The 2019 CanAm Cup of Curling Brew Review
Please find and open a beer before enjoying this article.
The camaraderie we developed during the inaugural CanAm Cup of Curling was special and we should never take it for granted. The degree of camaraderie grew as various groups visited local craft breweries during our time off the ice. We visited more Atlantic Canada breweries in two weeks than most of our opponents will see in the next four years. So, while we may not be the best shot makers, we are surely among the best shot drinkers.
With that said, grab a second beer and join us as we remember the breweries of the CanAm Cup.
We've managed to amass a modest amount of press on this trip, starting with team member J.D. Wise's home town paper, the Telluride Orbit!
We also received a couple write ups from PEI.
After Newfoundland, we headed back to the mainland for another couple games in Halifax. With thanks to the two other passengers who volunteered to be bumped from our flight back to Halifax ("due to weight issues," even though the flight was not oversold–maybe we overpacked?),we made it back without incident. We missed Barack Obama in St. John’s by a day, and later found we missed him in Halifax by a day. Clearly, he was following the tour!
We’re unexpectedly off this morning due to a storm knocking out power at CFB Halifax so a good chance to catch everyone up on the scores if you haven’t been following along on Bonspieler.com/canamcup. Here’s a snapshot of where we’re at to date.
It felt a little odd to be going back to the Halifax airport so soon after we arrived to Nova Scotia. However, we were all excited for the opportunity to visit our second province of the tour, Newfoundland and Labrador. St. John's is home to two curling clubs, as well as to winners of Olympic gold medals and Brier championships. It also sits in its own time zone, just half an hour ahead of Atlantic Time. As it was, some of us ran into Glen Howard in the airport as he and his team were traveling back home from the slam in Pictou County.
We had a bit of free time before our game, which gave us an opportunity to achieve various objectives, including scoping out some of the breweries in St. John's (which definitely holds its own in this regard).
One of our curlers had a different mission, the story of which is a pretty classic anecdote about the curling community. Our illustrious Vice Captain, Matt, was also on a mission to track down a hat featuring the logo of the local ECHL (minor league hockey) team, the Newfoundland Growlers. The helpful hotel receptionist suggested a store, but they were out of stock. The team store at the arena was closed to an impending visit by Barack Obama. He figured that in a small time, what better place to ask ask around than the curling club and work the curler network. All it took was an ask of Olympic Champion and St. John’s Council member Jamie Korab to find that the merchandise manager for the Growlers is a member of the Bally Haly curling club, where we played our second game of the tour that afternoon!
The Bally Haly club is a country club with wonderful facilities. As we approached, we saw golfers enjoying one of the last rounds of the year on a beautiful sunny afternoon. As we arrived at the club, we were welcomed by curlers forming a broom arch leading into their beautiful lobby. The locker rooms were paneled in dark wood, and the hallways were lined with artwork and plaques detailing the history of the club. And of course, Bally Haly is the home of Team Gushue, the 2017 Brier and World champions. The club is clearly very proud of the accomplishments of their members, as the club's four sheets are named after the members of this team. Fortunately for our scores (but unfortunately for this story), Team Gushue was away that weekend competing in a Slam event in Nova Scotia. Still, the teams at Bally Haly gave us all that we could handle, winning 3 out of 5 games. The sting of defeat was lessened by the graciousness of our hosts. We were also treated to viewing a portion of one of Canada's most incredible collections of curling pins, courtesy of Kev. At our banquet that evening, we enjoyed fish and chips along with the company of our fellow curlers including getting to wear Jamie Korab and Mike Adam’s Olympic gold medals.
The following day landed on Remembrance Day in Canada and Veterans Day in the United States. It was fitting we were in St. John’s as they are home to a national war memorial and as we walked for breakfast that morning, camera crews were out for coverage and everyone walking about was sporting their poppies. We headed to the ReMax Center, the home of the St. John's Curling Club, for our next game. The ice was lightning fast, and the talented Canadian teams won 4 of the 5 games. Lunch at the club included a number of local delicacies including fried bologna and fish & brewis. This was also when Jamie showed up with two boxes of Growlers hats, which by this point captivated most of the team and almost all of them were sold on the spot! It is now unofficially part of our team uniform!
After the game, we set off on a tour of St. John's, which included Quidi Vidi Village, site of a recent polar bear arrival; Government House; Signal Hill, site of the first transatlantic wireless communication; and a visit to the home of our tour guide, Larry Daly for an amazing display of Titanic artifacts and memorabilia. He works in logistics (and was key when our bus driver had the wrong time to take us back to the airport) and has worked with James Cameron on deep sea dives to the wreckage. Oh, and we got to hold a chunk of an iceberg which our guide keeps in his freezer! Icebergs are common sights in the waters of Newfoundland in the summer months, and they are harvested and use to provide water for use in local beer and other products.
But the highlight of the day was getting "screeched in" at Christian’s Pub in St. John's. Screech is a local spirit akin to "hooch," though these days its professionally distilled as rum. Our screech in was led by Chef Luke who presided over our gang of twenty, plus a few other visitors. Amazingly, he remembered everyone’s name as he went down the line. He taught us about how to talk like a Newfoundlander, about what makes Newfoundland so special, and about the fabled Screech rum. If you’ve seen Come From Away or Anthony Bourdain in Newfoundland, you’ve seen a screech in. Yes, we kissed the cod!
The next morning we headed to the airport. Some of us may have secretly been hoping that weather would force us to stay an extra day in St. John's (and perhaps to catch a glimpse of Barack Obama, who was scheduled to arrive that day), but after some small delays and a short flight, we were safely back in Halifax in time for an evening out on the town.
Halifax has a long history of ice sport, so it seems appropriate to kick off the Can-Am Cup of Curling in this fine city. The indigenous Mi’kmaq people brought us the hockey stick, and after the British kicked out the French and took over, they eventually brought curling to “New Scotland.”
For those not familiar with the Maritime and Atlantic provinces of Canada, think of Maine, and go farther east. There’s a whole bunch of land hanging over the edge of the United States. It’s the bill of America’s Hat. The Atlantic time zone is an hour ahead of Eastern time, and when we pop off to Newfoundland, we add and extra half hour. Located in St. Margaret’s Bay, the area has been a strategic entry point for European colonizers and has seen an outsized amount of tragedy which belies the friendliness of the locals and the beauty of the region.
Before our matches, we had a chance to visit some sites in the area. We went to Seaport Farmers Market, the oldest continually operated farmers market, dating back over 250 years! Filled with a variety of hand crafted items, local produce, and an amazing variety of food. Asian, African, Latin American, and of course, modern fusion like breakfast pizza. Also, local booze. Beer and spirits and plenty of samples at 10 a.m.! Once Matt and Adam broke the booze seal, everyone else lined up to try Big Spruce beer (try the oatmeal stout!) and Steinhart Distillery spirits (coffee maple vodka, ftw).
We then set off to Peggy’s Cove. A picturesque seaside town with a very Instagrammable lighthouse, the most photographed lighthouse in Canada to be specific. When I asked our Canadian hosts about interesting facts about Peggy’s Cove, the first thing they mentioned was the tragic crash of a Swissair flight in 1998 in which over 200 people perished when an electrical fire broke out in the entertainment system and the pilot was unable to safely land at the airport. This story was later shared by our bus driver as well. As story that clearly rests heavy with locals. Folks also emphasized safety on the rocks and the numbers of people swept out to sea each year. Later we learned that there is a Titanic graveyard in the area that memorializes the people who perished during that disaster and washed up onshore. Halifax is also the site of the largest artificial explosion before the development of nuclear weapons when a French cargo ship collided with a Belgian vessel, killing 2,000 people. So when I say this area has seen more than its fair share of tragedy, this is what we’re talking about.
Standing out on the rocks, looking into the bay on a crystal clear day, it is easy to see how Nova Scotians maintain their positive demeanor and friendliness. We ate at the Sou’Wester in Peggy’s Cove, a town our bus driver says only has 38 regular inhabitants (not counting the Summer tourism influx). Lobster rolls, fish and chips, and chowder were spot on for lunch before we headed out to the Halifax Curling Club.
Established in 1824, it is the 3rd oldest club in North America. As such, their four sheets are 1, 8, 2, and 4, which caused us some confusion during practice. But as Roger pointed out, Milwaukee does something similar. A classic curling club that feels like St. Paul or Granite (Seattle), but with a brand new roof courtesy of a heavy snow three years ago.
The practice was the first time any of us have played together as our teams, so it was nice to actually throw some rocks together to figure each other out. We played four games the first draw, so one team had to sit out. The results were one three point win, a draw, and two losses which unfortunately left us in a 16 point hole to start the event. We anticipate things will improve as the teams gel and we get used to the travel schedule.
After the matches we enjoyed our first banquet put on by our hosts. Each team sat with their opponents for traditional broomstacking. A dinner of shrimp and lobster chowder, with fish sandwiches and cupcakes for desert. We had an introduction and words from Hugh Avery, GM of the Halifax club, as well as Ron Hutton and John Shea of Curl Canada. Of course, of the the two folks who begat this whole endeavor, Peter Inch, was there to kick things off.
As recounted, Peter and former USCA Chair Rich Lepping met in Las Vegas at the Continental Cup and concocted this idea. They also jointly donated the amazing trophy we’re fighting for. Though we had to cut the evening a bit short due to the tour bus schedule, we enjoyed our time with the great folks at the Halifax Club before jaunting off to Newfoundland and Labrador for two days in St. John’s. Stay tuned to hear about that leg of the trip.
This is the space to stay updated with the CanAm 2019 Tour Team. We'll post updates leading up to the event, as well as dispatches from Eastern Canada from Nov 8 through Nov 24.
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