Members of the Weyburn Curling Club competed in an “historic” event on Thursday, playing against Scottish curlers at the Weyburn Curling Rink for two draws of the Strathcona Cup.
The Strathcona Cup is considered one of the oldest international competitions in curling.
This year, over 60 Scottish curlers are touring Canada for the Strathcona Cup, split into three different teams. Members of the West Tour Team from Scotland played their games, toured the Turner Curling Museum, and enjoyed an evening banquet during their stay in Weyburn.
Local curler Harry Plemel has traveled with the group, since joining them in Calgary on Jan. 16. “I think we hit it off well right from the start. There was absolutely no issues between any of them and myself.”
“In order to fit in approximately the same number of games as the Central and Eastern tours are playing, while traveling significantly greater distances, we had to build a pretty rigorous schedule,” said Plemel.
“That means sometimes having to curtail the evening or post-game visiting in order to get them back onto the bus and that’s unfortunate, because the social component is such an important aspect of curling.”
Two members of the West Tour Team were Bob Carruthers, from the New Abbey Curling Club, and Sean Murphy, president of the Gogar Park Curling Club and president of Midlothian Province.
A variety of curlers from across Scotland had applied to compete with the team. “Until we met up as tour group, we hadn’t played together before,” said Murphy. He added that touring with each other had created a bond between teammates.
Some of the Scottish team had competed in the Strathcona Cup before, on their home soil. “I have been fortunate that I played against Canadians when they were across playing for the Strathcona Cup in 1998 and also in 2009,” said Carruthers.
The members of the West Tour Team started their tour in Vancouver on Jan. 9. They travelled across B.C., and Alberta, before arriving in Saskatchewan.
Bob joked that the only downside of the tour was “sleep deprivation”, since the men were constantly on the road, competing at different rinks throughout the western provinces.
Despite their tight travel schedule, the Scottish curlers enjoyed meeting curlers from across the country. “Curling wise, the other teams put out some strong players against us,” said Murphy.
“We experienced fantastic hospitality from the Canadians everywhere we went,” said Carruthers.
Both men enjoyed their time at the Weyburn Curling Rink. “The ice was excellent, it was as good as any ice that we had played on,” said Carruthers.
During their stay in Weyburn, all the members of the West Tour Team toured the Turner Curling Museum, in between their games. Many of the Scottish curlers donated their own curling pins to the collection at the Curling Museum.
“Because of the tight schedule, they didn’t get to see or experience a whole lot of what our city has to offer,” said Plemel. “They were hugely impressed by the Don Turner Curling Museum, saying they could easily spend an entire day or more there.”
“Although their exposure was limited to people they interacted with at the curling club and at the hotel, they were impressed by people’s friendliness and their interest in their tour, their lives back home, what they thought of Canada, prairie weather and much more,” said Plemel.
The Scottish team has previously played in Weyburn twice before, during the long history of the Strathcona Cup.
The first time that Weyburn curlers became part of the tour was in 1993, and then the Scottish players were back in the city in 2003.
During their games this year, the Scottish teams won only two of their eight games, but all the games were very close. The aggregate score for the eight games was 51-46 for Weyburn.
From the online blog of the Scottish curlers, they had concerns for injuries. During their morning games, they had “three close games and one not so close, but we end up peels overall, so a good morning.”
The blog then detailed that during the afternoon draws, “the local curlers are younger this time but once again we give a good account of ourselves and but for a few critical pick-ups would have done better than an overall score of minus four.”
Overall, “the Weyburn organizers did a wonderful job and the guys were in awe of the talent displayed by the Comp STARS,” said Plemel. The STARS Show choir entertained during the evening banquet on Thursday night.
“In general, smaller clubs like Weyburn, even if they’re in a large city, seem to provide a more enthusiastic reception than some of the larger clubs,” said Plemel.
“Having said that, all the clubs, large or small, have given them genuinely warm welcome and have shown excellent hospitality — not really a surprise in Western Canada.”
The West, Eastern and Central Scottish tours will meet up with each other in Toronto on Thursday, Jan. 31.
The points from each game played will determine the final winner of the Strathcona Cup. As of Monday, Scotland was leading overall 2,497 to 2,240.