Extermination awaits the corn broom.
Sweeping casualties across the curling landscape are irrefutable, with most already gone to harvest.
Matt Dunstone, the 25-year-old Team Saskatchewan skip, is among the last bastions of the embattled broom.
The 25-year-old Kamloops resident keeps tradition alive with each slide delivery at the 2021 Tim Hortons Brier in Calgary, brandishing the trusty relic that would be in tatters without reinforcement.
“I got it when I was about five or six years old. I’ve got to wrap ‘er in electrical tape because she’s falling apart,” said Dunstone, who is from Winnipeg. “She’s been through the ringer, between the airports and all of the events we’ve played.”
Corn-broom heads are made of broomcorn plant and Dunstone’s is fastened to a wood handle.
The antiquated sweepers are disappearing from the game and have been replaced by high-performance synthetic brushes, often made with nylon fabric and featuring fibreglass or carbon fibre handles.
But the corn broom is in Dunstone’s roots.
“From growing up in Manitoba and watching pretty much everybody, that’s where it started for me,” Dunstone said. “It’s a staple of Manitoba curling. Jeff Stoughton, Mike McEwen, Kerry Burtnyk and Jonny Mead, they threw with one, too.”
Wild Card 1 skip McEwen and second Derek Samagalski were also using corn brooms at this year’s Brier, but they were dusted from the competition after round-robin play.
“You see it a little bit on tour, but it’s definitely getting less and less popular,” Dunstone said.
Added Team Dunstone second Kirk Muyres: “You see it out of some Manitoba kids yet. But it is unusual. I think it’s tough to track down those old brooms, to be honest. He’s got to be kind to his broom, make sure he doesn’t break it.”
Out-of-vogue gear appears to be in with The Sheriff.
Dunstone wore a leather 1997 Labatt Brier hat at the Masters in North Bay, Ont., when the Regina-based rink won its first Grand Slam title in 2019.
The black and green lid has since been put out to pasture.
Whether the corn broom escapes shucking remains to be seen.
“The day might come when I might need to replace it,” Dunstone said.
Saskatchewan will begin Championship Pool action on Friday at the Tim Hortons Brier in Calgary.
First up is a game against Wild Card 3, which is skipped by Wayne Middaugh and sits tied for first with a record of 7-1.
Team Dunstone is tied for second, with a record of 6-2.
After Championship Pool play concludes, the top three teams will advance to the playoffs, with the top seed heading straight to the final.
The second- and third-ranked teams will square off in a semifinal tilt.