Curling royalty descended on the Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club May 30-31 for the Capital One Celebrity Bonspiel.
It was the fifth year for the event, which saw 2006 Olympic champion Brad Gushue, 2014 Scott Tournament of Hearts champion Rachel Homan and Sochi gold medallist Ryan Fry hit the ice in support of SickKids Foundation.
Created by co-chairs Peter Steski, Jeff Steski and Kevin McCafferty, the event was spurred on to keep in close contact once the Steski brothers retired from the curling circuit.
“My brother and I used to curl on the World Curling Tour, and as we slowly retired it was a good way for us to stay in touch with the game, with our friends and then raise funds for a great cause,” Peter Steski said, in the banquet room of the Cricket Club.
McCafferty is a member of the Armour Heights-area curling club, and chipped in to provide the venue.
With the help of friend Ian Cunningham from Capital One, the trio was successful in securing a bonspiel sponsor.
In five years, both the celebrity skips and community members have raised more than $400,000 for the Hospital For Sick Children.
According to Steski participants raise money through online pledges. Those who raise $1,000 or more get to pick their skip, while those who don’t are put on a team.
“The more money you raise, the better your pick,” he said.
Steski mentioned Jennifer Jones and Glenn Howard as among the “big names [that] roll through here.”
This year’s top fundraiser was Rod MacIntyre. He was given the first draft position to choose his skip. He selected Laura Crocker, the 2010 World Junior silver medallist and 2013 Alberta bronze medallist.
“The guy who won over the past three years has probably raised north of $30K,” Steski said of MacIntyre. “He’s been in the top five every year.
“Last year he raised $6,000 and he didn’t even play. He took a long-time member of the Scarborough Curling Club, who doesn’t nearly have the fame the others do. There’s a long family connection there.”
Niklas Edin of Sweden, the 2013 World Champion, went second, while popular Norwegian curler Christoffer Svae, known for his brilliant pants with his country’s colours, went third.
The curlers were singing the praises of the event.
Scott Tournament of Hearts bronze medallist Chelsea Carey, of Winnipeg, said she couldn’t wait to get the call last year.
“It’s such a phenomenal event,” she commented just before taking the ice. “The facility is fantastic, the organizing committee does a great job and you can’t argue with the cause.
“It always blows me away when I get thanked for coming, but it’s so easy for me to come. It’s so much fun, it’s so awesome, and to be able to give something back is just incredible.”
One of Carey’s rivals during the Scotties, Val Sweeting of Edmonton, also expressed her enjoyment of being at the bonspiel for the first time.
“This is my first time, so everything has been great so far,” she said. “We just get treated so well, and to be a ‘celebrity’ is amazing.”
Other celebrity skips included Leasider and 1998 Olympic silver medallist Mike Harris, Brantford’s Joanne Rizzo, Sarnia’s Heath McCormick and Milton’s Leigh Armstrong, along with Crystal Webster of Alberta, Reid Carruthers and Jon Mead of Manitoba and Geri-Lynn Ramsay of Prince Edward Island.
Carruthers, along with fundraisers Dave Moull, Stan Fong and Wesley Forget, won the tournament with a 5-4 victory over Niklas Edin. About $80,000 was raised this year.