Unique honour for one-sheet club

DOUG GRAHAM, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:40 AM ET

KINGSTON -- When the one-sheet Loonie Curling Club is represented at the Tankard curling championship playdowns next week, it will mark a unique first for the Ontario Curling Association.

The Greg Balsdon rink will carry the banner of the OCA's newest member-club at the Zone 4 competition in Marmora, Dec. 19-21.

The Loonie club, up and operating for its first year, is the only one-sheet curling club in the OCA jurisdiction.

Nestled in cottage country up by Chaffey's Lock, some 60 kilometres north of Kingston, the club is owned and operated by retired dairy farmer and curler Alex McKinney, a longtime member of the Cataraqui Golf and Country Club.

"It's the first (one-sheet club) I've ever heard of," said Doug Bakes, general manager of the OCA.

It wouldn't be a stretch for the Loonie curlers to reach the Ontario Tankard in Woodstock in February. The Balsdon rink has played in the provincial final three times.

"That would be really something to see the club represented (at the Tankard)," Bakes said.

"Maybe we could look at having the zone played at the Loonie club. We could start on Saturday and end on the following Monday," a joking Bakes added.

He is serious, however, when he says McKinney's club is good for the roaring game.

"I think it's a great curling story," he said. "I'm looking forward to getting up there to see it."

It's worth noting that the Balsdon rink has yet to set foot in the club. However, many competitive rinks do not regularly play out of their home clubs. The Balsdon rink has a standing invitation to throw rocks at the tiny club.

McKinney wasn't looking for publicity when he constructed the club.

He had hosted a one-day curling outing for 15 years on Benson Lake when the ice was thick enough for play.

With milder winter conditions the past few years, the outdoor bonspiel was harder to pull off. That's when McKinney, 70, decided to build his own one-sheeter, which is attached to his guest cabin.

"It's kind of crazy," he said. "It was always my dream to build a curling rink. I wanted to do it.

"I was curling when I was 10. I even wanted to build a curling club back in Brampton (his hometown). I was going to use a barn for it."

McKinney got to know Jason Boyce, who plays on the front end of the Balsdon rink, through their membership at Cataraqui.

Boyce's rink came up with the idea of using the Loonie Curling Club as its headquarters while out on a competitive curling campaign. The rink is playing for the right to represent Ontario at the Tim Hortons Brier in March in Calgary.

"There is no membership fees for them other than they pay the OCA fee," McKinney said.

McKinney hopes to have his Balsdon rink on the ice soon.

"They're so busy. They're curling all the time," he said.

The Loonie Curling Club became an official OCA member when the $85 affiliate fee was paid by the Balsdon rink.


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