Capreol Curling and the Hearts Connection

Sports fans across Canada are celebrating. The 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts is finally underway…and it couldn’t have come at a better time. CoVid concerns have changed the annual event — most notably moving it from Thunder Bay, ON to a behind-closed-doors ‘bubble’ in Calgary, AB. Running February 19-28 the ‘Scotties’, our nation’s premier women’s curling tournament (or as curlers would say ‘bonspiel’), is celebrating 40 years of partnership with the iconic paper products brand.

The hugely successful championship can be found on TSN three times a day (10:30am, 3:30pm, and 8:30pm—EST) and will, no doubt, set rating records again. This year’s expanded field includes eighteen teams (10 provinces, 3 territories, the defending champion Team Canada, a Northern Ontario team, and 3 wild cards), all competing for the Heart Trophy. The round robin started Friday, February 19 with nine teams in two pools. Viewers will be treated to some of the sport’s top talent.

For those who don’t know, curling is one of our nation’s most popular seasonal sports (there are more curlers in Canada than any other country in the world — even Scotland where the game originated!). That popularity holds true from coast to coast to coast…including in Capreol. 

Our town’s curling club originally opened in 1928 thanks to the hard work of founders like Ross Lawson and Ray Mohns and — with the exception of one small hitch — has been operating successfully ever since (soon to mark 100 years!). The Capreol Curling Club has been home to thousands of local curlers and, while the skill levels may have varied over those many years, the enjoyment has never stopped.

A winning Capreol team—left is Phillipo ‘Ed’ Del Papa and his wife, Annunziata.

Organized curling got its start in Capreol on natural ice. While the first taste of the game probably occurred on the frozen Vermillion River, the “official” start came at the Capreol Community Centre. Early members included Alex Nepitt, Fred Mohns, and Reverend McBrien. (Alex Nepitt, a local businessman, donated a trophy cup for competitions — one of the first in town — and won it often, frequently against curling teams from Sudbury.)

Located near the current Dennie Street railroad crossing the building housed both a skating/hockey pad and a two-sheet curling rink side by side, for nearly twenty years … until the 1945 fire. The damage to the curling club was repaired (the hockey arena ended up being torn down and a new one built on Coulson Street). 

The Capreol Community Centre fire circa 1945
John Harvey, Jack Clark, Ernest Harvey (holding the key to the City of Sudbury, presented to him by Mayor William S. Beaton), and Bert Harvey (l-r)

Almost twenty years passed before another major change occurred to Capreol’s curling club. This time, 1961, the change was positive — the club was expanded and improved by the addition of artificial ice. Sixteen years later that building (now pushing fifty years of age) was condemned. The sport though continued, switching to a new and bigger rink on Stull Street in 1978. That building featured four curling sheets and a spacious hall complete with bar and kitchen, and remains in use to this day.

Curling in Capreol has always been something of a family affair. There are current club members who can claim to be second, third, fourth or even fifth generation curlers.

While the Capreol Curling Club is currently described as a “fun, rec league”—it welcomes new members of any and all skill levels—there are a lot of hard-won trophies on its walls too. Capreol curlers have won many prestigious curling championships including the Northern Ontario Association’s President Cup.

It is through such family connections that we get back to the Tournament of Hearts. A few years back a young woman by the name of Brittney O’Rourke played for the Quebec team. That name might ring a bell since her father was Capreol’s own Jimmy O’Rourke. Needless to say her participation had many town residents cheering for La Belle Provence…probably for the first time.

This year there is another Capreol tie to the Scotties. Northern Ontario’s team, from Sudbury’s Idylwylde Golf & Country club, is skipped by Krysta Burns. A two-time gold medal winner while representing Laurentian University, Krysta’s grandparents, Ken and Joan, lived in our town for decades and, though they have long-since moved away, their eldest daughter, Connie, and her husband bought the family house and live there to this day.

All of Sudbury is cheering on Team Burns—none louder that her family. Good luck to Krysta and the entire Northern Ontario rink.

Posted on: February 20, 2021, by :