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Remarks Celebrating the opening of the Canadian Masters Curling Championship, Guelph Curling Club, Sunday, April 2nd, 2017.

I am very pleased to represent Guelph at the  Canadian Masters Curling Championships.

Just 6 hours ago I was in Vancouver at a conference. Thankfully, Air Canada got me to the rink on time. Air Canada knows you cannot keep the Masters waiting and I am glad they do.

We are thrilled to have such tremendous curlers in Guelph from all over Canada. Like you, I am over 60. However, the only way I will ever be on a rink at the Canadian Masters is by participating in the opening ceremonies.

To give you an appreciation for our history you might wish to know that The Guelph Curling Club was established in 1838. Ours is this the second oldest curling club in Ontario.

In those days, the population of Guelph was around population 2,000; now we’re around 140,000 people. All this time, curling has been part of our heritage – from when we played on the Speed River, to when we curled on Baker Street to now.

But what is most important is Curling in the history of Canada. To some, it is a blasphemy that I will suggest that curling, not hockey – is our national sport. Here’s why: in curling, there is no age discrimination. Furthermore, it is fair to say we have 100 percent gender equity.

Our personal histories intertwine with Curling. Over 40 years ago I started curling right here. I met my future wife at this rink. She fell in love with me when she realized what a fine sweeper I was. How many of you met your future partners or spent time with your future spouse on a curling rink? I will hazard a guess that is most of you.

But, there is something more important about curling than our teenage romances. Why do I say suggest this is Canada’s national sport? Let’s look around. Many of us started to curl as teenagers. Many consider curling to be a fundamental part of our winter social season? How many of you travel to curl against friends and rivals? That’s the powerful, socially unifying nature of our game.

The jacket I wear is from the St. John’s Curling Club circa 1960. It belongs to my colleague, Councillor Leanne Piper’s father. He was stationed in Newfoundland with the Canadian Armed Forces and curled when off duty. Perhaps the jacket is out of date in this age of spandex and stretchy material. Yet, By its very design, it says that Curling unites us – coast to coast to coast.

In this Master’s Tournament, there is gender equity like there is every day on curling the rink. We play with our sweethearts, our husbands, our wives, even our lovers – as long as we don’t get caught.

Our children curl as our equals. It does not matter what age or gender you are, any of you can skip, lead or vice. That is the egalitarian nature of our game. And unlike hockey, we don’t have too many bench clearing brawls. Instead, we share a drink with our rivals at the end of each game.

Consider too the champions amongst you. Many of you excelled 30 or 40 years ago and rose to be champions locally, provincially and nationally. That’s a long career in any sport. Even Gordie Howe did not play hockey that long.

From coast to coast to coast Curling unites us on the rink and over a celebratory drink following the final end. This tournament unites us across 4000 miles.

Thank you to the tournament sponsors who helped make this event possible.

Thank you to everyone who assisted in organizing this tournament.

Most of all, thank you, competitors. Throw true, sweep hard and excel at our game.

We’re thrilled you are competing in Guelph. I hope you’ll have time to get to know Guelph a little better, to visit our historic and energetic downtown. If you need a spare, I’m always available.

Let the games begin.