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Burtnyk, Ryan still terrorizing foes

This edition of the famed curling partnership playing in junior women's

The Burtnyk-Ryan combination still delivers heavy knockout power on the curling ice.

These are giant names on the Manitoba curling scene, however, this week it’s the next generation making a mark at the Canola provincial junior championships in Winnipeg.

Laura Burtnyk, seeded third, has skipped her Assiniboine Memorial team — including third Hailey Ryan — to a 2-0 start after two days at the junior women’s event.

The junior women’s and men’s championships, being played concurrently at the St. Vital and Pembina clubs, wrap up Friday.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 2/1/2017 (325 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Burtnyk-Ryan combination still delivers heavy knockout power on the curling ice.

These are giant names on the Manitoba curling scene, however, this week it’s the next generation making a mark at the Canola provincial junior championships in Winnipeg.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Skip Laura Burtnyk (left) and her third Hailey Ryan. Their fathers Kerry and Jeff won the world curling title together in 1995. </p>

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Skip Laura Burtnyk (left) and her third Hailey Ryan. Their fathers Kerry and Jeff won the world curling title together in 1995.

Laura Burtnyk, seeded third, has skipped her Assiniboine Memorial team — including third Hailey Ryan — to a 2-0 start after two days at the junior women’s event.

The junior women’s and men’s championships, being played concurrently at the St. Vital and Pembina clubs, wrap up Friday.

Burtnyk, 21, is the daughter of legendary skip, Kerry Burtnyk, a five-time provincial champion, two-time Brier winner and the 1995 world champion. Ryan, 20, is the daughter of Jeff Ryan, a two-time Manitoba champion who tossed third stones for Burtnyk at the ’95 and 2001 Briers and the ’95 worlds in Brandon.

Indeed, the names go well together, then and now.

"It feels pretty awesome, actually," said Laura Monday afternoon, after guiding her team to an 8-2 victory over Dauphin’s Emma Jensen at St. Vital. "It’d be nice to hang that same provincial banner up in the same club (Assiniboine Memorial) that our dads did. It’s definitely motivation behind things for us.

"It’s nice that people recognize us — ‘Oh, that’s the Burtnyk-Ryan duo.’ It’s a different feeling, for sure," she said. "The respect my dad has earned throughout what he’s done in the sport, a lot of people look up to him as a person in the community. So, I’ve always looked up to him as my father and my hero in the sport. I just hope I can do what he did in the sport."

Laura has competed in several junior championships, including a couple with her older sister, Rachel, but so far a Manitoba title has been elusive. She lost the championship final last year in Rivers, Man., to Abby Ackland of Fort Rouge.

Laura and Hailey grew up curling together but have only combined forces in juniors the last two seasons, along with lead Rebecca Cormier. The Burtnyk team recruited Ackland’s lead, Sara Oliver, to play second for them this season, and the mix is proving effective.

"To come back together and have that Burtnyk-Ryan dynamic again is fun for everyone to watch and fun for us to play," said Laura. "I feel like we have that determination to do what our dads did before us.

"(Cormier) is so strong, and Sara has been a great addition for us and taken us to that next level in all aspects of the game. All four of us together make a really good team."

The exploits of the fathers of Burtnyk and Ryan are well documented. They had a miraculous run in ’95 that included a Canadian title with a win over Saskatchewan’s Brad Heidt in Halifax and world crown with a victory over Scotland’s Gordon Muirhead at Brandon’s Keystone Centre. Rob Meakin, at second, and Keith Fenton, at lead, rounded out that Hall of Fame foursome.

The team played nine years together, winning Manitoba again in 2001 before losing the national crown to Alberta’s Randy Ferbey in Ottawa. They also just missed qualifying for the 2002 Winter Olympics, falling to Edmonton’s Kevin Martin in the final of the 2001 Canadian Olympic curling trials.

Hailey said she didn’t understand just how good her dad was and the magnitude of his accomplishments until she was in her teens, well after he’d retired.

"I actually remember cheering for the other teams while watching him on TV because we wanted him to come home. We didn’t want him to be gone. I really had no idea what it all meant," she said, laughing. "It’s kind of cool because my friends that don’t play competitive sports, I tell them my dad won the worlds and lost the final to get to the Olympics and they think it’s so cool... and it is cool.

"I see these great curlers nowadays and my dad was just like that, too."

The dads, now well into their 50s, say it’s hard to keep their cool watching the action from behind the glass.

"It’s very exciting and we’re very proud of them. But it’s much harder to sit and watch than when you’re out there playing," said Jeff, whose 19-year-old son, J.T., is skipping a team in the junior men’s event.

Kerry echoed those sentiments. "You literally live and die with every shot, so it’s tough," he said, adding he’s continually impressed by the level of commitment of young curlers these days.

"They’re very dedicated in a way we weren’t in our era. They do so much off the ice that we never used to do in order to prepare," said Kerry, who won a junior men’s title in 1978 and a Brier crown just three years later.

Jeff said it’s hard to fathom two decades have passed since that world championship victory just a couple of hours west of Winnipeg. So little went right for the team early that 1994-95 season, he recalled, and a spot in the provincials was only secured at the MCA bonspiel in the new year.

"The years have gone by very, very quickly," said Jeff. "I remember the fall of ‘94 when we were first together. We were good friends and a good team but we couldn’t win. Nothing was working. We couldn’t put two or three wins in a row together. Then, all of a sudden, it’s January of ‘95 and we get on a roll and we really couldn’t do anything wrong."

Twenty-two years later, the old teammates wish the same magic kicks in for their kids.

jason.bell@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @WFPJasonBell

Read more by Jason Bell.

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