Home Ice Advantage: Morinville Curling Team Gears Up for the Alberta Masters Championship

Above: From left: Jack Olson, Gary Kearns, Doug MacArthur, Keith Franklin, and Guy Meunier are set to compete in the Curling Alberta 2024 Kananaskis Nordic Spa Alberta Masters Championships from Wednesday, Feb. 28, until Sunday, Mar. 3. – Stephen Dafoe Photo

by Stephen Dafoe

The Curling Alberta 2024 Kananaskis Nordic Spa Alberta Masters Championships is coming to the Morinville Curling Club from Feb. 28 to Mar. 3, gathering 16 of the best over 60 curling teams for five days of competition.

A local group comprised of Lead Keith Franklin, Second Doug MacArthur, Third Gary Kearns, Skip Jack Olson, and alternate Guy Meunier are among the eight men’s teams competing.

Kearns, a Morinville Curling Club director, said hosting the event locally called for incorporating a local flavour. 

Although Meunier and Franklin play together regularly, the rest of the team’s seasoned curlers came together just before one of three provincial qualifiers in Lamont earlier this month.

“They were all high-calibre teams,” Kearns said of the nine teams who took to the ice in Lamont, noting the Morinville team lost their first two games, which dropped them to C. A third loss would mean they were out. “We did a slight shuffle after losing two, and the team just sort of gelled,” he said.

But after those initial two losses, they beat a team from Strathmore in their first C game, moving on to the semi-final only to win again. The Morinville crew defeated a team from Spruce Grove in the C final to earn a place in the Masters’ Championships.

Tough competition – top talent

The upcoming Masters event is a round-robin format, kicking off on Wednesday, Feb. 28, with a ladies’ draw in the afternoon, opening ceremonies in the evening, and a men’s draw. Thursday, Friday and Saturday will see two draws each day for men’s and women’s curling teams. The event will culminate with the top three men’s and ladies’ teams taking to playoffs on Sunday. The top men’s and ladies’ teams get a bye in their respective semi-finals. 

All the local team members have a wealth of experience in the sport. Gary Kearns is a longtime curler, past president of the Morinville Curling Club and current director. He was also instrumental in getting the Masters in Morinville. Skip Jack Olson started curling in Saskatoon and has been in the sport for 50 years, during which time he has served as Morinville Curling Club President twice. Lead Keith Franklin learned the game from his father and has curled for about 50 years, 30 of those in Morinville. In his 40th year as a member of the Morinville Curling Club, Doug MacArthur learned to curl as a teenager in 4H but gave it up until the early 1980s. Alternate Guy Meunier started curling in Junior High School and has spent 58 years curling in St. Albert and Morinville. Meunier, who was involved in the Morinville Curling Club’s early days, also taught Junior Curling during those days.

Despite a team made up of five curlers used to being the skip, the positions and shooting order for this crew break the norm a bit. Jack Olson is Skip and shoots the second stones. Doug MacArthur is second and shoots third stones. Gary Kearns is third but will shoot Skip’s stones. Keith Franklin is Lead and will, as the position implies, shoot lead stones. Guy Meunier, in addition to being alternate, will assist with coaching, strategy and debriefing after the games.

“Having a team of five skips, you have to put your ego in your wallet and say, ‘These are our new roles. We have to gell as a team,'” Kearns said, adding the current positions were not the original positions. “We mixed and matched, and we were pliable enough that we could do that.”

Despite the team’s ability to flip some team roles, Kearns knows they are going in as an underdog team. 

Still, confidence is high among the team members. 

Ahead of the competition, Skip Jack Olson said the team needs to get on a roll and take things one game at a time. “It’s a cliche, but if you can get one going and go again and again—to me, it’s all about getting on a go,” he said. “Don’t get down when you lose a game. Keep it close, and that’s when you get a roll.”

For Lead Keith Franklin, hitting the Masters was a little surreal. “It’s kind of scary on one point, but I’m excited at the other point,” Franklin said. “The competition is tough, and you’ve got to be on your game.”

Team Second Doug MacArthur is hopeful of the team’s chances. “I think we have a decent chance in this competition. I’d be thrilled to finish .500, at least. Win one more game than that, and you are in the three spots,” MacArthur said. “I like our chances. Maybe our odds improve because of home-ice advantage, and we know the ice a little bit.”

For Guy Meunier, who has curled in three Alberta Winter Games for seniors over 55, taking silver in Grand Prairie, there is an awareness of the calibre of teams hitting the ice in Morinville. “You’ve got to be alert. This is good competition here,” he said.

But above all, the men are looking to have fun with the competition, knowing they have a plan and the players to make it happen. 

Olson said a key component heading into the competition is the trust among the team. “We’re going to have fun. We’re going to enjoy the experience,” he said. “Like someone else said, enjoy your time there. You don’t know if it’ll ever come around again. Enjoy it. The experience will be good for the town, too.”

Tickets for the event are available online at 2024 Kananaskis Nordic Spa Masters Championship Tickets, Morinville | Eventbrite


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