It was one year ago, almost to the day, that Randy Dutiaume and his teammates played their first game together, kick-starting a magical run that ended in the semifinal of the Brier.
It was opening day at the MCA Bonspiel and Dutiaume, Dave Elias, Greg Melnichuk and Shane Kilgallen were operating as what curlers call a throw-together team.
Little did they know, a month later they'd be Manitoba champions, heading into the national championships with the Buffalo on their backs and a remarkable season record of 23-2.
Fast forward to 2006 and Dutiaume's Valour Road foursome is itching to conjure up some more wizardry.
"Hopefully we can rekindle some magic," Dutiaume said yesterday at Elmwood Curling Club during opening ceremonies for the 118th annual MCA Bonspiel.
"We're hoping the same thing happens this year."
Dutiaume's team lost only one game last year while capturing the MCA's grand aggregate title. That's no small accomplishment in itself, but it's what the team did after the bonspiel that most people remember.
"When you slap a team together for the MCA, you just want to sort of get on a roll," said Dutiaume, who opened the bonspiel with a blowout victory over Pembina's Kelly Lauber. "And what we did was amazing. There's only a few teams that actually win the grand aggie and that's something I'm pretty proud of. To go on and win the (Safeway Select) ... who could have predicted that?"
Needs a boost
The Dutiaume foursome actually needs a bit of a boost right now. They have struggled so far this year and have had some chemistry issues. But Dutiaume believes the season starts now.
"I've had a number of discussions with previous Brier and world champions and every team goes through issues," Dutiaume said. "We put our team together last year and all we knew was winning. This year we've had some ups and downs and it has made us a stronger team."
Dutiaume's is just one of 441 teams in this year's bonspiel, which began with two draws at clubs across the city last night. Unlike most of the teams, he doesn't need to be successful this week, as he already has a berth in the Select as defending champion.
But while so many teams are chasing the final five Select berths, Dutiaume is playing for the love of the game in an event he would not want to miss.
"I've been in about a billion of these MCAs and I always look forward to playing in them," he said.
No matter what happens this week, Dutiaume says his team will benefit from the practice.
"It's like any sport," he said. "If you are hitting balls every day or you are shooting a puck every day, it just becomes second nature. So we want to throw well and get into a groove like where things were last year."
And Dutiaume, who made a name for himself at the Select and Brier as a quote machine, says he's ready for a new challenge in that department as well.
"I've got my lines all warmed up," he said. "Ask me something goofy and I'll give you something goofy."
PEBBLES: Former Winnipegger Dave Nedohin, who throws fourth for world champion Randy Ferbey of Edmonton, will skip the upcoming Canada Cup to be with his father Neill, who is slated for cancer surgery later this month.