LLOYDMINSTER, ALTA. - He’s sat for two hours at an autograph session at the Co-op on the Alberta side of the border and the people kept coming.
“It was fantastic,” said Scott Manners.
“I grew up in that grocery store.
“That’s where we shopped.
“Now I’m sitting there signing autographs.
“I dreamed of one day playing in the Brier but never dreamed I’d be signing autographs in the Co-op.”
The 39-year-old skip, who seemingly has gone from being Bad Manners to Good Manners, came out of nowhere to win Saskatchewan, has been celebrated by members of his Alberta curling club — a club located on the Saskatchewan side of the border but affiliated with the Northern Alberta Curling Association.
“There had to be over a hundred members there — 10 tables on one side and five on the other and about 10 curlers to a table,” he enthused.
Manners was honoured by the Rendell Park Elementary School, on the Alberta side of the border, and then took all the kids curling on the Saskatchewan side.
“I’ve worked teaching kids curling for years but they made it a very special day.”
On Saturday, Manners drove to Saskatoon where he and his team were featured for ceremonial face-off duties for a Saskatoon Blades game.
“Being out there on the ice where we’re going to play the Brier gave us great vibes of what it’s going to be like there. They put on a great autograph session for us, too,” he added.
Finally here Thursday, Manners put his 780 area code cell phone in his pocket, picked up second Ryan Deis, who lives on the Alberta side of the border, and drove his Ford S-350 King Ranch truck with Saskatchewan licence plates across the meridian and down the Yellowhead to Saskatoon to represent Saskatchewan at the Brier.
Manners, 39, and his team of Tyler Lang, 23, Deis, 27, and Mike Armstrong, 22, are the feel-good story of the year in the sport as they head to the 87th Brier.
They’re a throwback story to the butcher, baker and candlestick-maker days when four guys could get together at the start of the season to try get to the grand national rock concert and actually make it there.
When Manners won Saskatchewan, nobody in curling’s heartland province, where two-sheeters still exist in small towns from border to border, had a clue who he was.
The Regina Leader-Post did a search and couldn’t find his name ever printed in the paper. The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix found one previous mention in their files.
Manners — a true-green, live-and-die-with-the-Roughriders, Saskatchewan-side-of-the-border stubble-jumping wheat farmer — had been curling out of Alberta.
“You know what it’s like in Lloydminster. The place is kind of crazy that way,” said the skip.
Because of that strange situation and because two members of the team are attending the University of Saskatchewan, they decided to split the mileage for practice purposes and choose the Battlefords Curling Club as their home club. But next to nobody had heard of them there, either.
Manners started curling seriously when he was 15 and won the ACAC championship representing Lakeland College out of Vermilion.
“After that, it was just a whole lot of trying,” he said.
“I went to Northerns with Ron Nattress and my dad in 1994 at the Granite in Edmonton and didn’t do bad. We lost to Rob Schlender in the B Event semifinal that year.
“I spent most of the years hooking up with Warren Hassall out of Lloydminster, Dale Swyripa out of Kittscoty or Aaron Bartling out of Edmonton, and curled out of the Edmonton Super League in 1999 with Jamie King.
Once he subbed as Randy Ferbey.
“In 2004 or 2005, I played one game with Dave Nedohin and Scott Pfeifer in the Super League when they were really cooking and winning all those Briers and world championships with Ferbey.”
Manners, playing third for Hassall, made it to the Alberta provincials two years ago in Olds where he lost a B Event qualifier to Ferbey.
You could write that Manners never believed he’d ever make it to a Brier. But there’s a man here who can testify otherwise, and did, when the Lloydminster Curling Club held a special evening for him.
When Manners was a young man when he met Glenn Carroll from the mayor’s office and in the course of conversation innocently told him he was going to curl in the Brier one day.
“It was 18 years ago,” Carroll recalled Thursday.
“We were just shooting the breeze about stuff and I remember it word for word. He said ‘Someday I’m going to take a team to the Brier. You can count on that.’
“We’re pretty proud of him.”
Two-thirds of the population of Lloydminster lives on the Alberta side of the border. And for the next 10 days, a considerable percentage of the city of 24,023 will be cheering for Saskatchewan with a significant number of them headed to the Brier.
“The city has been fantastic,” said Manners, who farms an 1,800-acre spread with his father Bob about 10 kilometres southeast of town.
“It’s been so hectic we enlisted my sister Penny to deal with all the requests which have flooded our way,” he said of the gal normally employed as communications and marketing manager of the City of Lloydminster.
“It’s been a whirlwind. And we can’t wait to get to Saskatoon and savour every single second of this experience,” said the skip who opens Saturday against four guys from Prince Edward Island, three of whom have never been to a Brier before, either.
The Saskatchewan team is an interesting collection – a farmer, an accountant and two college kids.
Deis, while he lives on the Alberta side of the border now, is originally from Fox Creek in southern Saskatchewan. But he took his Tuesday night Lloydminster men’s league team to win Alberta and go to the Dominions in 2010 in Prince Edward Island, losing to Ontario in the semifinal.
This will be his third nationals. He won the University championships in 2006, curling with Steven Laycock out of the U of S, and went to the worlds in Turin, Italy.
“Kerry Leckie, my boss at the chartered accountant firm, joked that next year he expects me to go to the mixed representing Manitoba,” he said.
Lang and Armstrong represented Saskatchewan at the Canadian Juniors in Salmon Arm, B.C.
“I lived most of my life in Lloydminster, on the Alberta side, until I decided to go to the U of S looking for a biology degree,” said Armstrong.
“That’s where Tyler and I started curling together. Now we’re together on this roller coaster. Pretty amazing.
“It was pretty cool when we won Saskatchewan,” he said of stealing in the 10th end and again in the 11th to beat Bruce Korte.
“We didn’t do well in any of the bonspiels during the year.”
Lang is the only member of the team with no Alberta connection. He’s homegrown Saskatoon.
The arts and sciences student said he’s enjoyed the buildup to the Brier as much as his Lloydminster mates. But he said he has trouble convincing people of one thing.
“We set out at the start of the year to get to the Brier. We really did,” said Lang of the team, which contacted Kay Montgomery to be their coach to help get them there.
“She lives a half hour out of the Battlefords. We’ve been friends for years. I asked her in the summer. Then we went to Amber Holland’s high performance camp and it went from there,” said Manners.
“I have good expectations of success,” she said.
“They’re totally refreshing new faces at the Brier and I think the people of Saskatchewan are going to come out and cheer for them. They have a lot of energy and a lot of spirit.”
They’re a fuzzy wuzzy, cuddly wuddly story now. But what if, by Monday night when they play Kevin Koe of Alberta, they’re 0-4?
Koe’s third, Pat Simmons, was skipping Saskatchewan the last time the Brier was in Saskatoon and managed to get off to that 0-4 start and was booed out of the building.
Hey, it’s been a long time since Saskatchewan won this thing. You have to go back to Rick Folk in 1980. Deis, Armstrong and Lang weren’t even born yet.
“I sense we’re going to have a big crowd to cheer us on. We’re going to be the guys out there with the green jackets on,” said Manners. “We’re going to be the home team. The people of Saskatchewan have embraced us. They want to know us. They want to meet us. They’re fans of curling and they’re making this real special.
“I know the province hasn’t seen a champion at the Brier in a long time. But I’m doing OK and I think we’re gonna do just fine. I have the same feeling I had before provincials.”
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