In tribute to Manitoba’s 150th birthday, and to provide a research vehicle for future Manitoba curling historians, the Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame & Museum and CurlManitoba have published a history of the annual Men’s Bonspiel ‘championship’.
The E-publication, which is available on the CurlManitoba website, highlights the champions and the many trophies which they competed for to symbolize the championship.
From Sam Harstone’s Granite team (Jack Patterson, James McDonald, Charles Carbert), winners of the first annual bonspiel to the Manitoba Branch of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club in 1889, to Josh Friesen’s Stonewall team (Emerson Klimpke, Troy Kemball, Reece Hamm, Josh Maisey & Coach Ron Westcott), winners of the 2020 Manitoba Open, there have been 132 Manitoba Men’s bonspiel champions.
In the early years, and more recently, bonspiel championship recognition has gone to the team which went unbeaten to win the bonspiel’s primary event. From 1906 to 2008, the bonspiel champion was recognized to be the Grand Aggregate winner – the team which won the most games in specifically identified ‘open’ events.
Mott & Allardyce, in their MCA centennial year history “Curling Capital: Winnipeg and the Roarin’ Game, 1876 to 1988, point out that:
- Curling existed in the Red River Settlement well before Manitoba became a province (as early as March, 1860 a letter in the settlement newspaper, The Nor’Wester, talked of forming a curling club)
- The Manitoba Branch of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club was established by seven clubs (Granite, Thistle, Stony Mountain, Stonewall, Morden, Portage, Carberry) in part because curlers had been talking about hosting a bonspiel and needed an organization to do so.
- As the bonspiel’s reputation grew, in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s teams travelled to Winnipeg from across Canada, from the United States and even from Scotland. The bonspiel champion team was viewed generally as ‘the best team in the world’.
The names of most of the greats in Manitoba Men’s curling appear in the Champions/Grand Aggregate list, often more than once. Notable is the accomplishment of Strathcona’s Ken Watson teams which won the MCA Grand Aggregate in six consecutive years from 1942 through 1947.
Among the stories about the trophies themselves, one of the most interesting is the one which ties the MCA Bonspiel Grand Aggregate to the Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup.
In 1909, the year that Governor General Earl Grey donated what is now known as the Grey Cup for football competition, he also donated a trophy for competition at the annual bonspiel of the Manitoba Curling Association.
That year’s MCA Annual publication reports “His Excellency Earl Grey, Governor-General of Canada, having expressed a desire to promote an interest in curling, offers for annual competition, at the Bonspiel of the Manitoba Curling Association, an elegant silver cup for the club winning the Grand Aggregate.” In the same publication, the minutes of the October 13, 1909 annual meeting made note of it this way………”up for competition for the first time at the last Bonspiel and was won by a representative rink from the Granite Club of Winnipeg. This prize has added a further stimulus to the game of curling, which is fast gaining a foothold in Western Canada.”
The Grand Aggregate trophy, for the years 1909-1930, was named the Governor-General’s Trophy.
The CurlManitoba and Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame & Museum bonspiel history project was initiated by curling fan Les Ferris of Holland, researching the successes of Holland’s Hector McLean team which won the Bonspiel’s New York Life Challenge trophy in 1900. At the time, the New York Life event was the bonspiel’s only Open event and was therefore recognized as the Bonspiel Championship.
For the first time in 1901 the bonspiel’s records identify an ‘aggregate’ – a trophy to be awarded to the team winning most games in three named events, including the New York Life. McLean and his Holland team won what was called “The Special Aggregate” in both 1901 and 1902.
Ferris’ interest in the project was based initially on that community connection. “I was intrigued by the idea a Holland team was the first rural Manitoba team to win the same championship or aggregate which has been won by such legends of Manitoba curling as Gordon Hudson, Howard Wood, Ken Watson, Terry Braunstein, Don Duguid, Kerry Burtnyk and Vic Peters,” Ferris explains.
The project was developed with the support of CurlManitoba historians Rick Mutton, Heather Helston and Resby Coutts, Manitoba Legislative Library Reference Services staffer Heidi Rees, and the staff of the CurlManitoba office.
CLICK HERE to view or download a copy of the complete MCA Bonspiel/Manitoba Open Championship/Grand Aggregate history