As the country prepares for the Tim Hortons Brier, emblematic of men’s curling supremacy in Canada, we are all applauding the NWT-Yukon Representative, from the Yellowknife curling club. The hope is this team can proudly carry the territories banner to victory, but it’s a longshot, just as it was when the territories first entered the national men’s championship in 1975. Back then it was the MacDonald Brier, but today tobacco is out of favour. Thus, the coffee giant Tim Horton’s is the main sponsor.
For years prior to 1975, curling enthusiasts in the North had been clamouring for a direct entry into the national play-downs, but to no avail. The competition was not good enough in the North, said the masters who ran the show. Finally, in 1975 they relented, and for the first time the Northern Territories had their own entry to be decided in a pan-northern play-down. Don Twa and his rink from Whitehorse emerged as the first direct northern entry. Not to worry said the powers that be, the northerners will fail, and then maybe we’ll just go back to our original plan of provincial representation only at the Brier. Don Twa and his rink made up of third Chuck Haines, second Kip Boyd, and lead Lionel Stokes had other ideas. That year the briar was held in Fredericton New Brunswick, and I was lucky enough to be sent to cover this historic event for radio, along with my pal Terry Delaney.
No one gave the Yukon rink a chance against the best in Canada, but on the day of the final draw the nation had taken notice. Don Twa had curled with grace and skill as never before. His rink, not only the oldest foursome at the event but also the most gracious, needed to win their final game to make their overall record 8 wins and 3 losses, and then hope that Bob Cole and his rink from Newfoundland would defeat Alberta. Cole did just that with a spectacular shot for a deuce in the 12th end. I recall more excitement on that shot than when Cole was calling the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With Alberta and the Yukon now tied at 8 and 3, Northern Ontario still led the pack with an 8 and 2 record. They had to lose their final game in the round robin to force a three way tie. Alas Bill Tetley and his Northern Ontario rink won their last game on an almost impossible draw through a post of the button to win the Macdonald Brier Tankard. In those days there were no playoffs, so the team with the best winning record over the entire week was declared the winner. However the Yukon entry led by Don Twa came ever so close to winning the Briar that year, but more importantly they showed that the north belonged in the national final. As icing on the cake, Don Twa was elected by sports reporters, including Terry Delaney and me, as the all-star skip. It was indeed a memorable week for sports in the Yukon.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin