What started out as hopefully a six-month test run has been extended at least a year for Rob Armitage and his Red Deer senior men’s curling foursome.
Armitage joined forces with third Keith Glover, second Randy Ponich and lead Wilf Edgar last fall in an effort to take a serious run at the Alberta title.
Five months later they were provincial champs and in late March the quartet captured the Canadian crown at Abbotsford, B.C., roaring through the round-robin portion of the nationals with a 10-1 record and defeating Glenn Goss of Newfoundland 5-2 in the final.
Now, at least tentatively scheduled to represent Canada in next year’s world championship, Armitage and his supporting cast will remain as a team through at least one more winter.
“You bet we’ll be staying together. We’ve been on quite a run,” said Armitage, who this week returned from an Arizona vacation that followed his triumph in the Canadian championship.
The Red Deer rink played a relatively mild schedule last season, getting together primarily for the provincial senior men’s zones, southern and provincial playdowns.
As for the 2012-13 season . . .
“We might play in both men’s and senior men’s Alberta playdowns,” said Armitage. “The men’s playdowns are soft enough now that I think we could get to provincials at that level.
“That would certainly provide us with a lot of curling, but I played that schedule for two years and had one weekend off out of about six. So it gets kind of gruelling by the time you get to provincials at either level, or both.”
While the Armitage foursome will discuss their scheduling plans for next season and the best way to prepare for the 2013 world championship, Armitage said he’s still not sure if they’ll actually be attending next year’s worlds as Canadian champs.
“The skip that won the nationals last year (Kelly Robertson) was back in Abbotsford as the Manitoba champion and told me that (the Canadian Curling Association) is considering getting the national championship and the worlds back on the same year,” said the skip.
“He said there was a chance that he would have to play this year’s Canadian winner to see who went to Denmark (the site of the 2012 senior men’s world championship currently underway).”
As it turned out, Robertson’s rink is representing Canada in Denmark, but Armitage isn’t’ ruling out the possibility of the ‘same-year’ format kicking in next year. Clearly, he doesn’t see a lot of merit in the possible change.
“First of all you have to win the province, then after three weeks you spend 10 or 11 days at the Canadians and then if you win there you’re leaving for maybe overseas for another 10 or 11 days,” said Armitage. “But I don’t know what their (CCA) plans are. We won’t know for awhile.
“It’s funny, you win the (Alberta) southerns and a half an hour of paper work follows. You win the province and you do an hour of paper work. You win Canadians and hear hardly a peep from anybody.”
The logistics of the ‘same-year’ format coming in next year simply don’t jive, said Armitage.
“So if it’s decided that we have to play the Canadian winner of next year to go to worlds, how will that work,” he wondered. “The nationals are in Summerside, P.E.I., and if we’re not there as Alberta champions are they going to fly us out there to play a sudden-death game?”
Armitage hopes to get all of his answers before or at the Southern Alberta Curling Association awards dinner May 5.
A host for the 2013 senior men’s worlds has yet to be determined. Armitage has heard rumblings of Fredericton, N.B., being in the mix.
As the Canadian champion, Armitage would relish playing for the world title on home soil.
“One of the drivers in Abbotsford suggested that we were probably disappointed because we couldn’t go to Denmark for the worlds this year,” he said. “But I don’t need to go some place and lose to four knee-sliders on bad ice in front of 10 people. If I had my choice I would play in Canada. You’re guaranteed of good ice, you’re the home team and it’s going to be a big deal.”
Regardless, Armitage and his rinkmates continue to revel in the enjoyment and satisfaction of being Canadian champions.
“It does feel good,” said the skip. “The guys played really well in Abbotsford. Keith and Randy were all-stars and Wilf probably would have been except that we were almost always ahead in games and he was playing those hack-weight peel shots. He hadn’t thrown a lot of them and they’re really tough to make.
“We went through the thrill of wearing those Alberta jackets, which we’d been trying to get for a long time (at the men’s level) and a month later we’re thinking ‘holy cow, now we’re going to get Canadian jackets’.”
In the likely event that the rink represents Canada in the 2013 worlds, a fifth man will be added to the team.
“There are so many choices to fill that role and I’d like to keep it local,” said Armitage. “There’s a lot of good curlers around here who haven’t had a chance to go to worlds.”