The first draw of the tournament was already in the books when the bagpipes began to sound to officially usher in the Fort St. John Petroleum Association’s 52nd Annual Oilmen’s Bonspiel on the evening of Wednesday, November 14.
Curlers from Fort St. John and beyond were welcomed to the popular event by bonspiel organizing committee chair Curtis Schafer, Petroleum Association vice president Sean Thomas and acting mayor Larry Evans, who all had a simple message for the amateur athletes.
“Have fun, play safe,” said Schafer prior to throwing the honorary first rock amid sarcastic cheers and challenges to clear the hog line from his curling brethren.
“Good luck and good curling,” added Evans.
It was the culmination of over two months of hard work for Schafer, who was organizing the event for the first time, and his colleagues on the fourteen member organizing committee.
“It feels good to get it finally to the stage,” said Schafer.
“It’s been running for 52 years,” he continued. “So, I think it runs pretty good by itself.”
The bonspiel, which features 46 teams vying for bragging rights and $50,000 worth of prizes, began with four draws on the first day.
“It was close,” said Tyler Soule, the third for Peace Country Rentals 2, describing his team’s narrow victory in the first round.
They had their chances to break the game wide open, but failed to capitalize.
“There was a couple good shots [and] we had about two or three double takeouts that worked out well,” said Soule.
“We were sitting three,” he continued, discussing one of the most exciting moments of the contest. “And if we took out one and stuck, we’d be up four. But our skip missed. And then we ended up down one.”
“This bonspiel – it’s always good quality of curling,” said Schafer.
“There’s always friendly competition in this bonspiel,” he added.
Soule is hoping for better results this year than he had in his past two Oilmen’s bonspiels.
“The last two years, we win, lose, win, lose and we’re out after four,” he explained. “This time we’re hoping to win a couple and see if we can get in the prizes.”
Appropriately modest goals for a man who has been curling for six years and has only been curling six times in his life.
“I curl in the bonspiel and that’s it.”