I missed the curling, but I really missed the curlers.
And that point was driven home this fall when I returned from a one-year hiatus away from the Roaring Game to again cover curling for this newspaper for what is my 12th curling season.
I enjoyed the year away, don't get me wrong.
A man can do much worse than spending a season chasing a professional hockey team across North America.
The play on the ice was certainly faster than what I'd grown accustomed to in curling.
And the players? Well, they were a little slower, if you know what I mean.
The curlers have always been the best part of curling and the truly amateur nature of the sport, coupled with the intense interest Canadians take in it, have always combined for a journalistic treasure trove of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
I like curling, I love curlers and that's why years ago I began doing a year-end holiday wishes column (I stole the idea from Gordon Sinclair Jr.) to single out all the great people I come across in this game.
So here goes. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to:
All the great women in curling: Cathy Overton-Clapham, Jennifer Jones, Jill Officer, Dawn Askin, Leslie Wilson, Raunora Westcott, Kaitlyn Lawes, Breanne Meakin, Heather Nedohin, Cathy King, Jill Thurston, Cheryl Bernard, Jackie Lockhart, Sharon Thiessen-Woods, Connie Laliberte, Holly Scott, Kristy Jenion, Lindsay Titheridge, Kristen Foster, Brette Richards, Janet Arnott, Anette Norberg, Elisabet Gustafson, Patti Lank, Mrs. Mackenzie, Mrs. Stoughton, Mrs. Jones, Mary Anne Arsenault, Debbie McCormick and my all-time favourite, Colleen Jones, who is surely entitled to a great 2011 after a scary bout with meningitis this winter.
And then there's all the good guys: Bob Jenion, Don Duguid, John Bubbs, Resby Coutts, Barry Fry, Ryan Fry, Jeff Stoughton, Steve Gould, Bob Gould, Mr. Jones, Shane Ray, Bob Picken, Jon Mead, Reid Carruthers, Jason Gunnlaugson, Tyler Forrest, Justin Richter, Warren Hansen, Danny Lamoureux, Greg Stremlaw, Randy Ferbey, Dave Nedohin, Don Walchuk, John Morris, Mike McEwen, Garth Smith, Ross McFadyen, Randy Dutiaume, Dave Elias, Chris Suchy, Terry McNamee, Rob Fowler, Kevin Park, Chris Galbraith, Al Cameron, Bob Weeks, Jim Bender, Kirk Penton, Clayton Dreger and Jewish Winnipeg's version of the mob, Barry Greenberg, Ian Staniloff and Zivan Saper.
Then there's the great families in curling -- the Peters -- Vic, Deb, Daley and Liz; the Neufelds -- Chris, BJ and Denny; the Careys -- Dan, Bill and Chelsea; and the Burtnyks -- Patti, Kerry and the girls.
And finally, best wishes to a handful of folks who aren't involved in curling but still have the spirit of a sport where the winner buys the loser drinks: Andrew Collier, Scott Unger, Paul Edmonds, Rick Forney, Price Kendall, Ken Wiebe Jr., Stacey Desilets and the entire Rossie clan -- Tamara, Paige, Chris, Marissa, Maggie and Brie.
Have a great Christmas and a wonderful New Year.
-- Paul Wiecek