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Rob volunteering for Brier

Tales from the Brier Patch – Time honoured traditions

07/03/2014

BCLC is a community partner of the 2014 Tim Hortons Brier, in partnership with Gateway’s Lake City Casino Kamloops. The Brier is an event owned and operated by the Canadian Curling Association.

Fifteen BCLC employees are volunteering at the event on their own time, each contributing approximately 25 hours to be a part of this exciting event in Kamloops.

Today our volunteers experienced decades-old curling tradition

Volunteer David puts the BCLC pin on the map!

It was a great morning at the Patch, a bit slow but part of that was the BC – Alberta draw this morning went into extra ends … BC lost. True to form the crowd started to appear once the match was over. The funniest moment came when a fan arrived at the station with what could only be described as the biggest collection of pins on a vest known to mankind.  You hear about the pin trading culture but to see it was beyond belief. 

Before ordering anything from the bar she asked for the “The Canadian Pin” (It’s the Molson Canadian Beer logo). She immediately picked up on my look of complete confusion and informed us that she and a number of collectors had been told that all the Patch bartenders have “The Canadian” pin and we were the only place to get one.  Sadly we had to inform her that we didn’t have them… It was then that I reached into my pocket and produced a BCLC pin … Immediately she recognized the BCLC log and exclaimed … “THE lottery pin … can I have another for my husband?”  So I handed a second one to her.

We finished up her drink order and she hesitated before leaving, almost shyly looking at me so I asked if she needed a trader… Bingo! So I then did my best to add to the pin trading culture and told her that a number of BCLC staff were volunteering in the Patch and they too had some pins for distribution. Well it worked as about an hour later another customer was asking about “The lottery ’pin.  Great to see BCLC joining the pin trade!

Volunteers Leandra & Lorraine are down with the lingo

So far our experience at the Brier will be “frozen” in our memories as a great time had by all! We had a busier shift at the patch last night and were a little daunted by our “lead” shift as bartenders as we are both rookie bartenders. But we had little time to worry about learning the ropes and were soon “hurrying hard” to pour drinks with the best of them. Two of our fan favorites had almost as many pins on them as clothes , we called them “Prickly” but in reality they were a lot of fun and kept coming back to our booth so I guess we “stuck” on them too. We took in a morning game which saw BC play Manitoba.  It was a fantastic game even though BC lost.  It came down to the last rock in an extra end, needing to hit the 2 BC rocks and stick to the button.  Stoughton (Manitoba’s skip) made it look easy. The patch has been a “cool” place to volunteer with great entertainment and a lot of curling enthusiasts from all over the country!

Volunteer Shirley met curling royalty

I have now worked four shifts at the Patch and it has been the most incredible experience. All the fans have been so friendly and to my surprise loyal! My position has been as a bar server on the same shift each day which has resulted in repeat customers searching me out to serve them which has been incredible. I’ve met so many loyal curling fans, some famous and some there just for the fun of it. One person who has spent a lot of time chatting and explaining curling to me is Barry McPhee.  Barry was the Team BC Skip for Labatt Brier in 1996 in Kamloops.

I’ve come to understand that pin trading in a big deal. As I give out BCLC pins I have received some incredible trinkets and stories in return.  I met Jim Cotter's god father, received one of the coveted Nova Scotia yellow rain hats, and even received some bling from the owner's son of Asham (a necklace with a curling rock pendant). Last night I received the biggest hug from a local Kamloopian as I was able to give him the final 27th sponsor pin he was searching for to complete his 2014 collection.  These are people who are serious about collecting the pins and if they don't have something to give you in return right away they will hunt you down at the next draw or the next day to even up the score so you know you have made them very happy which is such an incredible feeling.  I’ll be sad when my shifts at the Patch are over!

Volunteer Rob attended his first Morning Session

During my first Brier Patch shift I met Tim and Karen from Thunder Bay. They were fun to serve and were here to watch their beloved Northern Ontario rink in its first trip to the Brier. Their team was struggling but that didn’t dampen their spirits.

I was off shift at 8:30 that night and made the easy transition from volunteer bartender to customer. I bumped into my new Thunder Bay peeps mid Patch and had a cocktail with them. After a few tall tales they told me about going to ‘Morning Classes’ the following day at 7:30am. They gave me no details but said I should attend. Sounded creepy to me, they didn't look like the strange type. So I did what most people would do, rushed home to the safe confines of Google for more information. 

The power of the internet confirmed that Morning Classes do exist and have been part of Brier folklore for more than 60 years. It involves games, trickery, assignments, a possible detention for bad behaviour and someone named Tom Collins. No good would come of this since I had to be in the office that morning. 

 A few more days and Patch shifts went by and more chatter of legendary Morning Classes. My Thursday night shift ended with the world famous band "Cod Gone Wild" playing "I's the Bye" to a frenzied house. I decided to make my move on Friday morning. I arrived promptly at 7:30 at the Doubletree Inn and was greeted by a nice lady wearing antlers. Could this be a clue? Hmmmm. She greeted me with friendly Northern Ontario charm and steered me to the Morning Classes session. She keenly picked up on this being my first ever visit to Morning Classes. 

Upon entry another nice gal (The Great Dianne) not wearing antlers but a stylish hat of Scottish origin, asked for me to sign in. An assembly line of stately decorated gentleman manned one side of the room stocked with freshly squeezed Northern Ontario Lemons, ice cubes and the ceremonial gin. One of the ring leaders (Morris) told me to get rid of that coffee I was carrying and handed me a full glass of the ceremonial drink. 

The room was placarded with pictures of Morning Classes from previous Briers, tables with photo albums filled with history and newspaper articles. Another table had tricky parlour games headed by a couple of smarty pants to entertain the crowd. There I was in a tradition started 66 years ago passed on to the third generation of organizers of this strange time honoured event only seen at Briers. 

Just another typical day at the Brier steeped with great Canadian tradition from morning to last call.

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