Superfan hits 41st Brier

PATRICK MALONEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:38 PM ET

LONDON, Ont. -- Imagine a curling fan straight out of central casting, and this guy might be it.

He's 79 years old and spry, decked out in a white cowboy hat and a windbreaker bearing a button reading: "All curlers go to heaven cause there ain't no ice in hell."

He's quiet and mild-mannered, humble and polite.

And he has the kind of name the sports world rarely produces anymore -- Curly Walz, a sobriquet that by itself makes him memorable.

But even if he was Joe Blow, he'd be well-known by now in curling circles. That's what attending more than 30 consecutive Briers will get you.

"I haven't missed one since 1979," said Walz, who's visiting London this week from his home outside of Calgary.

"Once you get going and meet so many people ... I guess you get a bug about it."

Though his pals on the big-league curling circuit joke he's an old oil baron, Walz says he was a powerline worker, born in Saskatchewan and raised in Manitoba.

He picked up curling once he moved to Alberta, during the early 1950s. And he tells the story that's repeated so often at the 2011 Brier -- once you're into the sport, there's no getting out.

Walz says his first Brier was 1961, in Calgary, and London marks his 41st overall.

The event has changed dramatically over the years, from a relatively sleepy bonspiel to a TV juggernaut that puts down roots annually in major Canadian cities.

His favourite, though, was in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont., in 1962. His memories focus on homespun details, like the food given to fans and the volunteers who drove them around.

That kind of treatment is long gone.

But in Halifax last year, the 40th Brier Walz had attended, he tried to re-create a bit of it.

To mark the milestone, he rented a bar near the arena and invited 40 or 50 people he has met over the years to eat, drink and party on his tab. A good way to celebrate, even if the bill got pretty big.

"I can afford it, so I do it," he said.

His dedication isn't exclusive to the Brier, either.

Next month in Regina, he'll attend his 35th world championship. Last year, it was off to Italy for that event.

"I enjoyed it," he said of going to big-league bonspiels. "So you just continue."

The pace is laid-back. The joys are simple.

"To see all your friends, together again," he said.


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