As no formal induction ceremony could be scheduled in 2021, due to Covid-19, there was an opportunity to review Manitoba Curling’s early history and to recognize a number of teams which had accomplished significant ‘firsts’. These historically significant Manitoba teams were formally inducted into the Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame in a virtual ceremony in December, 2021.
Burns 1932 Team • Harstone 1889 Team • McLean 1900-01-02 Team
Munro 1914-15 Team • Wright 1955 Team
Burns – 1932 TEAM Olympic Gold Medallists
The 1932 Olympic Gold Medallist Team from Manitoba was skipped by William H. Burns (Portage) and included James L. Bowman (Dauphin), Robert B. Pow (Fort William), and Errick F. Willis (Boissevain) lead.
Although the curling was “only” a demonstration sport at the Lake Placid 1932 Olympics, it is the first recorded instance of Manitoba curlers playing at an Olympic Games.
At Lake Placid, Manitoba, Northern Ontario, Ontario and Quebec teams played against teams from Michigan, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York.
The competition had each Canadian team play each American team once. The Manitoba team was the only one to win all four games. In order, they defeated Massachusetts (19-10), Michigan (22-12), Connecticut (15-14), and New York (15-9).
No specific report has been found but it can be assumed that the games were 12 ends (the rules of the MCA Bonspiel specified 12 ends – a reasonable comparison!). The scores were typical of the time.
The 1933 MCA Yearbook describes the team as …..truly a representative rink of good sportsmen, and fine exponents of the game of curling.
The Yearbook confirms that the team ….played through the competition without a loss, and were presented with the Olympic curling championship medals, also the Olympic diploma, which was presented by the team to the Manitoba Curling Association.
The Burns team was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.
NOTE: The WCF website does not currently recognize the 1932 Olympic curling as a demonstration sport. However, it does recognize curling in 1924 as a demonstration sport. The MCA Yearbook report of the team receiving medals and Olympic Diploma is considered sufficient evidence of the Burns team’s status as Olympians.
The first MCA Bonspiel Champion Team, in 1889, was the Sam Harstone Team from Winnipeg’s new Granite Curling Club (Jack Patterson, James McDonald, Charles Carbert). They won the New York Life Challenge Cup – the FIRST championship of the Annual Bonspiel of the Manitoba Branch of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club (later the MCA Bonspiel).
As a team, the Harstone foursome does not appear again in the Bonspiel’s record book. However, over the next seven years, the names of this group of curlers appear as winners of bonspiel events on nine occasions. Harstone’s name appears again in the bonspiel records as winning skip of an event in 1895 and two in 1896. Jack Patterson does not appear again but John Patterson skipped the winning team in two events in 1891 and another in 1892. It seems likely this is the same person as James McDonald is listed as a teammate on those teams. McDonald also won an event in 1894 and in 1896 he reunited with Harstone for his two event wins. Carbert’s name appears twice in the records, on event winning teams in 1896 and 1897.
By 1900, the names of the 1889 championship teammates no longer appear in the record books.
However, the historical accomplishment of winning the first MCA Bonspiel merits recognition not only in the Manitoba curling history books but in the Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame. It should be noted that there were five events contested in the first bonspiel. Three were won by teams from Winnipeg Granite while the other two were won by teams from Wisconsin and Minnesota. By winning the first ever bonspiel championship, the Harstone team laid the first brick in establishing the MCA Bonspiel as a significant competitive event and in the foundation of the reputation of Manitoba as a strong curling province.
Harstone – 1889 TEAM
First MCA Bonspiel Champions
McLean – 1900, 1901, 1902 TEAM
MCA Bonspiel Dynasty
The 1900,1901, and 1902 MCA Bonspiel ‘Champions’ were the first apparent ‘dynasty’ in Manitoba Men’s curling.
From Holland, MB, skip Hector McLean was joined in all three years by Dr. Vic Latimer and Ernie Slater. In 1900, their lead was Harold Brown. For the other two years, Tom Dodge was the lead.
In the first 11 years of the MCA Bonspiel, only one skip had won the New York Life Challenge Cup (acknowledged as the Bonspiel Champion), on two occasions. That was Hall of Fame member Robert Dunbar and he did it with two completely different teams in 1895 and 1898.
In 1900, the McLean team became the first team from a rural Manitoba club to win the New York Life Challenge. As the primary Open event in which every team was required to compete, this was acknowledged as the Bonspiel Championship.
In 1901, when the concept of an Aggregate award was initiated, the McLean team was the first winner. Identified at the time only as “the Special Aggregate”, the idea was “to reward the meritorious rink making the best record in the three open competitions.” The Holland team was the winner of one of the three–the Walkerville Tankard.
In 1902, the description read more simply as “winner of the greatest number of games in the three open competitions of the bonspiel”. Once again, the Holland team won one of the three – the Royal Caledonian Tankard.
With the New York Life Championship followed by the first two bonspiel aggregate wins the McLean team was the top team in the MCA bonspiel three years in a row. That was matched only once, by Hall of Famer Mac Braden in 1911, 1912, & 1913. Both were surpassed by the legendary Ken Watson teams’ win of six MCA Bonspiel Grand Aggregates in the 1940’s.
The only other teams to match the McLean team’s two aggregates in a row were Gordon Hudson (1922 & 1923), Ab Gowanlock (1934 & 1935), and Kerry Burtnyk (1985 & 1986 and 1997 & 1998).
The first Women’s ‘Champion’ in Manitoba Curling won back-to-back in 1914 & 1915, the women’s event added to the MCA Bonspiel schedule.
While there is a record of a women’s curling league being formed at the Granite CC as early as 1908, it was in 1913, a full decade before formation of the MLCA, that MCA included an event ‘for the ladies’ in the annual 1914 MCA Bonspiel. This event, believed to be the first organized women’s curling competition in Manitoba, and probably in Western Canada, was played during the annual bonspiel.
The MCA’s annual publication shows the event was called simply “The Ladies’ Competition” although later it became the Fry’s Cocoa Cup. In the style of the time, the record book shows the winner to be Mrs. F.R. Munro’s rink, Strathcona Ladies’ Curling Club, Winnipeg. With Mrs. Munro were Miss Haig, Mrs. Hobbs, and Mrs. McKay (research on-going to determine given names).
Winnipeg Tribune and Winnipeg Free Press daily bonspiel reports from the time indicate ten teams participated in the first bonspiel.
The February 21, 1914 Free Press reports “The ladies bonspiel was brought to a close yesterday at the Strathcona rink; Mrs. F.R. Munro of Strathcona Ladies Curling club defeating Miss Midwinter of Elmwood in a thirteen-end game marked by brilliant curling by both aggregations.”
The Tribune of the same day provides the details. Mrs. Munro and her Strathcona team defeated Mrs. DeArmond (Strathcona) 11-9 in the semi-final and Miss Midwinter (Elmwood) by a score of 13-10 in the final. The game was tied 7-7 after nine ends. The winners scored a three on the 12th to tie and stole three in the extra end.
The team repeated as winners of the The Ladies Competition in 1915.
The February 19, 1915 Free Press reports: “Mrs. Munro, of Strathconas, is again the holder of the Ladies Cup, winning the Ladies Bonspiel when she defeated Mrs. DeArmond last night at Strathcona by a score of 10-8. The game was the hardest of the spiel, the score being tied at two points of the game and neither team having a lead of more than two at any time …… In the ninth, Mrs. Munro again tied the score by getting a two end for seven points all. In the tenth, Mrs. DeArmond made her final score, it being a single, and Mrs. Munro scored two in the eleventh to stand one up coming home. (The) one lead was somewhat counterbalanced by Mrs. DeArmond having the last rock. The end was one of the best in any of this year’s competition. The end was knock-out and Mrs. Munro secured the win.”
Being winners of the first competitive women’s curling event in Manitoba, and winners back-to-back of their major competition, places Mrs. Munro, Miss Haig, Mrs. Hobbs, and Mrs. McKay in the company of, and on par with, the many early champions who built the reputation of Manitoba curling.
NOTE: As was the custom of the time, these women were identified in entry lists and photo records by the name or initial of their husband. In 2021, this is of course objectionable. The search continues for records which properly identify them by their own names. However, this is a historically significant team and the fact that the naming standard has changed should not preclude them from their rightful place in the Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame.
Munro – 1914 TEAM
First Women’s Champions
Wright – 1955 TEAM
The 1955 Western Canadian Champions were the first women’s team from Manitoba to win above the provincial level.
From Flin Flon, the team skipped by Ethel Wright included Norma McLean, Jean McKenzie, and Philomene Floch. They won in the fifth year of competition for the Eaton’s Championship.
The provincial championship format had the province divided into Eastern and Western Divisions. Regional play-offs were played to determine representatives and the Wright team won Northern Manitoba.
They went on to win the Western Division and then defeat the Eastern Division winner to win the Manitoba title.
The Western Canadian Championship, also sponsored by Eaton’s, was played at the Winnipeg Granite CC with the Flin Flon team winning over teams from Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.
As the first Manitoba Women’s curling team to win at a level beyond the provincial-championship level, the Wright team helped set the stage for the growth of Manitoba Women’s curling and helped create the opportunity to compete and excel for the great champions who have followed in their footsteps.