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Rock on: Canadian Firefighters Curling Association celebrates 50 years

Anyone who follows Canadian curling knows that former Canadian and world champion Ed “The Wrench” Werenich is a fine curler, has strong opinions about the Canadian Curling Association and is also a firefighter.

October 31, 2008
By Lyle Wiebe

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Front and back of the 50th anniversary pin that will be available for the 2009 championships. 
Photo courtesy CFFCA

Anyone who follows Canadian curling knows that former Canadian and world champion Ed “The Wrench” Werenich is a fine curler, has strong opinions about the Canadian Curling Association and is also a firefighter.

While Werenich received nationwide media coverage during multiple national and world championships in the 1990s, his pursuits of the Canadian Firefighters championship remained elusive. Despite the quality of the firefighters competition, with many former and current provincial champions in the lineup annually, the event doesn’t get national media coverage like the Brier or the myriad skins games.

But it should. The Canadian Firefighters Curling Association is the third oldest national curling championship in Canada behind the Brier and the Canadian Police Championships. Its level of competition, caliber of curling and organization is recognized by the Canadian Curling Association. Competitors include provincial champions, Brier champions and world men’s and junior champions. Among those who have participated are Werenich and Neil Harrison (two-time world champion with Werenich) from southern Ontario, Gerry Richard from British Columbia (Brier and world champion), Saskatchewan’s Rod Montgomery, Dale Ness from Quebec, Bruce Lohnes from Nova Scotia (2004 Brier champion with Mark Dacey and world bronze medalist) and Joe Vautour from New Brunswick.

This year, the Canadian Firefighters Curling Association celebrates the 50th consecutive national championship in which teams from across Canada compete for the title of Hydrant Champion.

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In 1958, Aubrey Neff, a dedicated Vancouver firefighter, organized a Vancouver Fire Department league and the British Columbia Firefighters Curling Association. Ness’s vision was to have a Dominion firefighters curling championship. He sent letters to all Canadian fire departments asking about interest in participating. In 1960 in Regina, a five-province Dominion championship was held. Attention grew and by 1970, 10 provinces competed in Scarborough, Ont. By 1973, in Prince Albert, Sask., the Northwest Territories had come on board. Newfoundland sent representation in 1983 to Brampton, Ont., and Ness completed his mission.

Sadly, Ness passed away in Chilliwack, B.C., on March 9, 1997, at the age of 74 after losing a courageous battle with cancer. His legacy will live on in the hearts of every firefighter who participates in this curling championship.

The annual goal of the association is to promote goodwill among firefighters across Canada, through the Canadian Firefighters Curling Association Muscular Dystrophy Hydrant Championships.

The British Columbia Firefighters Curling Association hosted the 49th championship in Richmond this year. The current Hydrant Champions are from the Yellowknife Fire Department. Steve Moss, who has represented the Territories at the Brier on five occasions, and who has been a competitor in 13 Hydrant Championships, skipped the team. Third is Chris Haichert, who curled second for the Pat Simmons team from Saskatchewan at the 2005 and 2006 Briers. Haichert is the 2003 Canadian and world junior champion (all-star third).

Second is Kevin Whitehead, who is no stranger to national events, representing the Northwest Territories at the 2006 and 2007 Briers. Whitehead participated in the 2002 Canadian mixed championships and represented the Territories in the 1994, 1995 and 1996 Canadian junior championships. Lead is Ingo Bauer and Wyatt Scheller is the director, from the Hay River Fire Department. The Howard Brazeau team from the Fort Smith Fire Department won the last Hydrant Championships for the Northwest Territories in 1975 and 1976.

Provincial and Territorial playdowns are held each year in all provinces and the Northwest Territories to declare their representatives for the national event. The competition is restricted to those in the fire service. Individual constitutions in each association dictate those eligible to participate. In the past, female firefighters have also represented their associations at hydrant championships, one from the Northwest Territories and one from Newfoundland and Labrador.

In 1954, firefighters joined forces with Muscular Dystrophy. To honour this relationship and the ongoing research, the Canadian Firefighters Curling Association affiliated with MDA in 1997 and renamed the championship The Canadian Firefighters Curling Association Muscular Dystrophy Hydrant Championships. Examples of fundraising at the championship include raffles, 50/50 draws and silent auctions. The goal is to donate $10,000 at the awards banquet to Muscular Dystrophy.

This curling season marks a golden milestone. The Prince Edward Island Firefighters Curling Association, under the partnered guidance of co-convenors Winston Bryan and Peter Macdonald, hosts the 50th Canadian Firefighters Curling Association Muscular Dystrophy Hydrant Championships in Charlottetown March 26 through April 5. This is the fourth time Prince Edward Island has hosted a national championship – the event was held at Charlottetown in 1997 and 1976 and Summerside in 1990.

For more information, visit the Canadian Firefighters Curling Association website at www.cffca.ca


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