It almost sounds like a verse in a Glen Campbell song.
Just before his very first return to the ice since pulling away from competitive men’s curling back in November, Kerry Burtnyk’s flight from Phoenix was due to land in Winnipeg — an hour before his inaugural senior men’s city zone playdown match versus Fort Garry’s Barry Campbell.
“The game started at six and I landed in Winnipeg just after five in a snowstorm,” the Assiniboine Memorial skip recalled Monday. “But my wife (Patti) got me to the West Kildonan Curling Club just before the game started. I was literally trudging through the snow with my sandals on and I didn’t even throw any practice rocks.”
Burtnyk, the No. 1 seed for the zones, lost that match on last rock but his reunited foursome of third Jeff Ryan and second Keith Fenton — who won the 1995 world crown with Burtnyk — and Scott Grant did not lose another one. So, Burtnyk earned a berth into his first senior men’s provincial championship that starts at the Heather Curling Club on Thursday.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Burtnyk said. “It should be a lot of fun playing with the guys again and we’re going to have a good time.”
Actually, Burtnyk had given no thought to curling competitively at all this winter — until Ryan suggested it.
“Jeff and I were joking around about coming out of retirement,” he said. “I said I wasn’t going to come out of retirement unless he was going to play — and he hasn’t played for six or seven years. But he called my bluff, I guess.”
And now, Burtnyk will be playing against the likes of Baldur’s defending champion Rob Ramage, Granite’s Bob Sigurdson — with Peter Nicholls at third — and Ron Westcott of Fort Rouge.
“We will have our work cut out for us the first few games since we haven’t played since we won our zone in November,” Burtnyk said. But Burtnyk is one of those rare birds who does not need much practice to return to top form.
The winner of Monday’s final will represent Manitoba at the national senior men’s and women’s championships being held in Digby, N.S., March 19-26.
ROSSER AT SENIORS: Brandon’s Joyce McDougall will attempt to defend her title at the senior women’s provincial championship, which will also be held at the Heather. The 12-team field will include Karen Rosser, the all-star skip at the Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts playing with a senior squad out of Grand Marais, and Brandon’s Lois Fowler. The final will be held Sunday with the winner heading to Digby.
BITER: The Charleswood Curling Club will host a sendoff for Jeff Stoughton’s Brier-bound team this Friday at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free but donations to the club’s junior program are encouraged. Garth Smith, by the way, will be Stoughton’s fifth.