Thomas Scoffin doesn’t have much time for people who mistake his age and small stature for a handicap on the curling rink.
The 12-year-old skip of the Yukon men’s curling team is so gifted with a rock that people can’t help but notice he’s also shorter and quite a bit younger than the teenagers he’s playing against.
His teammates Mitchell Young, Will Mahoney and Nick Koltun are similarly small and cherub-faced compared to their rivals.
“Curling’s a sport where age and size don’t matter at all,” said Scoffin on Thursday, after losing 11-4 to Saskatchewan.
Scoffin’s dead-serious eyes added a few underlines and exclamation points as he spoke.
“We play against adults all the time; we don’t play against juniors,” he said.
“And we win.”
The team has very little competition standing in its way to get into big competitions Outside, such as Ontario’s junior national tournament staged in February.
As a result, Scoffin already has plenty of experience under his small belt — despite being eligible to play in the Canada Winter Games for another five years.
Still, he’s a kid with a whole lot of pressure and ambition coursing through his head.
His eyes watered for split second after Thursday’s loss before he caught himself.
A day earlier, after taking a dominant 9-1 win against the Northwest Territories at his hometown rink, the five-foot-tall Scoffin had the look of a giant-killer in waiting.
Broadcast commentators covering the game repeatedly called him a “pistol.”
He earned the praise with a shot accuracy of more than 90 per cent.
Team Yukon scored three points right away to take the lead against NWT, playing tight and clean until the end.
That allowed them to punish NWT mistakes in the second, third, fifth and sixth ends and steal points.
Scoffin was definitely on the mark, said Mahoney on Wednesday.
“Thomas was making amazing shots,” he said. “He’s the best.”
Like Scoffin, the 4’11”, 15-year-old Mahoney is smaller in stature than he is in spirit.
The team also defeated the Nunavut squad 11-4 on Tuesday. They went into Thursday’s game with Saskatchewan with a 2-2 record, having lost to Ontario and Manitoba.
The underdog dream didn’t happen on the ice, however.
Team Yukon made a few costly errors that lost it the dream win, Saskatchewan.
“I think we did alright; we could have done better,” said Scoffin. “We were close until we gave up five, and then it got away from us. If we won it would have been pretty neat because we would have achieved our goal of three wins.”
“We would have been playing for fifth or sixth if we won, so it’s kind of disappointing,” added Koltun, the team’s second.
The team is playing for ninth or 10th in Canada on Friday following Thursday’s loss.
The rink will play Newfoundland.
“We were happy with our two games against the territories and we still have an opportunity for a win against one of the provinces,” said Wade Scoffin on Thursday.
Wade is the team’s coach and Thomas’ dad.
“We’ll just relax for the rest of the day, refocus, and come out here again ready for a game tomorrow,” he said.
“If you didn’t feel a little bit sad or disappointed when the results don’t go your way, you probably don’t have the right mindset,” he said.
“We just want to get a little bit better and more experienced based on what we learned today.”
Pulled aside after Wednesday’s game, a clearly proud Wade summarized his son’s play succinctly.
“For his age, he’s probably one of the best in Canada,” he said.
“But it’s a team sport. All four of these guys are young, but they have been able to apply themselves very well.”