In the 100 years since the rural municipality of St. James was incorporated, the region now known as St. James-Assiniboia has played an important role in Manitoba’s sports history.
This column, the second to recognize many excellent athletes and teams as well as builders of sport, will be devoted to curling.
Success on the curling ice has come to many teams representing the Deer Lodge and Assiniboine Memorial curling clubs as well as to individual curlers from the community.
John Douglas skipped his Deer Lodge team to the area’s first provincial men’s championship in 1933. His third was Jimmy Welsh, who later led Deer Lodge rinks to Manitoba titles in 1937, 1947 and 1954. The 1947 Canadian championship team that included Jimmy’s brother Alex, Jock Reid and Harry Monk was inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame in 2019.
The team of skip Barry Fry, third Bill Carey, second Gordon Sparkes and lead Bryan Wood brought another national title to Deer Lodge in 1979.
Kelly McKenzie’s Deer Lodge team (2017) of Joanne Fillion, Carlene Muth and Sasha Bergner captured the 1995 Canadian and world junior women’s championships.
Sean Grassie, who has taught tennis in the summer at the Deer Lodge courts on Ness Avenue, skipped his Deer Lodge team of Allison Nimik, Ross Derksen and Kendra Green to the Canadian mixed championship in 2009.
Joan Ingram (HOF 2002) led her Deer Lodge Business Girls team to the provincial championship in 1981 and Dot Rose (2008) followed with a victory in 1982. While the longtime residents and teammates weren’t on the same team those years, the pair curled together on several other championship teams and won countless softball championships with the CUAC Blues, winning national titles in both sports. The Deer Lodge Business Girls club also won four more provincial titles between 1986 and 1991 with teams skipped by Darcy Kirkness, Kathie Ellwood, Marlene Cleutinx and Kathie Allardyce.
Kerry Burtnyk (2011) heads the long list of champions from Assiniboine Memorial with five provincial men’s crowns, a Canadian title in 1981 and a world championship in 1995.
The world team of third Jeff Ryan, second Rob Meakin and lead Keith Fenton was inducted into the HOF in 2002. Starting with Burtnyk in 1978, the club dominated at the provincial junior men’s level through the 1980s with Mert Thompsett and Brent Braemer each winning twice and Eric Montford and Hugh McFadyen one apiece. Thompsett went on to win the Canadian championship in 1979 and 1981.
Ryan Fry, a 2014 Olympic gold medallist, skipped a provincial junior champion from the club in 1997. On the junior women’s side, Janet Harvey, Karen Purdy and Jennifer Lamont skipped Assiniboine Memorial teams to three consecutive provincials between 1986 and 1988.
In earlier years, teams made up of players from one high school, not a private club, competed for the provincial junior championship. Wayne Johnson’s Deer Lodge Collegiate team won in 1963 and Dave Iverson from Deer Lodge took the title in 1973. His third was Pat Ryan, who later won the world men’s championships curling out of Alberta and B.C.
In 1986, Hal Tanasichuk skipped his Deer Lodge team of Barb and Darcy Kirkness and their father Jim to the provincial mixed title. Jim Kirkness was a multi-sport athlete who played offence and defence for the 1967 and ’68 Canadian senior amateur champion St. Vital Bulldogs and later coached the football team, won a Canadian mixed title with Tanasichuk’s Civic Caledonian team in 1977, and was a strong hitter in both the senior A and industrial men’s softball leagues.
His son, James, skipped a provincial junior championship team out the Valour Road club in 1991 and curled third for the men’s champions from the Granite in 1998. In 2003 and 2009, Fort Rouge teams with Barb at skip and Darcy at third won the provincial women’s championship.
The first St. James-Assiniboia column, which focused on more than a dozen inducted members of the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame, can be read at www.canstarnews.com
Future columns will recognize the best from other sports including baseball, basketball, boxing, fencing, football, golf, hockey, rifle shooting, speed skating, volleyball and wrestling.