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.
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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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