Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

How a Hall of Fame team was born

Gauthier recalls fateful phone call that created a powerhouse

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Like all good ideas it started with a spark, a flash of genius.

And so it was back in the early 1990s when Cathy Gauthier's phone rang and one of this province's greatest curling teams -- the Connie Laliberte squad of 1992 and 1995 that will be inducted into the Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame this spring -- was born.

"I got a phone call from Laurie Allen," said Gauthier Thursday at a press conference announcing the 2011 inductees. "And she said, 'We've all skipped. We've all played third, but we're not seeing the best Manitoba could have. What would you feel like if instead of playing skip or third you played second? I'm going to step down and play third, Connie's going to skip. What if we put a team together that we think is a dream team? We all have the same work ethic, we all care about this game and we all want to win. What do you think?'

"I took two seconds and I was in. And it was magic, it really was. I think what our team was really good at doing is showing that not everybody has to be a skip or a third, that if you put four great players on a team and work hard that's when the results come. And, I tell ya, I'd rather be a second on a winning team than skipped a team that never got anywhere."

Gauthier, Allen, Laliberte, Janet Arnott and Cathy Overton-Clapham formed a team that were provincial and Canadian champions and captured bronze in 1992 and silver at the 1995 Women's World Championships.

Actually, "capturing" silver at the '95 championship in Brandon isn't how Gauthier would describe it.

"It's tough. In '95 we worked really hard, we were the team of the week, we had great percentages, we loved the ice and the crowd was our extra teammate. And then in the seventh (end of the final) Elisabet (Gustafsson, of Sweden) made a shot and instead of the game being over all of a sudden we were in a really tight game and we ended up losing in an extra end.

"I had flashbacks -- as did Connie and Janet and Cath -- for years. And the fact I'm still talking about it drives me crazy. It's such an accomplishment to win a silver but we really felt we lost gold."

Gauthier, by the way, was doing all of the reminiscing at Thursday's induction announcement as Overton-Clapham is in Charlottetown skipping Manitoba's entry at the Scotties; Arnott is the fifth for Jennifer Jones' Team Canada while Laliberte is there, too, as a coach.

Two notable inductees -- Orest Meleschuk and Clare DeBlonde -- were in Palm Springs and didn't attend the induction press conference. Joining them at the 24th annual induction dinner on May 2 will be families from Robert Gourley's 1931 team and Fred Smith, inducted as part of the veteran curler category, and builders Jerry Brown and Sylvia Erickson.

"It was always important to give back to the game," said Erickson. "I've been busy in the game... it keeps me out of mischief."

"I was just flabbergasted when I got the call... I still am," said Brown. "I've always been a volunteer, but never thought of anything like that. I loved doing it.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 18, 2011 C3

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