'Bocce on ice' hits Ottawa

JOE PAVIA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:44 AM ET

Once-a-year curlers are descending on Ottawa this Friday for the Frank Palumbo Montessori Bonspiel. The 150-curler, two-day event doesn't raise money, determine winners or qualify a team for anything else. The 'spiel is held so old and new friends can meet and have a good time.

A northern Ontario resident, the late Palumbo started the 'spiel 45 years ago near Sudbury. The event usually rotates between North Bay, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and Timmins, but is heading south for the first time.

About 30% of the participants are regular curlers; the rest curl once a year. They all share something in common: "Everybody is Italian for the weekend," said organizer Paul Sartori.

The 'spiel is inter-generational. Players include Sartori's 75-year-old father, and Sartori's son and nephew, who are in their early 20s. The board-format draw means more socializing.

"Most of these guys are great at bocce, an Italian lawn bowling game, so it's just like bocce on ice for them and they pick it up fast," said event chairman Mark Palumbo, the late founder's son.

Robert Chiarelli gives the keynote address at the formal banquet Saturday at the Ottawa Curling Club, after all participants return from mass that evening.

LOTS AT STAKE: Former Jenn Hanna teammate Dawn Askin, the Manitoba lead at the Scotties, sounded in great spirits. A Scotties championship or a Strauss Canada Cup crown or clinching the Tylenol Players Championship title guarantees a spot in the Olympic Trials. Despite playing with this much at stake, she has been more nervous recently. Her boyfriend, Winnipeg's Mike McEwen, fought through the Manitoba playdowns, losing in an extra-end semi-final. "I was a nervous wreck the morning of the semi-final," Askin said. While she played in the Scotties, Askin knew McEwen was in the heat of his own battle. "When I'm on the ice it's a nice break from the whole nervous wreck thing." Look for a Manitoba-Ontario final in Regina.

OCA RESULTS: Ottawa Tim Horton Provincial Masters last weekend saw Dick Stoddart end up at 4-4, Wally Morris 2-6, Bette Bush tied for second with 4-3, while Pat Brigham ended up at 2-5. Guelph's Pat Bothwell took the woman's crown, while Oakville's Phil Edmondson repeated as provincial winner. Winners in Tim Horton Colts and Trophy regional action: 1A -- Kevin Baker and Tracy Samaan; B -- Terry Scharf and Toni Rutland. In Gore school boy and girl competition, Nicol McNiven was runner-up and Chris Lewis lost a qualifier

CITY OF OTTAWA: Only four open and three senior section slots remain.

CURLING THIS WEEK: CBC airs the Scotties semi-final Saturday at 11:30 p.m., then the final Sunday at 12:30 p.m.. It's also the mixed zones weekend -- mixed, senior, junior and bantam.


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