Tournament of Hearts fills its posts early

STEVE GREEN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 12:07 PM ET

Once again, the London area is showing its volunteer colours.

The 2006 Scott Tournament of Hearts is 3 1/2 months away and the needed 550 volunteers have already been signed up for their minimum 20 hours.

"That's amazing, especially when Halifax doesn't have all theirs yet and the (Olympic) trials are only three weeks away," said Ann Lapchinski of St. Thomas, the Hearts volunteer and special events committee chairperson. "We're very happy that the community has come through again."

And it's not just Southwestern Ontario. Lapchinski said there will be volunteers from Newfoundland to Alberta coming to London, with one woman from Manitoba taking care of the daily Heart Chart tournament newspaper.

The volunteers pay $80 for the privilege, in return getting a uniform plus souvenir pins and parties. Lapchinski said the main task now is scheduling.

Among volunteer duties are selling programs and souvenirs, providing security, staffing special events such as the pro-am and the two-sheet outdoor rink at Covent Garden Market, working at the Heartstop Lounge at the convention centre and the media bench at the John Labatt Centre, driving the teams (the coveted 12 positions were allotted by a draw), collecting team e-mails, maintaining the locker rooms, carrying the provincial flags to open each draw and working as timers, statisticians and on-ice observers.

Coming as the Hearts does on the heels of last May's Memorial Cup and the 2001 Canada Summer Games, Lapchinski was worried about volunteer burnout.

"We got a lot of them before the curling clubs closed in the spring, but we were sitting around 350, 400 all summer," Lapchinski said. "But as soon as fall came, the numbers took off again."

Lapchinski said not everyone is cut out to be a volunteer at an event like this.

"You need to be eager and pleasant. You may be asked a question for the hundredth time, but you've got to be prepared to smile and answer that question the hundredth time.

"People are spending a lot of money to come here, so we want to keep the guests happy. As (host committee chairperson) Peter (Inch) says, we want to give them a 'wow' experience."

With the volunteers in place, Lapchinski will now turn most of her attention to the other aspect of her portfolio -- special events. Those include all the ceremonies, banquets, the Sandra Schmirler Foundation and Heartfeat activities such as a pro-am, a junior stars program matching 12 juniors from the region with the competing teams, and a Closest to the Heart shootout fundraiser that starts at the local curling clubs and culminates with a final at the JLC.

Hearts mini-packs on sale

Four ticket mini-packages for the Hearts are on sale.

The $60 Hearts Starter package covers the opening weekend Feb. 25 and 26, including the For Hot Shots skills competition, opening ceremonies and five draws.

For $80, the Early Rider package covers the morning and afternoon draws Feb. 27 to March 1, while the Late Show package, worth $40, covers the night draws on the same days.

The $120 Champions package covers the three round-robin draws March 2, any tiebreakers, the Page playoff games March 3, the semifinal March 4 and the final March 5.

Each package also covers admission to the Heartstop Lounge. Mini-packs can be purchased by calling toll free at 1-866-488-1012, online at www.johnlabattcentre.com, or at the JLC box office.

Around the house

Kirk Ziola of Ilderton and his rink of Darcy Tomchick, Jake Higgs and Kevin Ackerman needed an extra end to beat Jim Lyle of St. Thomas 10-7 in the Grandview Chain and Cable Cashspiel final in Brantford. Ziola won $2,100, Lyle $1,500. Both had qualified out of the A flight . . . Ron Mooibroek of the host club beat Andre Fairfull of Guelph 8-3 in the men's final at the Listowel Cashspiel, earning $2,700. In the women's final, former U.S. champ Patti Lank of Niagara Falls, N.Y., beat Elaine Voisin of K-W Granite to win $1,400.


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