T.O. bonspiel an oldie and a goody

GEORGE KARRYS, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:41 AM ET

TORONTO - What Canadian sport trophy is older than the Stanley Cup and the Grey Cup and never leaves Toronto?

The Toronto men’s curling bonspiel trophy, of course.

“It’s not as old as the Queen’s Plate,” said Bill Baker, past president of the Toronto Curling Association who is celebrating his 10th year at the helm of the venerable event. “But we’re getting there.”

The 116th edition is called the Goldline TCA Men’s Bonspiel, and it features nearly 300 teams representing some 24 clubs competing for a week in three categories: Open, Seniors and Senators.

The tournament draw — which requires some kind of mathematical degree to create — is split into east and west teams, which “cross over” to opposite ends of the city on the opening Saturday.

“Of course we got hit with 15 centimeters of snow,” Baker said with a chuckle.

“Of course.”

As any longtime participant will confirm, the tournament pits Metro curlers in an annual battle with Toronto’s worsening traffic chaos.

Why spend millions on road studies when you can just ask a GTA curler?

This week, teams are largely competing in their own districts up to this weekend’s championship finale, which takes place at Hogtown’s historic High Park Club. Whereupon organizers will have prepared parking passes, just so the competitors can find a place to park.

The first single-team championship saw teams play marathon 22-end games on natural ice ... with straw brooms. The only good news was that players couldn’t sweep stones until they reached the middle line. In 1906, Canada Life became the title sponsor, a partnership which lasted no less than 80 years.

High Park is celebrating its 100th anniversary and will showcase the Open semifinals at 10:30 a.m. and the finals at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. Next year’s host, the Scarboro Golf Club, will also celebrating its centenary.

And what of Baker’s team? Like any good curling volunteer, the boss is also throwing stones this week ... but his foursome didn’t have a particularly good opening day.

“I’m in the third event in the Seniors,” Baker admitted. “And after 10 years of running this thing, my wife wishes I was better at succession planning.”

BROOM BITS

A whopping eight Ontario teams will compete in the 18-team $100,000 BDO Canadian Open Jan. 26-30 in Oshawa, the third event in the Capital One Grand Slam of Curling series. In addition to Glenn Howard and the injured Wayne Middaugh, the field features John Epping (Toronto Donalda), Mark Kean (Ajax Annandale), Peter Corner (Brampton), Bradford’s Dale Matchett, Mark Bice of Sarnia and Jake Higgs of Harriston ... Of the eight teams listed above, only Middaugh and Higgs have yet to qualify for The Dominion Tankard (Ontario men’s championship) at Grimsby in February ... Toronto’s Greg Balson will skip another Tankard entry, but his team represents a bizarre curling facility located some 60 km north of Kingston. The “Loonie Curling Club” is actually a single sheet of curling ice located in a private residence, which received official sanction in 2008 ... The Ontario women’s championship starts Jan. 24 in Thornhill and features Georgetown’s Alison Goring, Ottawa’s Rachel Homan and Thunder Bay’s Krista McCarville among others ... Michael Bryson’s Ajax team was leading the Ontario junior men’s final 4-1 before they fell 7-5 to Ottawa’s Mat Camm.


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