TORONTO - Wayne Middaugh, the Toronto curling legend, is in the midst of a career revival.
After snubbing Ontario playdowns and a few tour events over the last couple of years, the veteran is now travelling more and winning more, and has targeted a return to the Ontario men's championship, aka The Dominion Tankard in Grimsby next month.
Middaugh even reunited with old teammate and current rival Glenn Howard to win the Canada Cup title in early December. But the Victoria Harbour resident was handed a setback just before Christmas, when his team was unceremoniously dumped out of the Ontario zone playdowns in Toronto.
That was one unlucky break. Now, the veteran has suffered three more. Middaugh is nursing three fractures in his wrist and hand following a snowboarding tumble on Dec. 28. And with two critical events just days away, his entire "comeback" season is at risk.
"I was snowboarding with my kids and I turned around to see where they were, and caught an edge," Middaugh explained. "I put my hand down to break my fall and boom... and I knew that didn't feel quite right."
Middaugh had his initial cast replaced on Tuesday morning. "I asked them to leave my fingers free," said Middaugh. "They say I might be able to hold a brush soon. We'll know more in a week. I couldn't curl tomorrow, let's put it that way."
Snowboarding is just one of the activities Middaugh and his two young daughters engage in, particularly when wife Sherry is away competing with her women's curling team.
"We've been snowboarding for four years, but this is my first injury," said Middaugh. "Just another day in our busy household."
Middaugh's Toronto St. George's foursome is due to hit the ice Jan. 21 in Oshawa for the East Challenge Round, the last-gasp chance to qualify for the provincial. The intense weekend shootout wraps up — with only one winner — on Jan. 24 and even if Middaugh is cleared to compete, he won't be able to actually use his brush.
"I could be playing eight games out there, if we make it to the Monday, so I won't be sweeping," said Middaugh. "If the boys need a roll behind a guard they're on their own, I can't help 'em."
Middaugh would also struggle if his fingers were unable to grip his brush during his curling slide. Somewhat surprisingly, one of the best curling deliveries in the sport's history is rather dependent on the brush.
"I use (the brush) for balance," said Middaugh. "It's not that I lean on it that much, but I use it for balance, that's what's comfortable for me."
Two days after the Challenge Round ends, Middaugh is slated to appear again in Oshawa, this time under the bright lights at the General Motors Centre. His squad is competing in the third Capital One Grand Slam event of the season, the BDO Canadian Open, against some of the top men's squads in the world.
Critics might suggest that Team Middaugh could have avoided the last-chance route entirely had they not lost the zone finals before the holidays. One win against either High Park's Roy Arndt or CBC commentator Mike Harris would have qualified them for the regionals, which happen take place this coming weekend, in Uxbridge.
Either way, Middaugh was facing a "challenge" to get to Grimsby. Middaugh also has a thought or two for armchair pundits who point fingers at his zone performance.
"It's true we didn't play well," said Middaugh. "But we lost to good teams. I'd like to see Roy Arndt and Mike play more on the tour, and qualify for the Slams. I'll bet they could do it."
George Karrys is: curlinguru.com