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U.S. team makes MCA Bonspiel history

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Sean Grassie has another piece of history for the book he’s writing on the MCA Bonspiel.

Unfortunately for Grassie, someone else wrote this chapter for him.

Green Bay’s Craig Brown team — minus the skip — made MCA Bonspiel history Monday night, defeating Winnipeg’s Grassie 5-2 in the bonspiel’s Asham main-event final to become the first non-Manitoba team to win the MCA Bonspiel championship since St. Paul’s Bob Dunbar Jr. shared the Grand Aggregate title with Strathcona’s Mac Scales in 1953.

Curl Manitoba officials report the last non-Manitoba team to win the Bonspiel championship outright was Thunder Bay’s J.G. Macdonald in 1921.

"I don’t think we had too many fans out here tonight," laughed Brown lead Derrick Casper, who called the final game in place of Brown, who had to leave on Monday to curl in a bonspiel in Germany this week.

"The MCA Bonspiel has been on a to-do list for Craig and me for years. And we finally got the chance to do it," said Casper, who was supported by third Kory Nernberger and second Matt Hamilton. "It feels great."

It was perhaps only fitting the Brown team would author their history-making moment at the historic Granite Curling Club and against an opposing skip who is deep into writing a book on the 124-year history of the MCA Bonspiel.

While the loss was disappointing for Grassie, who was seeking to add his first MCA Bonspiel title to the Manitoba junior and Canadian mixed titles he already owns, he had to admit it will make for good copy in his book, which he hopes to have on shelves next winter in time for the 125th anniversary of the annual Winnipeg winter tradition.

"There’s actually quite a history of Americans playing in this bonspiel," said Grassie. "Even the very first bonspiel, there were two American teams who came up for it."

There was also a second interesting side note to Brown’s victory.

Finalists in the Asham main event are entitled to berths into next month’s Manitoba men’s curling championship. As Americans, the Brown foursome is ineligible for their Safeway Championship berth. But what’s interesting is this is actually the second time this winter the Brown team has had to turn down a berth in a Canadian men’s playdowns. Earlier this winter, the Brown foursome also won a berth bonspiel in northern Ontario that would have qualified them for those Brier playdowns if they’d been eligibile.

"I think we’re going to have to look into buying some land up here," laughed Casper. "This place has been good to us."

The Brown foursome — who went 8-0 to win the bonspiel — already have their berth in the U.S. Nationals, while Grassie had already qualified for the men’s provincials before the bonspiel even began.

That meant the five final berths into next month’s Safeway Championship in Dauphin came out of the Free Press and Safeway-Lucerne major events this year. The berth winners on Monday were Pilot Mound’s Curtis McCannell, St. Vital’s Bruce Jones, Pembina’s Dave Johnson, West Kildonan’s Trevor Loreth and West St. Paul’s Carl German.

The berth came as a pleasant surprise to the Jones foursome.

"We just curl once a week on Tuesday nights. We don’t even enter the zones," said Jones. "We don’t have any unrealistic expectations."

The event winners Monday night were as follows: Loreth, Free Press; Johnson, Safeway-Lucerne; St. Vital’s Darryl Friesen, Bituminex Paving; Pembina’s Daniel Birchard, Manitoba Hydro; Deer Lodge’s Mike Mahon, Chas Fidler and Son; West Kildonan’s Mark Lukowich,; West St. Paul’s Derek Samagalski, Lafarge; Fort Rouge’s James Scott, Lazer Grant; Springfield’s Curtis Joyal, 8-Ender; Fort Rouge’s Pat Carson, Manitoba Pork; St. Vital’s Paul Scinocca, Monsanto; West St. Paul’s Larry Liebrecht, Canada’s Web Shop.


LOOSE HAIRS — The Safeway Championship is scheduled for Feb. 8-12 in Dauphin... The Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts starts on Wednesday in Portage La Prairie, but the teams get their first look at the ice in practice sessions today... The Manitoba Scotties is actually just one of two provincial women’s curling events within a short drive of Winnipeg. The Ontario Scotties is also taking place this week in Kenora.

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