Team Saskatchewan hopes what they accomplished at the Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championship is just another step in the growth of the sport in Moose Jaw and across the province.
And with the success local competitors had at the tournament this past week at the Moose Jaw Curling Centre, that seems like it could very well be a possibility.
The Saskatchewan 1 foursome of skip Gil Dash, third Marie Wright, second Darwin Bender, lead Moose Gibson and coach Lorraine Arguin won the national championship on Friday afternoon when they defeated Northern Ontario’s Douglas Dean in the gold medal game.
Throughout the week, dozens of fans were on hand to check out the action, and that number swelled into the hundreds when Saskatchewan made their medal run.
“Some fans said they hadn’t seen the game of wheelchair curling before and they came out and watched it for the first time and loved it,” Wright said of the response to the game. “Some said they even liked it better than watching the able-bodied games, so that’s really good exposure for our sport."
They even might have gained a player just from watching the event.
"There was actually a girl here from Saskatoon in a wheelchair, and she’s interested in Lorraine and I going up and working with her in the summer once the ice is in," Wright said. "That’s exactly what we want to see happening.”
Dash was also impressed with the support Saskatchewan had throughout the event, especially as the tournament progressed.
“It was amazing how many more people are talking about it, watching it, seeing in on Facebook and everything,” he said. “When I opened my phone before the game, there were so many messages of support, it was just incredible to see and so appreciated.”
Gibson wore a pair of hats at the tournament, as he also served as the event chair in the lead-up to the event. He pointed to the growth of the game as a key part of the whole week.
“My whole goal here was to expose southern Saskatchewan to wheelchair curling,” Gibson said. “We had so many of the national team players here, and some of the shots were phenomenal. And they can say what they want about Moose Jaw, we might be the Most Notorious City, but we’re definitely the Friendliest City.”
Of course, things wouldn’t have turned out like they did without a small army of volunteers helping everything come together. Gibson made a point of thanking everyone who helped out, especially the Moose Jaw Events Centre staff who made things run as smooth as possible, right from day one.
“They’ve all been a real gem to work with, it’s all been outstanding and I can’t thank the Moose Jaw Events Centre enough,” he said.
Now, they get to prepare to do it all over again. The 2024 Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championship will be back in Moose Jaw next March, and you can count Bender -- who joined Dash and Wright in winning their fourth national title together -- among those who love the idea of returning in a year’s time..
“Two years in a row works really well because you know the facility,” he said. “It’s a really wheelchair-accessible facility and knowing that and how everything works is really great. We’ll be looking forward to coming back and trying to win it all again.”