Monday, November 09, 2009

Werenich and the corner guard

Some great memories today coming from the Toronto Sun curling column penned by TCN publisher George Karrys.

The occasion was the induction of the Dream Team, Eddie Werenich’s legendary 1983 world champion squad – including Paul Savage, John Kawaja and Neil Harrison – into the Ontario Sports Legends Hall of Fame (photo above taken at the famed Molson Classic cashspiel at Toronto’s downtown Royal Canadian Curling Club).

The induction ceremony went down Saturday at the final Toronto Argonaut football game of the season.

The column explains how The Wrench led a number of curling revolutions: the first successful team of four skips; a history of antagonizing curling officials; the first to throw a corner guard.

One of Eddie’s favourite tales made it into the story: the time a first-rock corner guard against Jim Sharples prompted a Sharples team meeting... and when the guard was peeled and then replaced, it was followed by yet another on-ice team meeting.

Karrys heard from Sharples this morning.

“I read your article in the Sun this morning with interest and just a bit of nostalgia,” said Sharples.

“As you probably know, Eddie and I had a large number of tilts against each other. He was always trying to get me into a draw game and I was always trying to avoid it for obvious reasons. No one could outdraw the Wrench, and the sweeping he had was second to none. Besides, I had enough pressure at work and therefore tried to avoid it on the ice.”

The “Eagle” went on to point out that while Werenich probably was the first curler to throw the corner guard in the very first end of a game, “The first person I saw using it was Alf Phillips Jr. in 1967.

“He had a secret signal and I watched him deliberately drop a corner short of an opponent’s stone (Terry Patton) in the provincial at Orillia – we had seen the signal at an interclub game at the old Parkway Club. Alfie probably wouldn't have won the Provincial and Brier that year if he hadn't done that.

Keith Jewett tells me that a couple of the Unionville teams were using the corner guard a year or so before that and that is probably where Alfie got the idea.”

Phillips Jr., of course, was Toronto’s 1967 Brier champion skip.

The Sharples point is duly noted by the author, and, in fact, Werenich himself did pay homage to Phillips Jr., but the quote was edited from the final story. Here’s the missing excerpt:

“But I got all that (corner guard strategy) from Alfie Phillips Jr.,” said Werenich.
“Back then the ice didnt curl, and there was no free guard zone rule.
“If nothing else you got rocks in play, and then you found out if you could play, at least the way the game is meant to be played.”

Sharples, a conservative “hitter” through much of his career, goes on to good-naturedly point out that it wasn’t that his squad “didn’t know what to do” when faced with the opening-stone corner guard (Yeah, we know, Eagle... that’s Eddie for ya!).

And The Curling News echoes Sharples’ recognition of his improved draw game, which was displayed in recent years.

“The ironic part of all of this was that in my later years my draw game became better than my hit game and allowed me to win (two Seniors and a Masters Canadian championship),” said Sharples.

“Maybe I should have been drawing against the Wrench. Great memories!”

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