Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

If they do the tuck, they're in luck

Many of our renowned champs love made-in-Manitoba stance

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SELKIRK -- Kerry Burtnyk does it. So does Jeff Stoughton and Mike McEwen. Daley Peters didn't used to do it, but he does now. Don Walchuk has done it a few times behind closed doors, but never in public. And while many of the men in this province love doing it, only the rarest of women have even tried it.

Get your mind out of the gutter.

The "it" in question is the "Manitoba tuck," a delivery style that is utterly unique to curlers in this province and which continues to propagate itself despite the fact no one teaches it and those at the highest levels of the game seem to regard it with a combination of disdain and amusement.

 

And that's despite all the national and international success our tuckers have had and a history that suggests a tuck delivery in this province is very nearly a prerequisite to win the Safeway men's provincial curling championship underway this week.

Consider: The skip that has won the Manitoba men's curling title in 16 of the last 18 years has done so by sliding out of the hack with (for righties) his left foot up on his toes and tucked beneath his right thigh -- the classic Manitoba tuck delivery.

The two exceptions? Mark Lukowich in 2002 and John Bubbs in 2003, the same two years our best skips, all of them tuckers, boycotted the Manitoba provincials. The result? Lukowich and Bubbs both missed the playoffs at the Brier.

Indeed, there is, undeniably, no better single indicator of curling success in this province than this one simple question; Does he tuck?

And it has been that way for at least the last four decades. Just ask someone who throws with a flat foot, the delivery style most common everywhere else in the world except here. "It's a Manitoba thing. It's a unique thing to this province and only this province," offered Alberta native Don Walchuk, who comes from a province where all the curlers, including him, use nothing but flat-foot deliveries.

Walchuk said he's tried a tuck a few times in practice, but never, ever in a game.

"I've tried it goofing around and it feels comfortable, it feels very sturdy. I could see why people use it.

"But as to why this place is the only place in the world where you see it, I have no idea."

Unofficial Manitoba curling historian and recently retired reporter Bob Picken says the style has been in popular use in Manitoba for at least the last 40 years and was first made famous by Barry (The Snake) Fry, who actually resembled a coiled reptile with his low- to-the-ice delivery.

Picken says there's no one individual credited with developing the tuck, but the advantages to it are clear.

"You're able to get down low behind the rock, much lower than a flat foot, and sight it, almost like a rifle shot," he said.

Picken said the principal criticism of the tuck -- and probably the leading reason why youngsters are taught a flat-foot delivery -- is it's believed to put undue strain on the knee.

And yet Picken, at age 76, continues to throw using a tuck delivery and Burtnyk says he believes the opposite is true of the tuck style -- it's easier on the body than the flat-foot delivery.

Burtnyk says the principal advantage of the tuck delivery -- that the weight balance is between your toes and your broom, allowing you to correct the direction of your slide with a weight shift in mid-delivery -- is also why its easier on your knee, not harder.

"I think it's overblown," Burtnyk said. "I know a lot more guys who slide flat-foot that have had troubles than guys who tuck... A lot of your weight is on the broom as a tucker. And plus, some of the weight is going from my leg through my heel, not my knee. But a flat-footer, everything goes through the knee."

Daley Peters, whose father Vic is one of the best-known tuckers in the game, actually learned the flat-foot delivery curling as a junior in East St. Paul. He has since switched over to the style that won his father a Brier.

"I switched because I found I just had a better touch with tuck," Peters said.

The anomaly is that for all the success our men have had with the tuck, only a handful of our women have ever used it.

A few provincial champions leap to mind -- Betty Duguid, Joan Ingram, Carolyn Darbyshire and Karen Young. But the greats of our women's game, most notably Connie Laliberte and Jennifer Jones, have all thrown flat-foot.

So whither the future of the tuck delivery?

"It will either slowly start dying out," predicts Burtnyk, "or some people will start teaching it."

The overwhelming evidence of the past 50 years would seem to make the choice a simple one.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Thursday results

 

8:30 a.m. draw

Mike McEwen 8 Doug Riach 4

Peter Nicholls 6 Chris Galbraith 4

Reid Carruthers 8 Randy Neufeld 7

Brent Scales 8 Rob Cosens 5

Braden Zawada 10 Dave Smith 3

 

12:15 p.m. draw

Jeff Stoughton 8 M. Woodward 4

Dave Boehmer 8 Darryl Friesen 3

Brendan Taylor 7 David Bohn 3

Kerry Burtnyk 8 Kelly Robertson 4

Daley Peters 7 Richard Muntain 5

 

4 p.m. draw

William Lyburn 15 Brad Hyrich 6

Terry McNamee 7 Murray Warren 4

Randy Neufeld 8 Brent Scales 2

Doug Riach 7 Scott Madams 4

Chris Galbraith 7 Braden Zawada 5

 

7:45 p.m. draw

Bob Sigurdson 8 Darryl Friesen 2

Allan Lyburn 9 M. Woodward 6

Kelly Skinner 8 David Bohn 4

W. Lyburn 8 Richard Muntain 5

Kelly Robertson 7 T. McNamee 5

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 20, 2009 C3

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