Coach Greg McAulay is in Cranbrook this week with Team Dennis, who is competing in the 2020 BC Curling Championships at Western Financial Place. McAulay is well known in the curling world for being the skip on the last BC team to win the World Championships.
Back in the year 2000, both the Kelley Law and Greg McAulay rinks won the provincial, national and world championships. According to the BC Sports Hall of Fame, not since 1980 had one province been the home of both the men’s and women’s championship curling teams. The McAulay rink consisted of Greg McAulay (skip), Bryan Miki (second), Brent Pierce (third), Jody Sveistrup (lead).
This spring marks the 20th anniversary of the McAulay rink winning the Curling World Championships, which were held in Glasgow, Scotland. It is fitting then that the World Men’s Curling Championships will also be held in Glasgow later this year. Teams from Canada, China, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Korea, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States will attend the Worlds in Glasgow from March 28 to April 5.
Before making history in the year 2000, McAulay skipped his team to a 7-4 finish at the 1998 Labatt Briar, before losing to Saskatchewan (skipped by Rod Montgomery) in a tie-breaker. McAulay has played two Biers in his career.
At the worlds, McAulay finished with an 8-1 record, defeating a US rink in the semi-final, and a Swedish rink in the final.
The Townsman caught up with McAulay mid-week to see how the Dennis rink was doing, and how the sport of Curling has changed over the past 20 years.
“We’ve just finished up and we’re now de-briefing,” said McAulay Wednesday morning. “Our team has lost a few tough ones now, we’ve had a few heartbreakers. You know, we’ve thought we maybe deserve other outcomes but that’s the game of curling.”
He says that this is Dennis’ first big competition in quite some time, and it’s a different game at the championship level.
“There’s some great competition out there and so far it’s going good, we’re having fun,” McAulay said.
When asked how things have changed over the last 20 years, McAulay explained that rules, atmosphere, and rank have all changed over time.
“For example, it used to be a three rock rule, then it changed to a four rock rule and now five,” said McAulay. The added rocks in the house not only make for a more exciting game but a more challenging game as well.
McAulay went on to say that with the growth of curling as a national sport, grassroots teams are finding it challenging to make their way to the top.
“European curling, it’s a lot better at a world level, they come to play here and that’s great, but there aren’t a lot of grassroots teams at the world level,” said McAulay. “This hurts the younger curlers, there’s less opportunity for cashspiels. Cashspiels are not around anymore at that level. The lower tier of Canadian curlers don’t have that same avenue. You have to really earn your way in, you can’t just break into it. That’s tough for teams here. Even the young Team Tardi here, they’ve won three Junior Worlds but they can’t break into that elite level.”
He adds that sponsors are also easier to find at an elite level.
“That lower tier has a much harder time, it’s tough to get good sponsors,” McAulay explained.
In terms of etiquette, McAulay says that not unlike golf, the rules always apply in a curling rink. However, he says, there’s always an opportunity to have fun.
“Curling has always been a gentleman’s sport. It’s a fun game. The cost of the sport has definitely gone up over time; the cost of events and going to them, that hurts too,” said McAulay. “The camaraderie is still there, but you don’t see teams hanging out together as much as they used to, say, 30 years ago. It’s more of a business atmosphere I would say.”
As a coach, McAulay says it’s great to see his former opponents and players also coaching and passing on the torch.
“Going from playing to coaching, it’s a good transition. Seeing the players that I once played against also coaching, it’s great to see,” said McAulay. “It’s still lots of fun and I’m enjoying coaching. My curling days are over, but I’m enjoying giving it back. It’s fun to get back into it this way and to see the team progress.”