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And, the inductees are...

1984 a vintage year for Manitoba curling -- 2009 could be even better

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They were an instrumental part of what has been recorded as the greatest winter in the history of Manitoba curling.

And so there was a certain symmetry Wednesday that in a season where Manitoba curlers have already recorded two Canadian curling championships and have legitimate chances to win several more, some of the heroes from that remarkable winter in 1984 -- Canadian junior champions Barb Spencer and Darcy Robertson and the Mike Riley Brier champions -- were announced as the newest inductees into the Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame.

Spencer's and Robertson's inductions came just three days after they won their third Manitoba women's curling championship in Neepawa.

"To be recognized in a sport you love is a wonderful thing," Spencer told a news conference.

Riley, who is living in Kelowna these days in semi-retirement, reflected on how his team felt some pressure heading off to the Brier that year.

Riley recalled that several Manitoba teams had already won Canadian titles -- including, just a week earlier, Connie Laliberte -- when his underdog team boarded a plane for the Brier in Victoria.

"We knew," Riley said, "that something good was expected from us."

It was noted at the news conference that Riley won his Brier in the same city that will host the Canadian Women's Curling Championship this month, a coincidence not lost on Robertson.

"It could happen again this year," Robertson said. "I hope we can help by winning. We've already got two Canadian champions declared, let's hope we can keep them coming."

In all, Manitoba recorded a total of five Canadian curling titles in the winter of 1984. Spencer and Robertson won junior women's, Laliberte won women's, Riley won men's, Bob Ursel won junior men's and Lloyd Gunnlaugson won senior men's Canadian championships.

Laliberte also won a world women's championship that winter. In all, Manitoba curlers failed to win Canadian championships in just two disciplines that winter -- senior women's and mixed.

That curlers from two teams who won in that remarkable year would be inducted this particular winter has the potential to be a remarkable coincidence.

Manitoba curlers have already had an exceptional winter so far, with Sean Grassie winning a Canadian mixed title and Kaitlyn Lawes winning her second straight Canadian junior women's title. Both those teams still have opportunities to add world titles -- Grassie at the World Mixed Doubles and Lawes at the world juniors.

Plus, there's the Canadian championships still to be determined. Manitoba is uniquely positioned to potentially win a Canadian women's title this year, with two teams competing in the national Scotties Tournament of Hearts later this month -- defending Canadian and world champion Jennifer Jones representing Team Canada and the Spencer foursome representing Team Manitoba.

Manitoba will also once again be a threat at the Brier next month in Calgary and there are also Canadian championships still to be determined in senior men's and senior women's.

But such was the monumental nature of what Manitoba curling accomplished in 1984 that Manitoba teams this year would need to win three of those four remaining championships just to tie the haul in 1984 -- and all five to beat it.

"That was an amazing feat," said Robertson. "We were in awe at what all those teams had done that year."

The 22nd Annual Induction Dinner will be held May 3 at Canad Inns Polo Park.

LOOSEHAIR: Quick correction on Wednesday's story about who is replacing Hans Wuthrich as the icemaker at next week's Safeway Championship -- it will be Greg Ewasko, not Mark Shurek. Shurek, however, will help replace Wuthrich at this year's Brier. Sorry to all three men for the confusion.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

2009 Hall of Fame inductees

 

Curlers

Barb Spencer/Darcy Robertson

Three Manitoba women's titles ('86, '03, '09) Canadian junior women's title ('84)

Manitoba mixed title ('86)

 

Maureen Bonar

Four Manitoba women's championships ('83, '93, '96, '04)

Manitoba junior women's champion ('82)

 

Teams

1952-53 Ab Gowanlock team from Dauphin (Third Jim Williams, second Art Pollon and lead Russ Jackman)

 

Two-event winner 1952 MCA Bonspiel

1953 Brier champion

 

1984 Mike Riley team from Pembina (third Brian Toews, second John Helston and lead Russ Wookey)

1984 Brier champion

 

Builder

Barry Greenberg

President of the Granite Curling Club (1993-94)

President of the Manitoba Curling Association (2000-01)

President of the Canadian Curling Association (2005)

 

President of the 2008 Tim Hortons Brier

 

Veteran curlers

Bill Finlay

Winner of two MCA Bonspiel grand aggregate championships (1914, 1919)

Curling reporter

Free Press editor

Represented B.C. at the Dominion Curling Championships

 

John B. Mather

City of Winnipeg alderman

As an agent for Hiram Walker and Sons, he arranged for the formation of a new bonspiel event and the presentation of the Walkerville Tankard.

Served as first president of MCA from 1888 to 1890.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 12, 2009 C4

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