'Blood, sweat and tears' went into win

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

SELKIRK -- The Lunch Box finally opened up.

Valour Road curler Randy Dutiaume, who dubbed himself the Lunch Box for his blue-collar approach here this week, had just watched his last rock clinch his first Manitoba title.

At last, he didn't have to low-key it anymore.

Raising his arms in the air, Dutiaume looked up at the ceiling of the Selkirk Rec Centre and let it all hang out.

Moments later, the guy who'd been driving around in his car listening to classical music to get himself ready for games all week proved he was the working man's champion, after all.

"Where's the beer?" Dutiaume asked in his first line to the assembled media, looking for something to wash down the biggest victory of his curling life.

What better way to celebrate, for a guy who embodies the spirit of curling in this province, than with the game's unofficial provincial beverage?

A 42-year-old who'd never even come close to qualifying for weekend play in several previous tries at the provincials, Dutiaume makes his living painting ice and selling ice scrapers and curling rocks.

When he wasn't doing that, he'd practise, often throwing stones all alone at Valour Road the last few years, picturing himself in the very position he was in yesterday.

All week, he refused to get ahead of himself, literally taking things one shot at a time.

So when he'd finally clinched an 8-5 win over 26-year-old Ryan Fry, it was as if the last few years flashed before his eyes as he turned them skyward.

"I was thinking, man, there's been tons of hard work, and lots of blood, sweat and tears," Dutiaume said. "It's such an exhilarating feeling. It's been a great month. The run has been absolutely unbelievable."

By now you may have heard the Dutiaume story: how he put this team together just days before the MCA Bonspiel, won 16 straight games to get here, then rolled through the competition, winning seven of eight.

It all started when he added former provincial champs Dave Elias as third and lead Shane Kilgallen.

"It was like, holy moly, these guys can actually make some shots," Dutiaume said.

"So our strategy started changing."

Suddenly, falling behind, as Dutiaume did in yesterday's final, giving up a steal of three in the second end, wasn't a big deal.

"That's just how we've been playing," Dutiaume said. "We've been down before, so we know we can come back."

And when the pressure started getting to Fry, Dutiaume and Co. pounced, stealing five straight points to put their names in the history books.

"This is what he's dreamed about since the first time I played with him," said second Greg Melnichuk, with Dutiaume for six years. "But this is not what his ultimate goal is."

No, Dutiaume himself admitted that in a rare moment Saturday, when he allowed himself to mention the Brier and even the world championship.

Yesterday, he was ready to take it further.

"Now I can be little bit more cocky with some of my answers," he began, looking ahead to the Canadian championship in Edmonton next month, where he'll square off with the likes of Alberta's Randy Ferbey and Wayne Middaugh of Ontario.

As a stay-in-Manitoba curler, Dutiaume has never faced those two, let alone beat them. But he figures he's done something just as impressive, beating a field here that included former world champs Jeff Stoughton and Kerry Burtnyk.

"Our chances are just as good as anybody else's," Dutiaume said. "We'll take on all comers. That's what we do. I don't back down from any challenges."

The Lunch Box was wide open, now, and spilling its contents all over the place.

That's all right. We'll just pack it up again and send it to Edmonton.

First things first, though.

Get a beer into it.


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