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Curling world mourns Peters as 'the best', on and off the rink

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Vic Peters</p>

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Vic Peters

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/3/2016 (937 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It is in the nature of competitive athletes that the same traits that allow them to excel on the field of play can make them difficult to deal with off of it.

A player brimming with the “self-confidence” necessary to succeed at athletics can seamlessly transition into an “egomaniac” when the final whistle blows. See how that works?

And that overlap extends even to the world of curling, a sport that prides itself on collectively having the nicest and most down-to-earth competitors this side of darts.

Because of the microphones curlers wear on the ice at major events, Canadians feel an intimacy with this country’s curlers that they don’t feel towards, say, hockey players or football players.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/3/2016 (937 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It is in the nature of competitive athletes that the same traits that allow them to excel on the field of play can make them difficult to deal with off of it.

A player brimming with the "self-confidence" necessary to succeed at athletics can seamlessly transition into an "egomaniac" when the final whistle blows. See how that works?

And that overlap extends even to the world of curling, a sport that prides itself on collectively having the nicest and most down-to-earth competitors this side of darts.

Because of the microphones curlers wear on the ice at major events, Canadians feel an intimacy with this country’s curlers that they don’t feel towards, say, hockey players or football players.

And all that intimacy can be very revealing of a personality, for better and for worse — and often at the same time.

Examples abound: Jeff Stoughton — self assured, mouthy; Russ Howard — great communicator, too loud;  Kevin Martin — ruthlessly efficient, boring; Randy Ferby — fierce competitor, mean; Rachel Homan — robotically consistent, robotic.

Pick a curler who’s had any measure of success in the sport and odds are someone has disparaged them for a different display of the same qualities that allowed them to have that success in the first place.

Except, that is, for the late, great Vic Peters, who passed away at age 61 on Sunday following a long battle with cancer.

In 18 years of covering curling for this newspaper, I never — not once, ever, I’m serious — heard someone say a disparaging word about Peters.

And I wasn’t the only one. Asking around on Monday, the closest I could get to a criticism of Peters was a colleague who said Peters once yelled at him on the Meadows Golf Course, where Peters was the greens superintendent at the time.

And even in that instance, the colleague conceded upon further questioning that yes, he maybe was standing on some ground under repair at the time.

So how is it one of the winningest men’s curlers this province ever produced — a three time Manitoba men’s champion and 1992 Brier champion, all of it as a skip — seemed so universally beloved?

"Because he just was," former Peters teammate Steve Gould said Monday. "When people die, everyone always says what a great guy they were. But Vic really was. He was the best. Everyone loved him."

Now, no one is suggesting Peters was a saint. On the contrary, Peters was his own biggest critic and a self-taught master at the art of self-deprecation. A dissertation from Peters on his own failings could easily run into a second beer. And a third. And a whole lot of laughs along the way.

But in the minds of people who knew him — friends and family who really did and curling fans who just thought they did — even when Peters was wrong, he was right.

Jeff Stoughton, who along with Peters and Kerry Burntyk formed the "Big 3" that dominated curling in this province and this country for the better part of two decades, tells a great story of playing Peters at a provincials in Steinbach when Peters missed an important shot.

"Vic broke his broom and there were shards of broom everywhere, all over the ice," Stoughton said, recalling how the game had to be halted while Peters got on his knees to do some housecleaning.

"There he was, cleaning up all the little pieces."

Now, in a sport that still considers itself "The Gentleman’s Game", such displays of poor sportsmanship would normally be cause for some tsk-tsking and a few boos from the spectators. I’ve seen all kinds of curlers booed — and fined — for less, including Stoughton on both counts.

But this was Peters we’re talking about — and he was playing in his hometown of Steinbach. And so instead of ripping him for losing his cool and shattering a broom, the fans instead applauded Peters for getting down on hands and knees and cleaning up the mess afterward.

"If it was anyone else who’d done that, it would have been a big deal," laughed Stoughton. "But it was Vic who did it and so it was just no big deal."

Stoughton says it was that fierce competitiveness that made Peters the curler he tried to emulate as he was coming up the ranks a decade behind Peters.

But Peters was also quite simply a gifted athlete. His lifetime percentages in three trips to the Brier tell the tale of a man who had no weakness in his game: Inturns 82; Outturns 80; Draws 80; Takeouts 81.

And it wasn’t just at curling that Peters excelled. An icemaker by trade in the winter and a greens keeper in the summer, Peters was also a superb golfer, despite the fact he never took the sport particularly seriously.

"He was crazy good. But he'd show up wearing rubber boots and then shoot 73. I'm not kidding," said Gould.

In the end, the only thing Peters couldn’t master was cancer. But he gave it a heck of a try.

He’d had a previous cancer scare about 30 years ago, but beat it that time. And he fought it off again in more recent years, beating back a lymphoma diagnosis in 2011 to come back and curl one more time with his son, Daley, at the 2012 provincials.

And even when cancer came back with a vengeance this winter, Peters still made the trip to Grande Prairie, Alta., last month to watch daughter Liz curl as second for Kerri Einarson’s 2016 Manitoba women’s champion at the national Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

But this time there’d be no happy ending. The question in recent weeks was no longer if the cancer was going to get Peters, but when.

The final answer came over the weekend — much, much too soon.

email: paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @PaulWiecek

Paul Wiecek

Paul Wiecek
Reporter

Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End and delivered the Free Press -- 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets -- long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.

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History

Updated on Monday, March 28, 2016 at 9:22 AM CDT: Updates with more information on family

3:03 PM: Adds reaction.

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