It had been almost a full decade since a Yukon curling rink competed at a national championship at home in Whitehorse.
Last week three had the privilege.
The Whitehorse Curling Club welcomed teams from across the country for the 2015 Canadian Masters Curling Championship, which wrapped up on Sunday.
“It was incredible,” said Yukon skip Ellen Johnson. “We wish we would have curled better. We did not curl well, but it was a lot of fun.
“Our main goal was to make sure everyone visiting had fun and I think that definitely happened.”
Yukon was represented by Team Hilderman in the men’s championships, and by Team Johnson and Team Banks in the women’s.
Team Hilderman, led by skip George Hilderman, fared the best, finishing with a 3-6 record, placing eighth.
“We ended up in the eighth spot overall, so we moved up the rankings a little bit – last year we were in the ninth spot – so we’re pretty pleased with it,” said Hilderman. “The response from the other curlers was overwhelming. They said, ‘What a nice facility, what great ice.’”
Team Hilderman, which includes third Gord Zealand, second Clarence Jack and lead Richard Trimble, opened with two wins, which was good enough to reach the championship round.
They beat Saskatchewan 7-6 on March 30 and Quebec 8-6 on March 31. The Hilderman crew also beat Ontario on Friday.
They lost 9-3 to Manitoba, who went on to win gold, and 7-3 to Alberta to end their run.
“We had great games against everybody,” said Hilderman. “There were two games, I think against Manitoba and Alberta, that we didn’t have a good grasp on the ice. But all the games basically came right down to the last shot.”
The surprise entry of Team P.E.I. into the women’s field made an odd number of teams, allowing Yukon, as hosts, to enter a second team to even out the two pools.
Team Johnson went winless at 0-8 and Team Banks, the “Yukon Host” rink, finished with 1-8, squeaking into the championship round and placing eighth.
“We started off well in a couple of games, but we weren’t able to carry it through,” said Johnson, who was joined by teammates Nancy Kowalyshen, Ev Pasichnyk and Elaine Sumner. “We won the (Whitehorse International Bonspiel the previous) weekend, so we were feeling pretty excited and high about it, but then we didn’t curl well during the week.”
Team Banks – skip Pat Banks, third Marg White, second Val Whelan and lead Lorraine Stick – registered a 6-5 win over New Brunswick on April 1. They then dropped a close 6-5 battle to Ontario before an 8-0 loss to B.C., who went on to win gold.
They finished with a 9-7 loss to Quebec, who won it on their final throw.
Last week marked Banks’ seventh Masters nationals.
“There are good ones and ones that aren’t that good,” said Banks. “I think this year was particularly good because a lot of the players had played in it before. I was quite excited when I saw the team names coming in for the women’s teams, and some of the men’s teams. I thought, ‘This is going to be a good event because … a lot of people know one another.’
“So I met a lot of friends from previous years.”
It was a busy week for most of the Yukon curlers, on and off the ice.
Banks was co-chair of the championship, White was director of officiating, and Sumner (on Team Johnson) was director of fundraising.
“Two of us have been in national Masters before, but it was an experience trying to run the event and play in it,” said Banks.
“We were curling and all of us were volunteering as well, in some aspect,” said Johnson. “We were up at the curling club almost all day, every day.”
The Masters was the first national championship to be hosted by the Whitehorse Curling Club since the Canadian Mixed Curling Championship in 2006.
“Our big mission in running this event was promoting Yukon tourism and contributing to the local economy prior to this year’s tourist season,” said Banks. “At the moment I can safely say this event contributed $300,000 to the local economy.
“We did a survey of the teams to see how much they spent and when I add in what the host committee spent locally, that’s what we’re looking at.”
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