“It’s the biggest curling event in the province, and it’s coming to Parksville.”
The volunteers have been getting ready for months and the road here a long one for the competitors, but the anticipation is officially palpable.
The 2012 Canadian Direct Insurance BC Men’s Curling Championship, presented by Dundee Wealth and Save-on- Foods, takes over the old barn in Parksville this Wednesday through Sunday (Feb. 8-12 ), and not lost on the members of the host Parksville Curling Club is that there are four Island teams in the mix this year.
According to longtime local curler, event co-chair, and BC Mens’ chief umpire Mark Hoffman, there were two Island berths up for grabs back in mid-December in Campbell River at the Island Zone playdowns. Steve Waatainen and company out of Nanaimo finished first to advance and Victoria skip Jody Epp was second to grab the other spot.
The other two Island rinks are both from Victoria and are led by skips Neil Dangerfield and Jay Tuson who qualified out of the Open Zone playdowns — a 16-team triple knockout format held in Kelowna Jan. 13-15 for the final four berths in the BCs.
“It’s definitely a bonus,” Hoffman said of the strong Island presence, “especially having Steve Waatainen from Nanaimo, as (his team) will bring a lot of spectators in, and with three teams from Victoria I expect a good representation from the South Island as well.”
“It may be the most ever, I don’t know,” Hoffman answered when asked how the four Island teams stacks up to years past, “but it is more than usual, for sure.”
There is another Island connection as well. Well-known Royal City skip and former BC Men’s champ Jay Peachey and his rink make their return to the provincials after taking last year off. Jay’s brother Greg Peachey plays out of Qualicum Beach.
As chief umpire, Hoffman has the final say “in all matters on the cold side of the glass.”
This isn’t his first time as chief umpire at this event. Hoffman, who has competed in the BC Senior Mens (over 50) twice, oversaw the officiating at the BC Mens in Maple Ridge three years ago.
No stranger to the game, Hoffman threw his first rock 57 years ago back in the small Saskatchewan town of Lake Lenore.
“It’s a bit of work getting everybody ready and on the same page, but it’s well worth it — it’s the biggest curling event in the province (and) it’s very exciting,” he explained of the lead-up to this week’s provincial playdown, adding, “once the first rock is thrown most of my work is done, and then it’s just watching and observing and anticipating any potential problems — trying to stay ahead of the game.”
Hoffman trained his final seven volunteers Dec. 3 and spent over six hours teaching them “the basics of officiating pertaining to the hog line, to timing, and to observing.”
“The best example is rocks coming off the side-boards and disrupting rocks in the house, rocks in play,” he explained when asked for an example of what can go wrong out there.
There is an observer with a magnetic board keeping track of the rocks at all times.
All told there will be some 40 officials working the BCs, and in the big picture, Hoffman makes the point well over 100 volunteers have signed on to help make the big bonspiel one to remember.
As for the playing surface and what the teams coming here can expect, Hoffman said, “the ice here is nice and keen with a late finish with draw weight; lots of rocks in play with draws, freezes, tap backs … and of course lots of guards in play.
“It will be the best you’ve ever seen by far,” he said when asked what spectators can expect. “No offence to the ladies of course, but they just don’t throw a rock as hard as the men do.”
JUST THE STATS, MAN
PCC member Randy Hall brings 35 years curling experience to his position as chief statistician for the BC Mens.
This isn’t his first time as the head stats man — he was in the same role at the 2009 Scotties ladies provincials held at PCC.
“We mark every stone thrown, we watch every rock, and we grade it out of four,” he explained when asked for the skinny on the stats. “If they make the shot completely — if the skip is asking for a hit and a roll for instance, and he gets it, he will get the full four points. If he gets the hit and rolls partway behind cover but it’s still open he might get a two.”
For every draw there will be five statisticians sitting up in the bleachers watching their assigned games.
All told Hall has trained 15 statisticians for the bonspiel, and they will watch over all 45 scheduled games.
“We need to have people in place that know the game, for sure,” he said, then confirmed “we’re ready to go.”