Quebec City curling clubs host Canada’s oldest bonspiel

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Photo: Cassandra Kerwin

Team Ti-Cass sweep the ice hoping to knock a red stone out of the house during the Quebec International Bonspiel.

The final games of the week-long 102nd Quebec International Bonspiel, the oldest continuous bonspiel for curlers in Canada, were played at the Jacques-Cartier Curling Club in late January. The Bonspiel has run every year since 1913 in the city known as the "cradle of curling in North America."

The tournament was played at three venues around the city. In addition to the Club de Curling Jacques-Cartier, the Club de Curling Victoria in Sainte-Foy and the Club de Curling Etchemin in Saint-Romuald hosted Bonspiel matches.

"This is an amateur competition, played in good fun, without prize money," said Tom Fuller, honorary president of the Bonspiel. "Participants are sure to play in many matches throughout the week. Most visiting participants to stay at the Château Frontenac, which is the hub of the Bonspiel social events and the awards ceremony.

"This year," continued Fuller, "we have 34 teams with 177 curlers, most from Quebec and many from other provinces and the United States. In peak years, we've had over 120 teams. As curling is accessible to people of all ages, there are curlers well into their 70s and 80s who have been curling for 30, 40 and even 50 years," he said.

"Curling is steeped in tradition. After every match, the losing team treats the winning team to a drink," said Fuller. "It adds to the camaraderie and sportsmanship. The sport is adapting the way it plans tournaments in order to attract new players."

Bonspiel official René Maheux explained how matches are scheduled. "Teams compete in matches, and the ones that lose are rescheduled to play in other categories. As the week comes to an end, the winning teams from each category move to the sought-after category P, where the best teams curl for the Bonspiel championship."

The entire Bonspiel came down to a game between Quebec City's L'Équipe-Roy and the Thornhill Rehabs from Ontario. Many predicted it would be a tight final match. Thornhill Rehab curled well, but the Ontarians were no match for L'Équipe Roy, who were led to a 6-1 victory by skip Denis Roy.

"The Quebec International Bonspiel has survived through the Wars," said Fuller. "It is even older than the Brier Cup." Canada's national bonspiel, the Brier, today sponsored by Tim Hortons, was created in 1927 when teams from western Canada sought to compete against the champions of eastern Canada from the Quebec Bonspiel. Both cups remain sought-after prizes among Canadian bonspiels.