You might be thinking…”Didn’t he just write about curling?”  If so, you would be correct.  Early January to be more specific.  Well, this is the sequel.  The season’s denouement, if you will.

It was a beautiful, clear Sunday afternoon on February 23rd, 2020.  This being the 5th year of the Rangeley Lakes Curling Club’s annual bonspeil.  I should first, before proceeding any further, let you, as well as the 20-30 participating curling enthusiasts, know just what a “bonspeil” is.

According to Wikipedia (the Encyclopedia Brittanica of the digital age), A bonspiel (an ancient Scottish term, it would seem) is:

“a curling tournament, consisting of several games, often held on a weekend.  Until the 20th century, most bonspiels were held outdoors. on a freshwater loch (that’s Scottish for lake).  Today, almost all bonspiels are held indoors, on specially prepared artificial ice”.

Well, the Rangeley bonspiel is an homage to this ancient Scottish sport.  It is played outdoors (not necessarily by choice, mind you) on a local loch; Haley Pond.  With that retro fact, comes all the meteorological challenges inherent to what the weather will bring.

Allen Wicken

Undaunted, the local curling club has made do with the pond and its winter ices’ personalities.  The chosen Sunday’s blue skies and the smooth appearance of the ice sheet’s surface was deceiving.  Despite “ice master” Peter Christensen’s best efforts, the changing temperatures lead to expansion pressures and resultant cracks and/or surface variations that made this bonspiel more challenging than expected at first glance.

Because a record seven teams were in the hunt for this year’s championship bragging rights, the bonspiel had an 8:30 a.m. starting time.  The fact that it was a double-elimination tournament, and the additional fact that we have only one sheet of ice on which to play all the games, dictated an all-day tourney to finally crown the championship team.

The Bonspiel’s brackets and the ultimate championship team IN BOLD! Allen Wicken

That first game between the “Cool Cats” and the “Orange Caps” at 8:30 a.m. demonstrated three things:  1.  That the morning ice was smooth and fast. 2. That there was a barely perceptible rise in the ice near one of the target “houses” making the contest a bit tricky,  and 3. That the “Cool Cats” employed both skill and luck (the latter being a common characteristic of outdoor curling matches) to send the “Orange Caps” (your columnist’s fine team) packing to the loser’s (unfortunate terminology, but heartbreakingly true) bracket.  The early games also sent the eventual runners-up (“The Stoners”) to the loser’s bracket, which they eventually won along with the right to face the only team to win all of its’ three games, “Team Alpine”, the only all-women team in this,  the 5th Annual Rangeley Bonspiel.

At the post-bonspiel celebration in the nearby Forks in the Air restaurant: Champions “Team Alpine” (L to R) Sandy McDavitt, Deb Ferarra, Val Zapolsky, and Donna Brown Allen Wicken

“Team Alpine” also managed to weather the softening mid-day ice that slowed the stones’ human-thrown traverse from one end to the other on the sheet.  Then, as the sun lowered toward the western horizon, so did the ice harden for the hard-fought championship game between the undefeated “Team Alpine” ladies and the resurgent “Stoners”, winners of the loser’s bracket.

Now, I realize that it is difficult to convey the excitement of a curling bonspiel championship game with words alone.  I therefore refer you to a pair of my photos, taken late in the match, accompanying this column.  They were taken about 2 seconds apart.

Team Alpine” with the Chris Devine Curling “Stone” trophy, and the curling club’s logo banner

In conclusion, a hearty congratulations is in order for the winning team, 2020 Rangeley Bonspiel Champions: “Team Alpine” and its tenacious team members;  Donna Brown (unofficial MVP), Deb Ferrara, Sandy McDavitt, and Valerie Zapolsky

The one-of-a-kind Rangeley Bonspiel Trophy awaiting the 5th annual winners plaque with members’ names to be affixed. The title plaque states: THE CHRIS DEVINE CURLING “STONE”. In honor of our friend, and enthusiastic driving force, behind the sport and comraderie of Curling in Rangeley, Maine Allen Wicken

…AND the Rangeley Lakes Curling Club invites all readers and their friends and relatives to join us next winter for the 2020-2021 Curling Season on the pond.  Its not the fastest sport on ice, but it is arguably the most fun…and certainly the most unpredictable.

…AND please join us in a moment of personal silence in memory of Chris Devine, who recently passed away.  Chris was the founder, and early driving force, in the establishment of the sport of curling in the Rangeley Region.

We need to write, otherwise nobody will know who we are.

                                                                   Garrison Keillor

I’ll be ridin’ shotgun, underneath the hot sun, feelin’ like a someone…

                                                                         Pomplamoose

Per usual, your thoughts and comments are more than welcome.  Jot them down on a 3”x5” card, tape it to a 40 lb. curling stone and set it down gently inside the log door of our mudroom on the rockbound west shore of Gull Pond….or simply fire off an email to [email protected]

(L to R ) agonizing over a lost point, “The Stoners” Keith Webber, celebrating a point gained, Team Alpine’s” Sandy McDavitt, and “The Stoners” Tom Targett, …still analyzing the situation Allen Wicken

ANTICIPATION DURING THE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: (L to R) Sandy McDavitt of “Team Alpine”, Keith Webber of “The Stoners”, and “The Stoners” Tom Targett…maintaining a more analytical posture


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