Curlers look for an edge

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:55 AM ET

When you're playing in the world's largest bonspiel, and you don't have any former world curling champions on your rink, you need a little extra something if you're going to survive it. That little extra something is called luck.

Curlers can be a superstitious bunch, and that's exactly what was found yesterday during a survey of a handful of teams competing in the 117th annual Manitoba Men's Bonspiel.

Shane Cooper throws lead rocks for Larry Stuart's Charleswood rink. The team started the bonspiel with a 1-4 record, so Cooper felt it was time to bring out "the sweater."

It's a vintage, wool garment that Cooper's dad wore when he curled in university back in the mid-20th century. Cooper calls it a "terrible beige" colour, and it has a yellow tinge around the collar. He doesn't wear it, mind you, but he put it on last night for Sun photographer John Woods.

Normally, the sweater just sits on the walkway at the end of the sheet on which they're playing.

"If I bring it in and it's out there on the ice with us, we have a tendency to do better when we play a regular league game," Cooper said. "When I bring it, it works well. It does have a tendency to get left in the trunk, though. Those are the bad games.

"I'm the only one (on the rink) that actually believes in the sweater thing, but if you take a look at the win-loss record, when the sweater's there, it's tilted toward the win column."

Meanwhile, Mark Jeffries was driving his unaffiliated team, skipped by Kevin Salmi, to its first game on Thursday night in Dugald. That's when they noticed a fishy smell.

"He's using his wife's truck, and she had this dolphin air freshener hanging from the mirror," team member Gary Banner said. "It just smells like crap, the worst-smelling thing in the world.

"... So we tossed it in the glove compartment."

They won their first game and followed it up Friday morning with another victory.

"We went home for lunch and said, 'Hey, maybe the dolphin's lucky,'" Banner said. "Well, (Jeffries) picked up his daughter from school, and she said, 'Man, this thing stinks in here,' and she took out the dolphin. We lost."

At that point, Team Salmi realized the importance of the stinky mammal.

"So the dolphin came back in (Friday) night for the 9 o'clock draw and we won -- in four ends," Banner said. "The dolphin is very important."

"Not only that," Jeffries added, "we've moved the dolphin from the glove box back onto the mirror."

Finally, a Fort Rouge foursome -- which shall remain nameless to protect the guilty -- always begins its MCA bonspiel by cutting out of work early on Wednesday to "prepare" for its first game Thursday night.

Those preparations include staying up late on Wednesday and drinking "copious amounts" of beverages. We're not talking about orange juice, either.

"Although it is a goal ... by following the rules we've hereto set forth, it makes getting to the Select difficult," one member said.

Added his teammate: "If we ever get a Select spot this way, then we've earned it."


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