Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Burtnyk having seniors moment

Decorated curler rounds up posse for fun, shot at Strathcona title

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If this was a movie, Kerry Burtnyk would turn to his BTF (best third forever) Jeff Ryan and during a climactic scene would utter, "Did you hear? We're getting the band back together."

Well, not the band exactly, but the rink. Don't look now, but after a hall of fame career highlighted by one world championship, two Briers and five provincial titles, Burtnyk is officially a senior curling citizen.

So last year Burtnyk called up his old third, Ryan, who hadn't touched a rock in seven years. The skip mentioned the possibility of competing in the 2011 senior men's provincial playdowns. "I said, 'Are you asking?' " Ryan said. "And he (Burtnyk) said, 'Sure.' "

Ryan, now 52, agreed. But not without some strict ground rules: "Don't practise, no leagues, no bonspiels. We meet an hour before to have a beer. And have some fun. That's it."

To round out the team, Burtnyk recruited former lead and fellow world champ Keith Fenton, who just turned 50, to play second. Brother-in-law Scott Grant, 52, is throwing lead.

Sure enough, Burtnyk's crew qualified for the Strathcona Senior Men's championship that began Thursday at the Heather Curling Club. Burtnyk is one of 16 men's teams in the Strathcona finals, while 12 women's teams -- including notables such as Brandon's Lois Fowler, Fort Gary's Chris Scalena and defending 2010 champion Joyce McDougall of Brandon -- will vie for the Tim Horton's Senior Women's title at the same venue.

"For me to get a chance to play again and give him (Ryan) an excuse to come out and play again, it was all good," said Burtnyk, after stomping Thompson's Rae Hainstock 10-3 in Thursday's opening draw. "It's all about having some fun and if we happen to win a few games... that's by accident.

"I'm done with competitive curling, or what I think is competitive curling -- a serious effort at trying to win the men's," the skip added. "I might play from time to time for the fun of it like this. But I'm comfortable with the fact that my time is done. Let the young guys bang heads. I'll play with some friends."

And against friends, too. The senior men's lineup is like a time capsule for competitive curling in the last 30 years. Names like John Usakis, Rob Ramage, Peter Nicholls, Ron Westcott and John Bubbs -- to name a few -- represent the opposition.

"It's like seniors' golf," Ryan said. "It's all those guys you watched growing up. It's the same type of thing. But it's not quite as intense as 10 years ago playing against the Martins and Howards and all that. But you still step out on the ice and that fire is still there. You still want to win, it's just a lot more relaxed.

"These guys are good," he added. "I know the Burtnyk name has been around forever and he's been very successful. So as soon as they see that (name on the scoreboard) they might get a little intimidated. But we haven't played in..."

For Fenton, it's been two years out of competitive curling. On Thursday, Grant, a former provincial champ with Vic Peters, curled his fifth game in six years.

Still, Burtnyk's foursome made short work of the lads from Thompson in six ends. "Ouch," Hainstock muttered, leaving the ice. "What else can you say?"

In the end, this might just be a one-off for Burtnyk and Co. Asked if the competitive juices might get flowing again, if this might be the first of many seniors adventures, Burtnyk just smiled and shook his head.

"I'm not looking past the next draw," he said.

randy.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 25, 2011 C3

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About Randy Turner

While attending Boissevain High School in the late 1970’s, Randy Turner one day read an account of a Winnipeg Jets game in the Free Press when it dawned on him: "Really, you can get paid to watch sports?"

Turner later graduated with a spectacularly mediocre 2.3 GPA from Red River Community College’s Creative Communications program. 

After jobs at the Stonewall Argus and Selkirk Journal, he began working on the Rural page for the Free Press in 1987. Several years later, he realized his dream of watching sports for a living covering the Winnipeg Goldeyes and Bombers.

In 2001, Turner became a general sports columnist, where he watched Canada win its first Olympic gold medal in men’s hockey in 50 years at Salt Lake, then watched them win again in Vancouver in 2010.

He also watched everything from high school hockey and volleyball championship to several Grey Cups, NHL finals and World Junior hockey tournaments.

In the fall of 2011, Turner became a general features writer for the paper. But he still watches way too much sports.

Turner has been nominated for three National Newspaper Awards in sports writing.

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