Burtnyk taking step back

JIM BENDER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

It will come as no surprise that one of the greatest curlers in history will take a step back from the intense competitive scene.

"I've told my team that I'm definitely not going to commit the time to play on the Tour," Kerry Burtnyk confirmed Tuesday. "I may not even play at all."

Arguably one of the four best Manitoba curlers in local lore, Burtnyk did leave the door open to play for fun, enter the MCA Bonspiel or even play seniors some time. But the two-time Brier champ will no longer pursue getting back to the Brier or chase the Olympic dream.

"My kids are getting more interested in curling and I want to spend some time with them," said Burtnyk, 51. "And I want to go on a winter vacation while I can still enjoy it."

The decision came after Burtnyk finished third at this year's Safeway Championship, with only Jeff Stoughton, the eventual winner, and Mike McEwen finishing ahead of him among the 32 teams there.

"In a lot of ways, I was happy with the way I played at the provincials and that allowed me to finish my competitive career still playing pretty good," he said. "Not that I'll never play in a provincial again.

"(But) I'm ready to move on to the next thing."

Burtnyk had returned from a one-year hiatus a few years ago to take one last shot at getting to the Winter Olympics. Although he did win his fifth Manitoba title in 2008 (only Stoughton has won more), he lost out at the Canadian Curling Pre-trials in Prince George, B.C. to Manitoba's promising young Jason Gunnlaugson.

"That definitely hurt, especially because of the way we lost -- on a burned rock," Burtnyk admitted. "But it was nowhere as disappointing as losing the trials final."

Burtnyk, who had just overcome surgery to remove a cancerous lump from his scalp, lost the 2001 Canadian Curling Trials final to Alberta's Kevin Martin, who would win Olympic silver in 2002.

"That took quite awhile to get over because, in my mind, it was the biggest curling game we ever played in and, to be so close and not close enough was really difficult," said Burtnyk, who lost that match on Martin's last-rock draw. "If we would have won, that would have been the highlight of my career."

Yet, the lowlight of his brilliant career came in December, 1994.

"We had had a difficult start to our year and had lost out in the zones and, at times, I had no idea if I could make my shots because I had lost my confidence," Burtnyk recalled. "I told (third) Jeff (Ryan) that he should skip after Christmas. But my guys rallied around me and the next thing you know, we won the Worlds (1995). I went from the bottom of the curling heap to the top."

Second Rob Meakin and lead Keith Fenton were the other two to rally around him. They did not make it back to the Brier until 2001 where they lost the final to Alberta's Randy Ferbey.

By the way, the only other Manitobans you can mention in the same breath as Burtnyk are Stoughton, Ken Watson (who still holds the provincial record with three Brier titles) and Donnie Duguid (two world crowns).

Always a class act, the outspoken Burtnyk was also a major force behind making changes to develop the game for the better. He will be missed both on and off the ice.

MASTERS SEEDS: St. Vital's Elaine Jones has been named the No. 1 seed for Masters women's provincial playdowns to be played at the St. Vital Curling Club this Thursday through Monday. Rounding out the top five, in order, are: Heather's Gwen Smith, Selkirk's Marg Streich, Assiniboine Memorial's Pat Gould and Minnedosa's Evelynn Clegg.

Ron Westcott of Fort Rouge has been deemed the top seed for the Master's men's provincials, which will be played at the Fort Rouge Curling Club, March 11-15. Rounding out the top five seeds, in order, are: Minnedosa's Ray Orr, Ken Davis of Souris, Fort Rouge's Reg Malanchuk and Pembina's Les Hooper.

COMING UP: The Mixed city zone playdowns will be held at the Elmwood Curling Club this weekend ... The Manitoba High School Curling Championships will be held at the Winkler Curling Club this Thursday through Saturday. Both the boys and girls finals will be played Saturday at 3 p.m.


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