City 'spiel tradition for curling pals

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:37 AM ET

For Don Osborne and his teammates, the City of Ottawa International Bonspiel is more than a curling event. It's more like a reunion.

One that has taken place for the past 25 years.

They started curling as a team in their younger days here in Ottawa, playing out of the RA Centre.

But Osborne got a job at the Royal Bank in Toronto in 1983, and teammate Don Gardner also moved to the Big Smoke for work in high tech.

They and teammates Tom Molnar and Derrick Hockley, who both live in Ottawa, have kept in contact over the years by phone and the Internet.

But they've always taken the time to reunite at the City 'spiel.

"For us, it's a good excuse to get together," said Osborne.

They started in 1980 when Osborne was 18, the first year he was eligible to compete in the bonspiel, and back in the days when they used to use those old corn brooms.

It didn't begin well.

Gardner likes to tell the story of the night Osborne's car wouldn't start in the parking lot outside of the old curling rink at Lansdowne Park, during their first City of Ottawa tournament.

SNOW WOES

"It was a dead battery," said Gardner, "There was a snowstorm, and we had to wait until two in the morning before we got it started, and we had a game the next morning at eight."

Despite the first-year difficulty, their love of the City 'spiel has endured, and so has the friendship.

Osborne served as an usher at Gardner's wedding. And the four men try to get to the spiel every year.

They've needed to find spares a few times over the years because of injuries, illness or work commitments.

But they make every effort to get back to the event, even when most of them haven't been close to a curling rink all year.

Only Osborne had thrown a rock this year before this bonspiel began.

They're breaking from tradition at this event.

Usually, they would attend the bonspiel's annual banquet, which was held last night.

But last night, they decided to order some Chinese food and play cards.

"We're good friends," said Gardner.

"This is something we look forward to all year."

The tournament continues today at various curling rinks across the city.

The Grand Aggregate championship goes tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. at the Ottawa Curling Club on O'Connor St.

barre.campbell@ott.sunpub.com


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