The fourth annual Marc Kennedy Junior Classic maxed out at 56 teams faster than a takeout shot.
“We put it up on November 1 to get your entries in and within 12 minutes we already had 56 teams,” said Kennedy of the March 22 to 24 bonspiel at the St. Albert and Crestwood curling clubs.
“It just shows you that the need for young people to have curling events is out there. You hear all these things about the numbers being down and curling is dying and this spiel is a perfect example of that’s not the case. There are young people that want to play in events and they want to get out there and be part of competitive curling and fun bonspiels. That’s kind of what it’s shown us and we’re happy to prove that.”
The Junior Classic, presented by The Co-operatives, consists of eight teams in each of the U21 male, U21 female, U18 male and U18 female divisions and 12 teams for both the intermediate and recreation draws.
Last year’s bonspiel featured 46 rinks in the recreation (12), intermediate (12), U18 male (six) and female (six) and U21 male (five) and female (five) divisions.
For the second year in a row, the Over The Pond Junior Curling Exchange, a joint initiative by Kennedy and the Nordic Junior Curling Tour, will feature two teams from Sweden in the Junior Classic.
The male and female winners on the Ontario Junior Curling Tour are also confirmed for this year.
All the finals will be played on the last day at 2 p.m. in St. Albert.
“It should be awesome again,” Kennedy said. “The spiel is fantastic and we have a wonderful committee of seven people that put on a great show. They do a big chunk of the work.”
Kennedy estimated 30 volunteers are required during the bonspiel weekend.
“We end up sometimes having to push volunteers away just because we don’t want to have them standing around doing nothing so the support from the event from day one has been amazing.”
The Junior Classic is a task done for pleasure, not reward, for Kennedy and his wife, Nicole.
“I love it and Nicole does as well. It’s a labour of love for us. The sport has given me so much so to give back it’s a great feeling and every year we’re overwhelmed with the kindest of the people you meet there. Curling has great people in the sport,” Kennedy said. “Curling has given me a pretty incredible life so you give that opportunity to some young athletes and to watch them play and grow and learn, it’s my curling career coming full circle and something my family enjoys thoroughly.
“This is also a special one for Nicole and I because this is Aubrey’s first curling bonspiel and our goal is to keep the spiel going long enough that our daughters (Aubrey and Brechan) can play in it as well. This will be her first event and that’s a pretty cool thing for Nicole and I to watch.”
Aubrey, 10, is curling with her nieces, Julia and Mackenzie, on Team Kennedy in the recreation draw. Their dad is Marc’s brother, Glen, and the Kennedys grew up rocking the ice at the St. Albert six-sheeter.
“I’m sure it will be a lot of fun for them and it will a great experience. Glen’s girls curl a little more often than Aubrey does because Aubrey is pretty heavily involved in cheerleading.”
The latest accolade for Kennedy – three-time Brier winner in eight trips to the Canadian curling classic, two-time world champion, two-time Olympian and 2010 gold medallist – was being named the greatest Canadian male second in history.
Kennedy received 18 first-place votes from a TSN panel comprised of 31 curling personalities, including broadcasters, reporters and elite-level curlers responsible for selecting Canada's Greatest Curlers.
“It was an honour, honestly, to be nominated, especially with some of the names that were in there, guys that I’ve looked up to my entire life, including Scott Pfeifer, and then to win it was really humbling,” said Kennedy, who was inducted into the St. Albert Curling Club wall of fame in 2011 along with Pfeifer, a four-time Brier champion and three-time world gold medallist with the Ferbey Four, who are going into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in May.
“It did give me a chance to kind of reflect on the last 10, 15 years of my career and the one thing that came to the forefront is what incredible teammates I had. You don’t get individual awards in curling unless you’ve been on an incredible team and obviously with Benny (Hebert) being the greatest lead of all time and I’m sure Kevin (Martin) will be the greatest skip of all time and possibly the greatest curler of all time, so it’s those guys that presented me the opportunities that I had,” Kennedy said of his Brier, world championship and Olympic gold-medal teammates.
“I’m just really fortunate and humbled to have great teammates and humbled to be in that category for seconds. Scott and I still talk, we're good friends (and both are southpaw shooters), and I thought Scott would be the best second of all time so we actually bet lunch on it.”
Kennedy, 37, spent the curling season in semi-retirement while healing a nagging sore hip.
“I’m throwing rocks now and then but I’m enjoying the break,” said Kennedy, a doting dad on the cheerleading circuit that will include trip to the world championships in Orlando, Fla., in April.
"It’s been wonderful,” said the quarterback for the St. Albert Storm while attending Paul Kane High School. “I still have the drive to get back and play so we’ll see where and when that is.”