senior champion and is back to defend his title. Yukon and NWT make up the remainder of Pool A.
Former world champion Colleen Jones highlights the senior ladies teams. The Nova Scotia women will be skipped by the 56-year-old Jones of the Mayflower Curling Club. Jones is a six-time Tournament of Hearts winner and two-time world champion.
The CBC reporter will attempt to become only the second curler in history to skip her team to victory at the Scotties, Worlds, and Canadian seniors.
Alberta’s Cathy King is a former Scotties (1998), Canadian seniors (2012), world seniors (2013) and two-time (1977, 1978) Canadian juniors champion. She is the only curler to accomplish this feat.
Other skips with numerous Scotties appearances include New Brunswick’s Heidi Hanlon, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Cathy Cunningham, Saskatchewan’s Sherry Anderson, P.E.I.’s Kim Dolan and Debbie Moss of the Northwest Territories.
Hanlon also won the 2011 Canadian seniors at Digby and the 2012 world seniors at Copenhagen, while B.C.’s Diane Foster, also from Kelowna, won the 2007 Canadian seniors at Trois-Rivières, Que. and the 2008 world seniors at Vierumäki, Finland. The Foster rink dropped their opening game to Ontario, 5-3.
BC’s Ursel foursome played Quebec at 3 p.m. Monday, but scores were unavailable at press time. Team BC plays New Brunswick today at 8 a.m. and Nunavut at noon.