April 8, 2009
By JOE PAVIA, SUN MEDIA
He's grinning up there.
The late Gerry Keeler's memorial bonspiel is Saturday. The legendary icemaker would have loved the contract veteran Ottawa icemaker and Keeler confidant Kirk Smyth took on this past winter, almost a year to the day after Keeler's funeral.
Smyth arrived in Poland Feb. 9 to make curling ice for the ninth Winter European Youth Olympic Festival. The event, held about an hour south of Warsaw at a winter resort called Slask-Beskidy, hosted almost 1,000 youth aged 15 to 18 from Feb. 14-21.
Smyth is no stranger to working in Europe. He was the resident iceman at a couple of Swiss clubs about a decade ago. He's worked throughout Eastern Europe in Bulgaria, Latvia and East Germany.
Why does he do it? "In some countries, it's hard to make ice. Besides, no one else wants to go," he joked.
The Olympic festival presented some challenges. The curling surface had to be installed on a university gymnasium floor, requiring a special membrane to be applied to the floor.
Smyth also became a Polish "citizen" for the two weeks he was there.
"They didn't want any North Americans involved in this event," said the Ottawa Hunt Club ice-maker. "When I got my accreditation and told them I was Canadian, they put 'Poland' on my badge."
Organizers seemed blessed by his presence, too. Before he arrived, all the snow had melted and grass was growing. His arrival brought snow that didn't stop for the rest of the event. "This was the most snow they had seen in 25 years," Smyth said.
One day it snowed so much, cars were stranded on the sides of roads, forcing the 67-year-old Smyth to make a 90-minute hike up the mountain to the curling venue. He is waiting for his next curling adventure.
There are still a few spots left in the men's-only Keeler Bonspiel this Saturday at the Rideau club. Contact Brian Benning at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ontario lost two semi-finals at the Canadian Masters. Kingston's Betty Bush lost to Saskatchewan, which then defeated Alberta in the final. Oakville's Bob Edmondson also lost his semi to Manitoba, which defeated B.C. in the final ... Morrisburg's Allan Brunt, past-president of the Ontario Curling Association, was awarded the Syl Apps Special Achievement Award last week by the Sports Alliance of Ontario.
CURLING THIS WEEK
Bryan Cochrane and Kingston's Jonathan Buek compete in mixed provincials, while Dwayne Lowe and Layne Noble take part in senior mixed provincials. Both events begin today in Beaverton. The Grey Power Players Championship begins Tuesday when Ottawa's Rachel Homan debuts against Saskatoon's Stefanie Lawton.