Thurston welcomes diversion

STEVE GREEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:02 AM ET

He hasn't won a game at the Ontario men's curling championship, but you won't hear Rick Thurston moaning about it.

There's enough to worry about in the real world.

Like every other player at the TSC Tankard, Thurston has a day job -- in his case, president of Windsor Factory Supply, an industrial distrubutor.

And with the manufacturing sector in Canada -- and Ontario in particular -- Thurston is one of many feeling the economic pinch.

"We're down for sure," he said between draws yesterday. "Automotive runs the province. The way we look at it, the patient is sick, the patient requires medicine and the medicine doesn't always taste good.

"Our goal is to get our whole group (of employees) through this and hope for better things in 2010."

So playing in his first provincial men's is, as he put it, a "welcome diversion."

"We get to get out of the real world where it's a little dismal and into where you get pampered and complimented for being here," said the Kingsville native and Western grad. "It took me 25 years to get here and I just wanted to enjoy the experience, step on the ice and make as many good shots as possible."

Thurston said the approach to business is not unlike that for curling.

"You make plans, you go out and try to execute them and if things don't work, you make changes."

Thurston finishes his round-robin Friday against three-time defending champion Glenn Howard. The two met in the 1983 Ontario university semifinals, with Howard's Waterloo team prevailing over Thurston.

"It's clear his curling career and mine took different paths," Thurston said, chuckling. "But Glenn's one of the true gentlemen of the sport. I'm cheering for him, well, except for one game, anyway."

Howard may be one of those few who doesn't have to worry about a downturn in his job -- he manages a Beer Store in Midland. He's won about $130,000 on the World Curling Tour this year -- the rest of the Tankard field put together has raked in about 38 grand -- but he's also keenly aware of what a bad economy could mean for the game at the highest echelons.

"We're not playing for enough money to make a living," he said. "And we need our very, very valuable sponsors. If it wasn't for the four we have -- JVC, Dominion of Canada, Hartwell Electric and Balance Plus -- we wouldn't be able to travel anywhere near as much as we do.

"The good news (for the tour) is that Capital One, from what I've heard, is in for the long haul and that they're very pleased with curling. And we can't do what we do and we can't have the events we do without sponsors like that."

That goes for this event as well. TSC Stores' contract with the Ontario Curling Association expires after this year and OCA executive director Doug Bakes said the two parties will discuss the future Friday.

"We're in negotiations for another couple of years," he said. "We're cautiously optimistic, but they're a firm that keeps a close eye on what's happening in the economy. Everyone is."

Especially in the financial markets, which is where Peter and Jeff Steski are focusing their attention. As well as being brothers and teammates, they're also financial advisers. So naturally, they're getting a lot of questions.

"You have to take it in stride," Peter said. "It has been an emotional time for a lot of people and there are going to be ups and downs. Last year in the fall was very difficult."

And then the infamous Peter Steski wit emerges.

"Being here doesn't help -- there's no stock channel in the hotel."

SKIPS' DAY JOBS

Bryan Cochrane: Principal, Russell high school

Peter Corner: Sergeant, Halton Regional police

Joe Frans: Turf manager, Calerin and Acton golf clubs

Chris Gardner: Administrative assistant, Grandor Lumber, Ottawa

Mike Harris -- CBC commentator; golf pro, Donalda Golf and Curling Club, Toronto

Jake Higgs: Banker, CIBC, Hyde Park

Glenn Howard: Beer Store manager, Midland

Rob Lobel: Customer service, JAMAC Sales (construction supplies)

Peter Steski: Financial adviser, Raymond James

Rick Thurston: President, Windsor Factory Supply, Mississauga


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