Mike Caton (left) and Ken Dawson (right)

Campbell River firefighters headed to national curling championships yet again

“I was told there would be firefighters serving us with no shirts on,” a woman jokingly tells Dean Thulin, skip of the Campbell River Firefighters Curling Team at their recent “Burger and a Beer” fundraiser at the Campbell River Curling Club.

“I don’t think you want to see that,” Thulin replies with a laugh.

The room is filling up for the event, which is the team’s only fundraiser to raise money for their upcoming trip to Truro, Nova Scotia — about a half-hour up the road from Halifax, right at the tip of the Bay of Fundy — where they will represent B.C. at the Canadian Firefighters Curling Championship April 7-17.

The team ­— Thulin, Ken Dawson (lead) Rob Robinson (second) and Mike Caton (third) — earned the right to play for the province by capturing the provincial title at the end of January in Kelowna.

But this isn’t exactly something unusual for the team. This will be Thulin’s seventh appearance at the National Championships.

They actually won the tournament in 2010 and have three bronze medals to show for their past efforts on the national stage, as well.

Despite the “been there, done that,” aspect of their opportunity, however, Thulin doesn’t take it for granted.

“Each one is more important than the last one, for me. I mean, we’re getting older, after all,” he says and while he hopes he’s got many years of curling left in him, there’s always the chance that the next national championship will be his last chance to compete on a national stage.

It’s also extra special for Thulin, as the team dedicates their appearances at major tournaments to his old friend and teammate Rick McFarlane, who died in 2014 of leukemia. McFarlane had spent 36 years as a Campbell River firefighter, retiring in 2006, and he’s the one who introduced Thulin to curling for the firefighters, so it’s pretty special for him to be able to carry on that part of McFarlane’s legacy.

“We’ve been dedicating the last three to him,” Thulin says, “so it’s really special to be able to keep going.”

The fundraiser brought in almost $1,200 for the trip, which certainly helps with expenses.

Traveling across the country isn’t cheap, after all, and each region is also required to provide dinner one night during the tournament — a shared responsibility with another team. This year, Team BC is paired up with Team Southern Ontario, so Thulin and company will be bringing some salmon with them to add some local Campbell River flavour to the proceedings. He expects the Southern Ontario squad will probably bring some moose with them again.

That doesn’t sound like a terrible dinner.

Possibly more than the competition, though, or the fantastic regionally-inspired meals, Thulin says he’s looking forward to meeting up with some old friends.

These tournaments are friendly — though competitive — events full of camaraderie, and he’s made a number of very good friends over the years by being a part of them.

“I think there are only two teams that will be there (this year) that I don’t know,” Thulin says. “Through the years, I’ve met so many great people at these that if I wanted to drive through every province, I’d have somewhere to stay in each province when I did. The curling community, too, but the firefighting community, especially, are the greatest people in the world in terms of their hospitality, and I’m looking forward to touching base with some of them again.”

I suggest to Thulin that they return with some of that famous East Coast lobster for a celebration dinner with the community to show off their trophy and medals — and another championship banner to hang from the rafters of the Campbell River Curling Club — after they win this thing.

“That sounds good,” Thulin says with another laugh. “We can’t say enough about how much we appreciate this community and its support, and we’d love to bring home another one of these for them.”

 

Left to right: Mike Caton (lead), Rob Robinson (second), Ken Dawson (third) and Dean Thulin (skip) take a moment for a photo with their Provincial Championship trophies after their win in Kelowna at the end of January.