Tuesday, August 15, 2006

R.I.P. Buckets

Before we begin, another photo of the Olympic and world champion Team Anette Norberg from this past weekend's rock-n'-roll gig... this one from backstage with loveable rivetheads and co-conspirators Hammerfall. We just can't get enough.

Just a year or so removed from his enshrinement in the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame, curling journalist Don "Buckets" Fleming has passed away. The legend, whose writing for both the Edmonton Journal and Canadian Curling News (the predecessor to The Curling News, from which this Blog derives) was also accompanied by a career covering the racetracks, is fondly remembered in various news stories this week, including a great piece from Journal writer Jim Matheson (subscription only). An excerpt:

Don Fleming, who became forever known as Buckets when he cavalierly phoned down to the front desk for a bucket of ice while playing cards as his hotel was going up in flames, passed away Saturday night at the Grey Nuns Hospital.

The former Journal sportswriter was one of the city's most colourful personalities, talking about friends White Shirt Munro and Blackjack Milne in his horse-racing columns. He also spent decades covering Briers and world curling championships, along the way getting chummy with the infamous German playgirl and alleged spy Gerda Munsinger, who caused a scandal in the Canadian government in the late 1960s.

"He was the last of the characters," said Canadian Curling Association events manager Warren Hansen.

The stories about Fleming, who also covered hockey in his early Journal days, were legendary and always a hoot. He loved being at the track and the curling rink and he could spin a tale of hard luck better than anybody else. But nobody was funnier or more oustpoken than Fleming, who went to work for Northlands when his Journal days ended in the early 1980s.

"At the '72 Silver Broom (worlds) in Garmisch (Germany), all of sudden, Gerda Munsinger was sitting with Buckets at the media bench. Nobody could figure out how or why he knew her. But the people from Air Canada (the sponsors) wanted to get her the hell out of there, I know that. Buckets... he was a real sweet talker," said Hansen.

"After the '77 Silver Broom in Sweden, a bunch of Canadian writers went to Copenhagen for a few days and I remember Buckets playing gin rummy with another reporter from Calgary named Al Dahl for two days. He thought he'd taken all of Al's money. Trouble is, Al didn't have any. When Buckets found out, he threw Al's typewriter out the window from the 15th floor.

"He'd sit there for 15 hours a day, watching the Alberta rinks play from start to finish and he'd keep track of all their shots. He got mad when the Canadian Curling Association brought in their own scorers (for percentages)," said Hansen, laughing softly.

Indeed. Fleming deserves a spot in the statistics hall if fame, too, as Matheson learned from his own father – another Canadian Curling News legend – for the story:

"Buckets started the scoring system (percentages) for curlers at the Brier," said another Canadian Curling Association Hall of Famer Jack Matheson.

Former TCN publisher and current Editor Emeritus Doug Maxwell also pays homage to the Buckets legacy in a chapter of his new book, Tales of a Curling Hack, coming out this fall:

I first learned about shooting percentages in my rookie years at the Brier. Buckets Fleming – Donald Schubert Fleming to quote the name on his birth certificate – was the learned and fun-loving curling writer for the Edmonton Journal when I first met him, and I was fascinated to watch him score a game. He had a pad of newsprint and a stub of a pencil, and before each game he’d rule off a scoring grid so he could do his math work. I don’t know how he managed to see everything that was going on in the arena, carry on a conversation with whoever was seated next to him, and still manage to score every shot of every Alberta player. He didn’t worry about the other games. After all, he was writing about his beloved Albertans and, of course, his stats efforts would aid in his subsequent analysis and coverage of the game.

Later, I tried to emulate Buckets and score a game myself, and discovered it definitely wasn’t easy. It did have one unassailable advantage, though; it forced you to watch every shot of the game.

R.I.P. Buckets. Another loss from a time when The Roaring Game was breaking new ground – and some of the rules ;) – with each passing day.


• Scotland's world men's champion David Murdoch has a team change heading into the 2006-07 season. Second stone (and former skip) Warwick Smith has left to return to the tee, and will compete with former world champion skip David Smith (no relation) at third, and front-enders Craig Wilson and Ross Hepburn. Murdoch has slipped Lowell alternate Peter Smith into the lineup as a replacement (P. Smith actually played some of the '06 WCC early rounds when Warwick – again, no relation, but Peter and David are brothers: confused yet? – went down with a back injury).

And if that's not baffling enough, Team Tom Brewster has a humungous change for next season: third Graeme Connal has left to play with Peter Loudon and will be replaced by – wait for it – Hammy McMillan. COME ONNNN!...

• There's lots of European events underway early this fall – next month in fact – starting with Switzerland's Baden Masters, which features returning Canuck champ Kerry Burtnyk. Norway gets underway shortly thereafter with the Bompi Cup, and while Bern's venerable Bund Trophy tournament is sadly no more, the World Curling Tour Europe has stepped up with the host club to create a new event, and they've already got 26 teams signed up. Where, oh where, is that kind of take-charge action on this side of the pond... eh?

• $134,000 in grants for curling clubs have been announced by the Canadian Curling Association, as part of the 2006 Curling Development Fund. Something tells us, however, that Gravenhurst will be using their $3,000 stipend towards the cost of a new roof, not a scraper...

• And finally, an irritated Sports Guy North has now officially put our sport – and TCN – on notice. Hmm. This is a full-fledged PR disaster! Sitting in the penalty box alongside Kelly Hrudey and mosquitoes (not from Winnipeg?!) simply won’t do. Perhaps a free copy of the 2007 calendar (when printed) and a couple of free Keiths’ at the Brier Patch in Hamilton will change SGN’s mind and bring ye olde TCN back into the good books...

1 comment:

Kent MacDonald said...

I cannot be bought!....... or can i... hmmm...