The last time Dean Joanisse skipped Team B.C. at the Tim Hortons Brier in 2007, he was the youngest guy on his rink by a mile.
The team dynamic is a little different this week at the Vernon Curling Club as he and a group of 20-somethings aim for a return to the national men’s curling championship.
Joanisse, an Abbotsford product who curls out of the Royal City club in New Westminster, met Vernon’s Jim Cotter in the Page playoff 1 vs 2 quarterfinal Saturday morning at the Canadian Direct Insurance B.C. Men’s Championships.
Vernon’s Mark Longworth and Royal City’s Brent Pierce battled in the other Saturday quarterfinal after taking the final two C Division qualifying spots.
Backed by third Paul Cseke, a Salmon Arm native, second Jay Wakefield and lead John Cullen, Joanisse bounced Kimberley’s Tom Buchy 8-6 in Friday afternoon’s B Final.
“There’s a lot that’s familiar, but it’s a whole brand new way with a new group,” said Joanisse, whose other Brier appearance was in 2001, also as skip.
“We have no one on our team that’s in their 30s, I’m 43, so it’s a complete flip flop.
“This team is committed to growing and learning and improving. It’s a pleasure to be a part of it.”
Joanisse, who runs an art studio called The Art of Curling – it features west coast scenic prints incorporating elements of curling – stopped Pierce 6-5 Thursday night, and followed that with a 7-6 clipping of Royal City’s Sean Geall Friday morning.
Buchy, who fell 5-3 to Cotter in the A Final Thursday night, rebounded with a 8-6 win over Longworth in the B semi Friday.
“I’ve been playing Mark Longworth for what, 30 years, and every time you’re in a tough battle,” said Buchy, who curled one year of junior in Vernon. “Classy guy and classy team and it came right down to the last rock.”
Longworth had a chance to remove Buchy’s final stone for the win, but couldn’t push it far enough.
“It (final shot) ended up in a good enough spot where he had to paper the guard to hit it right and it just hung on,” said Buchy.
Buchy, whose rink features Vernon product David Stephenson at third, and front enders Dave Toffolo and Darren Will, fell 8-3 to Pierce in a C Final.
Longworth grounded Kamloops’ Darren Nelson 6-5 for the other C Division berth, with the winner of Longworth vs Pierce facing the loser of Cotter vs Joanisse in a semifinal Saturday night.
The championship game goes today at 12:30 p.m. The winner will represent B.C. at the Tim Hortons Brier, starting Feb. 28, in Calgary.
Despite bowing out of the 16-team, triple-knockout spiel following a 7-4 loss to Kamloops’ Darren Nelson Thursday, Team Dangerfield third Denis Sutton graciously made time to reflect on his early playing days with Edmonton curling legend Hec Gervais, who died of a heart attack in 1997.
“They called him The Friendly Giant, but on the ice he wasn’t that friendly,” smiled Sutton, who was a runner-up with Neil Dangerfield’s rink the last time provincials were held in Vernon, in 2011. “You were actually afraid to miss (a shot) playing with him.
“He was so competitive he would almost browbeat his team into winning.”
And when Gervais decided it was time to shake things up, he had a unique way of letting his current players know they were no longer wanted. Following the season, an article would appear in the newspaper depicting his decision to retire from the game.
“In the fall it was: ‘Hec Gervais has decided to come out of his retirement,’” said Sutton. “And of course he would have a new group. You knew when he retired that you were cut.
“But everyone wanted to curl with him. The guy was so smart.”
Gervais, who won the 1961 world championships in Scotland, was apparently also a good entertainer.
“Wherever Hector would go, there’d be a piano and he would put on a concert,” said Sutton, who won two Alberta provincials under Gervais.
Sutton has curled with some serious talent over the years, including a 10-year stint with Edmonton’s Randy Ferbey…“Before he got smart and hooked up with a real curler – Pat Ryan,” quipped Sutton.
There was a completely different culture around curling in the ‘70s and ‘80s, said Sutton, a two-time Ironman Canada participant. Smoking was accepted, and possibly encouraged, even on the game’s largest stage.
“I remember the Brier, everybody smoked on the ice,” he said. “It was the Macdonald (Tobacco) Brier then, so they had ash cans on the ice.
“There was a guy on our team that literally had a cigarette in his mouth while he was sweeping. Ashes would hit the ice while he was puffing away.”