Colin Stone was among those anxiously following Thursday evening’s draws at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts. But he was more disappointed than most by the results — or at least the fact round-robin play ended without the need for any tie-breaker games on Friday.
The owner of Red Deer Catering was prepared to feed the throngs of fans and officials who would have flocked to the Centrium for those extra draws.
“If there were tie-breakers, we would have had a full lunch and a full dinner,” said Stone, who instead learned at about 11 p.m. the night before that his staff could stand down.
“That’s a huge disappointment for us, but we knew that was going to be a gamble.”
It wasn’t the first gamble this week for Red Deer Catering, which has been supplying the food at the HeartStop Lounge and the sponsors lounge, as well as to the crew from TSN who are covering the event.
“We have to guess how many people are going to come each lunch break and dinner break, and it varies, depending on who’s playing, how many are playing, what size the crowd is and what the weather is,” said Stone. “We really take a shot in the dark on some of the days. So far, we’ve been pretty lucky.”
Actually, it’s probably more of an educated guess. Red Deer Catering, which has been operating for nearly 40 years, looked after the food needs at the Labatt Brier and Skate Canada International in 1994, the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships in 1995 and the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in 2004.
Those experiences, acknowledged Stone, provided lasting lessons on how to cater sporting events with unpredictable crowds.
“The first time out of the gate, we got all lessons and no profit.”
During the past week, Red Deer Catering has fed thousands of hungry fans, with mealtime crowds at the HeartStop Lounge cafe numbering 400 to 500, said Stone. Despite the associated challenges, the experience has been very positive, he said.
“We always enjoy the people who come into the HeartStop Lounge because a lot of them travel across the country and follow the Scotties Tournament.
“You get to meet some pretty interesting people.”
Stone also praised the approximately 40 people with TSN who have relied on Red Deer Catering for their lunches and dinners.
“The TSN crew has been absolutely wonderful to deal with.”
Its members have dined on such meals as roast beef, ham and scalloped potatoes and jerk chicken — and have appeared impressed with the offerings.
“We have had tremendous compliments from the TSN crew, who travel across the country and have been at every event across Canada,” said Stone.
In fact, he added, they ranked the food services at the Red Deer Scotties among their top two.
“That was great praise to have.”
Stone operates Red Deer Catering with his nephew Andrew Stone. His father John, who founded the business, has helped out during the Scotties Tournament.
“He’s been retired for about 12 years now, but he still comes back and helps with big events.”