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Monday Night Traveling League has a rich history in Assiniboia

The 2022-2023 season saw a record low number of teams fielded in the Monday Night Traveling League.
The Travis Eldstrom team out of the Assiniboia Club is this year’s Monday Night Travelling League champs, defeating the Shaylor Layman rink from Lafleche. From left are skip Travis Eldstrom, third Mitch Pituley, second Nicholas Pituley, and lead Chad Rodgers.

ASSINIBOIA - The Assiniboia Curling Club was the host club for the championship game of the Monday Night Travelling League on March 20, 2023 where the home town favourite Travis Eldstrom rink defeated the Lafleche Curling Club Shaylor Layman foursome.

The 2022-2023 season saw a record low number of teams fielded in this league where curlers are privileged to curl out of neighbouring rinks during the season.

The Assiniboia Club fielded three teams, the Ron Lucas foursome, the Tom Mountain crew and the Travis Eldstrom rink.

Two teams came out of the Mossbank Curling Club, the Bryan Howe family foursome and the Kim Flynn rink with curlers from Briercrest, Gravelbourg and Mossbank joining forces.

Rounding out the league was the Shaylor Layman rink out of the Lafleche Curling Club with curlers from Lafleche, Kincaid and Hazenmore.

The Flynn rink finished top in the round robin standings and had home ice advantage for the playoff round but were defeated in the first round by the Assiniboia Eldstrom rink. On the same night, the second placed Lucas rink ran up against a hot visiting Layman rink and even home ice advantage was not enough to secure the win.

Skip Travis Eldstrom spoke more about their season, “we had a real up and down season. We started out slow, losing four out of our first five games. We were curling okay but just never coming out on the winning end. After Christmas we ended up winning our last five games.”

“There are a lot of good curlers in the league and with games in different rinks it can make it tough to predict who will win, you’ve got to learn to read the ice in all the rinks and that is part of the challenge and what keeps every week interesting.”

Skip Shaylor Layman shared what he values most about being part of this league. “In addition to offering a little more serious curling atmosphere, it gives curlers a great chance to play in different towns and learn what other town may be doing.”

“From talk about ice making to what other clubs may be doing with their rocks, it gives everyone a chance to talk about ways to improve things at their home rink. With dwindling club curlers in recent years, it also gives the rinks an extra night of curling which helps pay the bills.”

While it is called a “travelling league”, it should be noted the travel is really quite limited. Unlike super league teams in the city, that small town teams may play in, half your team’s games are in your home rink with the other half are normally 30-45 minutes away.

Whether you are looking to play a little more serious curling game, learn something from neighbouring rinks, simply curl one more night a week or just get out and enjoy a good time with people you don’t see that often from different towns, the Monday night league might just be for you.

The Monday Night Travelling League has a rich and evolving history in the south country. Skip Ron Lucas, who won the league in 2011, 2019 and 2020 according to the club website, shared his perspective on the evolution of the league.

“Moving to Assiniboia in 1999 the league was already in full force with upwards of 18 teams from Assiniboia, Coronach, Crane Valley, Lafleche, Mossbank, and Gravelbourg. At that time, competitive curling was a thing, and these teams basically used this league to prepare for the Brier Playdowns.”

“Over the years, the league numbers gradually declined, to the point where we are today, six teams. The league, as well as everything else, was impacted by COVID, and now is the time to try to get more interest back in this league. Other than a handful of curlers that fall under the senior classification, there are a quite a few that are “rather experienced”, and they keep coming out because it’s a great social outing, and they love the game. This league is still competitive, but definitely not to the extent it was in the past,” said Lucas.

“All the teams are still out there to compete, and try to put a game together to get the ‘W’.  Regardless of who wins, all the curlers head off to the “watering hole”, and get together for some good laughs to replay the big shots and misses.” 

“We are structured so that all teams pay their curling fees at their respective clubs plus a league pool fee and then represent their club throughout the year with a fair mix of home and away games. Once playoffs start, the venues are decided based on the ranking of the teams from round robin play. We then figure out how many games there will be to complete the league and playoffs, and then determine what the payout will be per win,” said Lucas.

“We took the emphasis off the playoffs, so winning the championship final, or a game in November, the payout will be the same. We are always looking for sponsors to help build the league. Overall, it is somewhat competitive but the social aspect of it outweighs the competitiveness, and it would be nice to expand it to more communities and clubs, and keep it going for many more years.”

Long time traveling league curler Brent Blackwell took us way back in the history books.  “In the early 90’s quite a few local teams were travelling around to different spiels such as Weyburn, Radville and Moose Jaw. We noticed those clubs had some sort of a travelling or super league with neighbouring towns.”

“We always had a competitive league Monday and Thursday in Assiniboia. It was then discussed with the neighbouring towns if there was interest in creating that kind of league around here. It went over really well and the league was born with Bob Ellert’s team taking the championship in 1995. Originally the league was regarded as a cash super league but over the years has become more of a fun competitive league. Having said that, really any club team would be welcome to join the league and they would fit right in.”

Fun facts about the league:

The oldest curler is Ron Yaganiksi from Mossbank who plays second on the Flynn team, he is 83 years young. The youngest curler is Kyle Giraudier lead, on the Tom Mountain rink, who is 21. A testament that curling is a game for all ages.

Two female curlers held their own with the men this season. Charla Achter of Hazenmore curls with the Layman team and Joanne Petersen of Mossbank curls with the Flynn team. Both ladies have been with the league for a number of years and really hope to see an all women team competing in the coming seasons. 

The loudest team is the Tom Mountain rink with third Larry Thorburn’s deep roar. The team with the most consecutive championship wins is the Bob Ellert rink who won 1995 to 1998.