North starring at MCA

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:23 AM ET

A hot North wind had been blowing through the MCA's 117th Annual Bonspiel to coincide with this week's proverbial Bonspiel Thaw.

Pembina's Bill North knocked off St. Vital's Doug Riach 7-5 at the Heather Curling Club yesterday to sail to a 9-0 record. In fact, North was tied atop the Grand Aggregate standings before dropping a 4-2 decision to Assiniboine Memorial's Kerry Burtnyk late last night.

Although that was just his first loss, at 55, you would think North would be wheezing and gasping at this stage of the spiel, not beating teams his sons' ages.

"I'm dumbfounded to be where we're at," conceded North. "Smoke and mirrors, I guess. We just came into this to have a little fun and things have worked out. We just wanted to enjoy ourselves and beyond that, who knows?"

Supported by his sons, Bill, 34 at third and Dean, 32 at second, as well as Glen Baleja, 40, North had an unspectacular run in the Safeway Select city zone finals.

"We didn't last very long," said the Carman native, who is curling out of Pembina because one of his sons was already a member there. "In fact, we got blown out by the same team (Valour Road's Rob Atkins) twice."

North actually won the aggregate title just five years ago and is still in that race.

"Yeah, I guess it's close but it's only Monday," said North, who is also pursuing one of the five Select spots on the line.

North, who has been to 10 men's provincials and more than 20 provincials overall (mixed and seniors), has been through this grind before. But, at his age, he must be tiring.

"I'm not as tired as I usually am on Monday," he said. "But we behave better than we used to."

North still calls the game and throws the last brick.

"I'm not ready to give up the helm yet," he said. "I'm about ready to sit on the sidelines and watch them (his sons) play but I'm not ready to take orders yet."

Riach bounced back to beat Burtnyk 8-4, dropping the two-time Brier champ to one leg before he rebounded with the victory over North.

Meanwhile, Valour Road's Randy Dutiaume continued his hot pace, upping his record to a perfect 10-0 yesterday. The only other undefeated team is Heather's Adam Norget (11-0).

Also suffering their first losses of the bonspiel were James Kirkness of Fort Rouge and Valour Road's Craig Strand. Kirkness, however, already has a Select spot while Norget is ineligible to get one because two of his teammates are not old enough.

Earlier, Strand had eliminated Wildewood's two-time Manitoba champion John Bubbs 6-2 while Kirkness bounced St. Vital's Bill Kuran 7-6.

Meanwhile, both St. Vital's Dave Smith, who has gone on a tear since an early loss, and Valour Road's Arnold Asham managed to stay alive.

BITERS: Bonspiel HQ relates that there have been more than 100 defaults to date and those are just the ones that actually reported them to warn their opposition. Last year, there were far fewer no-shows when a Select spot was awarded to the victor of the minor-event winners playoff ... The La Salle Curling Club will host a national sendoff for Manitoba junior women's champion Calleen Neufeld on Saturday.


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