By Nick Bernard
Following a shot at the Olympics and months away from the ice, Haliburton Highlands Secondary School alumnus, and competitive curler Connor Duhaime is looking forward to returning to the sheet for a bid to win this year’s Tankard.
Duhame and the rest of Team Ferris will be taking on some of curling’s best rinks with a who’s who of the sport such as John Epping, Tanner Horgan and Glenn Howard at the 2022 Ontario Tankard at The Plex in Port Elgin from Feb. 9 to 13.
Team Ferris is one of 12 teams vying for Ontario’s top curling championship. The winning team will serve as Ontario’s representative at the Briers, the Canadian championship.
Duhaime is a lifelong curler, starting out as a child in the Timbits program before going on to play successfully throughout high school with his brother Owen and fellow curlers Curtis Nichol and Jessie Walker.
“We’ve just kind of been doing it forever, so it’s sort of a part of our DNA,” he said as he reflected on his career so far.
His wife, Chantal, is also a curler. “It’s kind of fun, you compete with … a lot of the same people over the years, even from way back in juniors and stuff … It’s obviously competitive at this stage, but it’s social too. A lot of our friends have come out of the curling circles.”
The Tankard will be the first time Team Ferris has been able to play together since the liftin of pandemic restrictions at the start of the year. Duhaime says that while he’s been able to train at home, he doesn’t expect anyone to have the advantage as they return to the rink.
“Curling is a pretty unique sport, so it’s hard to train specifically for it other than just doing it,” he said, describing the routine he maintained for himself while restrictions were in place, and how it factored into his preparation for the event. “The good thing is everybody else is in … the same boat as us. I imagine there’ll be a little bit of rust the first couple of games, and then people settle in.”
This will also be the end of a lengthy break for the Tankard itself, as it was canceled in 2021 due to COVID-19.
Duhaime takes Team Ferris’s second position, with Ian Dickie as third, Zach Shurtleff as lead, and Pat Ferris as the skip. Duhaime says staying in touch with the team through the restrictions has allowed them to maintain their team cohesion.
“We kind of live scattered across,” he said, listing off places like Guelph and Burlington. Duhaime lives in Barrie. “We chat often and kinda keep in touch with what’s going on. We’re sort of in planning mode now for the event, so we’ll have limited practice, but we can have some good team plans and strategy before going into it.”
Often, large curling events are hosted in hockey arenas that are converted into curling surfaces, but with events like the Tankard, Duhaime said the surfaces are well-treated, ideal for formulating those strategies ahead of time.
“Going into these [events], we know we’re going to have awesome conditions,” he said. “So we can kind of plan ahead. Like, on this super ice, this is the game style that works for us … I think we can come in game one knowing what we need to do.”
The 2022 Ontario Tankard will be streamed live at CurlONTV.ca.