Add Wadena to the long list of places in which Matt Dunstone has hung his hat.
The Winnipegger Kamloopsian and his rink of Reginians — who normally play out of Highland Curling Club in the Queen City — were adopted by the southeastern Saskatchewan town of about 1,300 and its Wadena Curling Club, which offered ice and comfort ahead of the Tim Hortons Brier.
“It’s a pretty cool story and our plan is to bring the Brier Tankard back to Wadena and celebrate with the people,” said skip Dunstone, whose Team Saskatchewan includes third Braeden Moskowy, second Kirk Muyres and lead Dustin Kidby.
Curling clubs across the country have closed amid the pandemic, forcing teams to scramble to find ice before the men’s national championship gets underway on Friday (March 5) in Calgary.
Wadena Curling Club board member Dustin Mikush reached out to Team Dunstone with an offer — we’ll restart our ice plant and secure a place to stay if you come out this way.
Remax Blue Chip Realty Yorkton pitched in to help Team Dunstone cover utility costs at the rink. Saskatchewan government representatives, CurlSask and the Wadena Curling Club board of directors signed off on the bubble-style plan. Mikush and Scott Comfort handled ice-making duties. Wadena Curling Club board member Dwight Pomedli arranged a private house for the team.
The team began training camp about two weeks ago, letting itself into the facility to practise once or twice a day before returning to the house.
“We haven’t been super vocal about our existence in the town here, but in small-town Saskatchewan, word does get around quite fast,” Dunstone said. “Pretty much every night for the last eight or nine days now, we’ve had locals delivering full suppers, desserts and everything, five-course meals to our doorstep. It’s been unbelievable.”
Team Dunstone will arrive in the Calgary curling bubble on Tuesday evening (March 2) and continue the isolation process, with COVID-19 testing scheduled for Wednesday and Friday.
Saskatchewan will open play on Friday, with a Draw 1 game against Nunavut scheduled for 5:30 p.m.
Kamloops product Jim Cotter and his Team B.C. rink will hit the ice on Saturday, its Draw 4 tilt against New Brunswick slated for 5:30 p.m.
Erin Pincott, Dunstone’s girlfriend, has been able to offer advice on what to expect inside the bubble.
She throws third for Team Brown, the Kamloops Curling Club rink that fell shy of the Championship Pool last week at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, which kicked off bubble festivities.
“The first thing I did was make sure I brought a coffee maker to have that in the hotel room with me, so I’m not Door Dashing or Skip The Dishing coffees,” Dunstone said with a laugh, noting Pincott also offered thoughts on the unusually quiet atmosphere inside the Markin MacPhail Centre.
The Dunstone curlers will become experts on all things Calgary bubble, especially if they win the Brier to earn a spot in the World Men’s Curling Championship, which gets underway on April 3.
Dunstone and his teammates, should they claim the Canadian crown, will remain inside the bubble until the end of April, as they will compete in both Grand Slam events that will take place after the world championships.
Muyres and teammate Laura Walker will participate in the Home Hardware Canadian Mixed Doubles Championship, which follows the Brier and gets underway on March 18.
“We hope to be locked in,” Dunstone said. “I hope to not see the Kamloops Golf and Country Club until pretty much May first.”