All-Stars - Mike Fitzgerald NS skip, Dennis
Thiessen MB 3rd, Trendal Hubley-Bolivar NS 2nd and Debbie Earle NS Lead.
Sportsmanship Award - Frank LaBounty BC with an
honourable mention to Joanne MacDonald NL
Blog coverage including photos
Suday March 27 -
Saturday March 26 -
1/2 Playoff recap
3/4 Playoff Recap
Friday March 25 -
Draw 8 Blog Recap
9 Blog Recap
Thursday March 24
Draw 6 Blog Recap - Draw
7 Blog Recap
Wednesday March 23 -
Draw 4 Blog Recap -
5 Blog Recap
Tuesday March 22 -
Draw 2 Blog Recap -
Draw 3 Blog Recap
Monday March 21 -
Draw 1 Blog Recap
Sunday March 20
- Preview - who's who and where they may finish
The path to success at wheelchair curling is not a secret. You need a lead
who can put stones in the rings, a second who can hit when necessary, a skip
who calls shots that can be made, rather than shots he or she would like to
see made, and an open path for your fourth rock thrower's winning draw.
With that in mind here's how I see this Championship shaping up. I've
grouped the team into three sections: contenders, hopefuls and long shots.
Contenders: Alberta, BC, Quebec and Ontario
Alberta are my (narrow) favourites to make the breakthrough to a gold
medal that has eluded them in the six plus years they have been playing
together. Their best result has so far been a silver medal in 2009 in a game
where Jack Smart's last rock throw came within an inch of beating BC, led by
Last year they lost skip Bruno Yizek to Paralympic duty, but Martin Purvis
stepped up at 2nd and won all-star honours as did teammates Bridget Wilson
and Anne Hibberd.
Bruno returns as skip this year and will throw last rocks. Player for player
Alberta have as strong a team as any in Edmonton. For three years they
worked with newly appointed GB coach Tony Zummack, a role that has passed to
Andy Jones. Team Alberta have a genuine five person squad, are a very
organised and disciplined team, and with a current Team Canada member
skipping may just be the team to break BC's stranglehold on the National
BC - Last year Gary Cormack skipped a BC Host Team to the national
title, defeating Gerry Austgarden's BC provincial champions in the final.
This year the provincial championships were held in Kimberley, a location
far from where BC's curlers actually lived.
New teams were formed from the players with the resources to travel, and to
the surprise of many observers Gary's blend of two players from each of last
year's final teams, beat out the favoured Jim Armstrong rink that included
Darryl Neighbour, Chris Daw and Jackie Roy - all with Team Canada squad
Gary Cormack won a Paralympic gold medal in Torino in 2006, Frank LaBounty
has played in most of the Nationals and is benefiting from the rule change
allowing him to use his power chair. Vince Miele has shown similar longevity
and Alison Duddy, a relative newcomer at lead, has last year's silver medal
experience to build on.
BC's approach to the Nationals has been almost the opposite to Alberta's in
that they have not worked together as a team under their own coach. They do
have experience though, not only at playing, but winning. Their strengths
will be their experience calling a game that suits their players, and while
they may not be as strong individually as some other teams, their past
record says that yet again they will be tough to beat.
Quebec - My wildcard selection for this year's championship is
Quebec. This will be their third trip to the Nationals. Last year three male
members of the team left Kelowna in a sulk, early and without their coach's
permission. That transgression led to the team relocating to a different
club and working with a new, but highly experienced, coach.
The strength of what is still a relatively inexperienced team is their track
record as established high performance athletes outside of curling. They
have added Sébastien Boisvert, considered a "natural" by coaches I have
spoken to, and Germain Tremblay may have had time to instil not only some
respect for the conventions of the game, but strategic sense.
If skip Ben Lessard has some early success, he opens against Nova Scotia and
Manitoba, that will help his confidence. The team has travelled this season
to prepare for the Nationals, and expect to do well, I think with some
Ontario - It has taken Ontario skip Chris Rees three years to get
back on the national stage after losing the 2008 final to Jim Armstrong's
BC. He returns with equally experienced Carl Bax, and a rookie second in
Alec Denys, a five time Paralympian at archery. Shauna Petrie rounds out the
team who had a tough road to Edmonton, having to beat out five other teams
including two previous Ontario champions at their provincials.
Back in 2008 the feeling among opposing coaches was that the way to defeat
Ontario was to put lots of granite in the rings and see whether Rees had the
physical strength to throw the required hits. I expect this generation of
coaches may have similar notions, though rookie Denys has impressed
observers with his hitting. Ontario's prospects may depend on Rees' ability
to rely on a draw to win the game.
The hopefuls: Northern Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia
Northern Ontario were a tie-break away from the playoffs in 2009, but
faded to a 3-6 record last year. They bring the same team to Edmonton,
knowing that they beat Manitoba twice in pre-championship friendlies.
They are a great team to hang with and I am sure they want to win; though
perhaps not with quite the single-minded drive and determination of Wayne
Ficek, their skip. This is not a team of established high performance
athletes with Paralympic pedigrees, but if they can recapture the
consistency that was lacking last year, they have realistic hopes of making
the final four.
Manitoba have taken bronze from the last three Nationals. This year's
team was born out of acrimony, with Dennis Thiessen changing allegiance that
resulted in Chris Sobkowicz's rink being declared Manitoba's representative
without a provincial championship.
Chris and Dennis have won bronze at the last three Nationals and George
Horning is also an experienced curler. Melissa Lecuyer is one of eight
rookies at this year's championships. They lost to Northern Ontario this
season and while they can count on the experience of their back end, peace
and love has never been a hallmark of previous Manitoba teams. If it's
possible to want to win too much, this is the team that will suffer.
Nova Scotia can beat anyone on their day, but have not so far shown
the consistency to string enough wins together to challenge for the podium.
Skip Mike Fitzgerald is a shotmaker who has in the past been called on to
make too many game saving shots.
This is the same team that gave last year's winners their only loss. They
also beat this year's favourites, Alberta, yet later lost to sub-500 teams
like Saskatchewan and Quebec. It may be that a nine game round robin
stretches this team's stamina.
Long shots: Saskatchewan, Host Team Alberta, Newfoundland-Labrador
Saskatchewan posted a very respectable 4-5 record last year, but this
year are without the experienced Del Huber. Darwin Bender steps up as skip
and last year's alternate Terry Hart comes in, significantly at lead.
Saskatchewan has not grown participation over the past three years and while
this team is enthusiastic, the question is whether they can improve enough
to move up the table.
Team Host Alberta - The CCA had hoped to add a tenth provincial team
this year, but both New Brunswick and PEI decided they were not yet ready to
compete at the national level. Edmonton as hosts took the tenth spot by
coming second to Calgary's Team Yizek in their provincial championship.
Cliff Nuspl has been around a long time, and was named alternate on Team
Smart with Bruno Yizek on Team Canada duty last year. He skips a squad that
has impressed Cathy Craig, the coach. This will, however, be their first
experience not only of play at this level, but of nine games in five days.
They will have a home crowd cheering them on, and the advantage of sleeping
in their own beds, but I think they will have done well if at the end of the
week they get close to a .500 record.
Team Newfoundland/Labrador - While most provinces struggle to get
female players, Newfoundland/Labrador field a team with just one male. This
is the team skipped by Chris Daw in 2009. When he moved west, Joanne
MacDonald stepped up. She struggled as a rookie skip in 2010 and with a
year's practice will be looking to improve on that 1-8 record.