Jon Solberg left the Yukon in 2002, after leading his curling rink all the way to the Nokia Brier, the top of the heap for Canadian curling.
Five years later, and Solberg is back in the territory.
Whether he will lead another Yukon rink to the Brier remains to be seen, but the former Whitehorse Curling Club player, volunteer and president is now making his living as the club’s business manager.
On Monday, his first day on the job, Solberg took some time to meet with the News at the Whitehorse Curling Club at Mount McIntyre.
“This is how it should be,” said Solberg, as he stood looking out at the pristine white, red and blue of the curling lanes, where ice technician Doug Gee was busy preparing the surface for the club’s opening weekend.
“The conditions here are world class; it’s a world class facility.”
Good ice conditions were hard to find for Solberg, who spent the last five years in Ontario.
“My wife was going to school in Sudbury, so that’s where we went,” said Solberg, who ended up volunteering as an ice tech at the Copper Cliff Curling Club, as well as continuing his work as a pharmacy technician.
Curling has always been a big part of Solberg’s life — he started in the sport in Winfield, BC at age 12, and won a BC winter games title as a junior.
By the fall of 2004, he was running the Sudbury club, and since then, he hasn’t pushed a pill. When Solberg’s wife Tanya found a job in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, they moved to Southern Ontario (where good ice was even harder to find).
Solberg again found a job in the curling biz, with the Brant Curling Club — a busy club that hosted 38 draws a week.
“It was very exhausting — keeping the ice in good condition. We had it going during the day, during the night, and bonspiels on the weekends.”
His work was going well, and Solberg continued to make a mark on the competitive national curling scene — while in Sudbury he played on the provincial northern Ontario rep team with skip Mike Jakubo — making his second appearance at the national championships for the 2005 Tim Horton’s Brier.
It was tougher to find a team in southern Ontario, and Solberg ended scrambling for a season.
“This is so much a team sport — you’ve got to have four players with the same goals,” he said. “To move to an area where you have no connections is difficult.”
Things came together in the fall of 2006 when Solberg teamed up with Oakville skip Craig Kochan’s rink — and they had what he described as “some minor successes” and were on track to be a Brier-level contender.
With plans for the upcoming season with Kochan’s rink coming together, a chance to return to the Yukon arrived in Solberg’s email inbox.
Whitehorse Curling Club president Trevor Sellars extended an offer to take over the business manager position, and Solberg had a decision to make. He opted for the Yukon.
“It was tough, and they had to rush to fill that spot,” said Solberg of his former teammates. “It all happened pretty fast, the turnaround was about three weeks,” said Solberg.
He’ll have to bide his time for this season, but his track record suggests it won’t be long before we’ll see him throwing rocks at another Brier.
“But Whitehorse is such a wonderful community to return to — we have a large group of friends here.”
As Solberg takes the reins of the Whitehorse Curling Club, things are shaping up for another busy season — although he admits it won’t be as eventful as last year.
“I would have loved to be here for the Canada Games,” he said. “This year will be busy, but not as taxing on our volunteer base. It’s a chance to recharge those batteries.”
The highlight of this year’s curling schedule is the second World Curling Tour event in as many years, the Skookum/WCT Cash Spiel on November 22-25.
Four-time world champion Randy Ferbey will be back to defend his title, and take home a piece of the $30,000 purse (up from $10,000 last year).
Adding a little spice to the proceedings is another ringer, Ferbey’s former skip and 1989 world champion Pat Ryan. Solberg laid out the facts: “Ferbey will have competition this year.”
The Whitehorse Curling Club’s season kicks off this weekend with a Learn to Curl clinic, open to everyone, on Saturday. The first session runs from 10 a.m. to noon, and the second from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Cost is $20. Call the Whitehorse Curling Club at 667-2875 for more information.