No. 7: Jack MacDuff curling team

Robin
Robin Short
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'Chico' and the men were a big hit in 1977

He was Nova Scotia-born air traffic controller, with a Scottish name and Latino likeness.

Thirty-two years ago, Jack MacDuff skippered Newfoundland to its first and only Canadian men's curling championship, and today is No. 7 on The Telegram's list of this province's greatest teams.

Curling wasn't exactly what you'd call an "it" sport back in the 1970s, but rather a "country club" sport, where it wasn't uncommon to see competitors flinging hack weight with a smoke hanging from their lips.

Toby McDonald (right) and Doug Hudson celebrate a shot during the 1977 Brier in Regina, while Jack McDuff (left) seems to take it all in stride as he prepares to light a match. Curlers could smoke on the ice in those days. In fact, the Brier was sponsored

He was Nova Scotia-born air traffic controller, with a Scottish name and Latino likeness.

Thirty-two years ago, Jack MacDuff skippered Newfoundland to its first and only Canadian men's curling championship, and today is No. 7 on The Telegram's list of this province's greatest teams.

Curling wasn't exactly what you'd call an "it" sport back in the 1970s, but rather a "country club" sport, where it wasn't uncommon to see competitors flinging hack weight with a smoke hanging from their lips.

Still, the stunning Brier win by MacDuff (dubbed "Chico" by the mainland media for his uncanny likeness to Freddie Prinze, star of the hit TV series "Chico and the Man") - along with Toby McDonald, Doug Hudson and Ken Templeton, sent an entire province into a curling frenzy, surpassed only by Brad Gushue's Olympic Trials victory and subsequent gold medal in the 2006 Torino Games.

MacDuff arrived in Newfoundland in 1970, and it didn't take long for him to establish himself on the local curling scene, winning an Atlantic intercollegiate title with Fred Durant's Memorial University rink that season.

Two years later, MacDuff and Durant - along with Bob Rowe and Carl Strong - represented Newfoundland in the Brier held at Memorial Stadium, going 3-7.

In 1976, MacDuff hooked up with McDonald, Hudson and Templeton to form a youthful foursome, one that averaged the age of 26 at the Brier, one of the youngest teams in the national field.

The team from the St. John's Curling Club wasn't even expected to make it out of the provincial championship in Stephenville. Instead, pundits were predicting former provincial champs George MacCharles, Lester Bowering or Fred Wight would emerge on top.

But MacDuff and Co. sailed through the 16-team, double knockout series undefeated, punching their ticket to Regina, Sask., and the Brier with a win over Wight in the final game.

Newfoundland teams had begun play in the Brier in 1951, but none had ever won more than four games.

Still, that didn't seem to faze MacDuff, McDonald, Hudson and Templeton. Call it youthful enthusiasm. Or naivetÉ.

"I was sort of embarrassed at first to say we were the best rink to ever come out of Newfoundland," MacDuff said after winning it all. "But what the heck, I felt we really were."

With wins over Manitoba and Nova Scotia mid-week, MacDuff - wearing golf shoes, sans the spikes - McDonald, Hudson and Templeton became the first Newfoundland team to win five games, losing only two.

"People are surprised when Newfoundland wins," MacDuff said, "but they shouldn't be anymore."

The best curler around the Newfoundland team in 1976, however, might have been their volunteer driver, Sam Richardson. Richardson was the second on Ernie Richardson's Saskatchewan curling dynasty in the 1950s and '60s.

On their drives throughout Regina, Richardson had become an unofficial coach/consultant for the Newfound-landers.

"In the kind and sweet manner that Sam had," McDonald related to the Edmonton Journal a few years ago, "everyone laughing and all the rest, he convinced us that perhaps we needed to be celibate for the week, to not sleep with our wives, but sleep with each other.

"And while MacDuff was a nice guy, I wasn't about to cuddle up to him too much.

"But seriously, by the time we got to the hotel, we were bunking together because that's the way the Richardsons did it and theirs was the recipe for success as far as we were concerned."

As the weekend neared, the Newfoundlanders were leading the Brier pack at 7-2.

With the host province out of it at 3-7, MacDuff, McDonald, Hudson and Templeton had become the sentimental favourites in Regina. Interest was also building in Newfoundland, and the curlers were receiving hundreds of telegrams and phone calls from home.

One message came from Premier Frank Moores, who told the skip: "A lot of people don't know a thing about curling, but they're going crazy anyway."

With their second-last game in the 12-team round-robin, Newfoundland dispatched the Northwest Territories 9-1 to make it five wins in a row.

All that was left was Ontario's Joe Gurowka.

Ontario led 3-2 after seven ends, but MacDuff got two in the eighth, stole one on the ninth and three more in to the 10th for the improbable victory.

Templeton and Hudson were flawless on the front end, while McDonald was, according to a CP report, "making double takeouts look simple."

And MacDuff was the all-star skip.

"There's no way," he said, "any of us played over our heads."

The next day, the curlers touched down at Torbay Airport and were greeted by hundreds of cheering fans, including Moores and St. John's Mayor Dorothy Wyatt.

"This is a Cinderella story unheard of," said St. John's Curling Club president Bob Cole.

A day later, with most businesses and government offices closed because of St. Patrick's Day, thousands lined St. John's streets for an 800-car motorcade honouring the Brier champs.

MacDuff, McDonald, Hudson and Templeton represented Canada at the world championship - the Air Canada Silver Broom - later that month in Duluth, Minn., but finished a disappointing ninth at 2-7.

But it didn't erase memories of the week that was in mid-March, 1976.

rshort@thetelegram.com




Selection criteria

The object: To select the 10 best teams Newfoundland and Labrador has produced. Six prominent individuals with an impressive sports background, together with Robin Short, Brendan McCarthy, John Browne and Kenn Oliver of The Telegram's sports department, were chosen to make the selections.
The criteria: Teams must have been primarily comprised of athletes from Newfoundland and Labrador, competed in or represented the province, or country, in athletic competition. The field was open to amateur and professional, and male and female athletes.
The selection panel
Jill Brewer: A long-time diving coach in St. John's, Brewer is head of the St. John's recreation department. A former Canada Games coach, she is a member of the St. John's Molson Athlete of the Year Committee.
Ian Campbell: A two-sport star (hockey and baseball) with the Guards in St. John's during the late 1950s and '60s, Campbell was the 1963 and '65 St. John's athlete of the year and is a member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame.
George Faulkner: Newfoundland's 'Mr. Hockey', Faulkner was voted the No. 1 athlete on The Telegram's Top 10 list of athletes last year. He is a Newfoundland Sports and Newfoundland Hockey Hall of Famer.
Kathy Gosse: A long-time sports reporter at the Clarenville Packet, Gosse knows how to play the game, too. She was the 1972 St. John's Female Athlete of the Year.
Chris Green: A Corner Brook radio personality for over 30 years, Green has called play-by-play in hockey from the old Newfoundland Senior Hockey League to the American Hockey League (Cape Breton Oilers). Today, Green anchors the morning news for CFCB radio in Corner Brook.
Joe Wadden: A long-time baseball and basketball standout in St. John's, Wadden is a member of both the provincial hardball and hoops Halls of Fame. He is a 2009 inductee into the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame.




Top 10 best teams

1. TBA -May 23, 2009
2. TBA - May 16, 2009
3. TBA - May 9, 2009
4. TBA -May 2, 2009
5. TBA - April 25, 2009
6. TBA - April 18, 2009
7. Jack MacDuff curling team
8. Conception Bay North CeeBees
9. 1966 Terra Novas junior baseball
10. Sue Anne Bartlett curling team

Organizations: The Telegram, Curling Club, Fred Durant's Memorial University Edmonton Journal Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall Torbay Airport Air Canada Canada Games Year Committee Newfoundland Senior Hockey League American Hockey League Cape Breton Oilers

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John's, Nova Scotia Regina Saskatchewan Memorial Stadium Stephenville Manitoba Ontario Northwest Territories Canada Duluth, Minn. Corner Brook Conception Bay

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Recent comments

  • Seriously
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    No on plays it? last I checked there was almost a Million people in Canada alone that plays it, but no, your right, thats no on.
    If you don't like curling, thats fine. But there are many people that do.
    And like they say, don't knock it till you try it.

  • bobby
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    You can say what you want about rugby but to beat down someone as selfless as Pat Parfrey is wrong. What he's done for rugby speaks for its self what he's done for sport in Newfoundland is a story that would take years to tell.
    If it wasn't for him the new MULTI SPORT complex wouldn't be there....and thats a fact.
    Doug you need to give your head a shake.

  • common
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    enough with the curling, its not a sport and any win is tainted by the fact that no on plays it

  • Doug
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    To common sense....I'm with you. The only sport worse than curling is rugby and that bluff, Pat Parfrey.

  • Seriously
    July 01, 2010 - 20:07

    No on plays it? last I checked there was almost a Million people in Canada alone that plays it, but no, your right, thats no on.
    If you don't like curling, thats fine. But there are many people that do.
    And like they say, don't knock it till you try it.

  • bobby
    July 01, 2010 - 20:02

    You can say what you want about rugby but to beat down someone as selfless as Pat Parfrey is wrong. What he's done for rugby speaks for its self what he's done for sport in Newfoundland is a story that would take years to tell.
    If it wasn't for him the new MULTI SPORT complex wouldn't be there....and thats a fact.
    Doug you need to give your head a shake.

  • common
    July 01, 2010 - 20:01

    enough with the curling, its not a sport and any win is tainted by the fact that no on plays it

  • Doug
    July 01, 2010 - 19:48

    To common sense....I'm with you. The only sport worse than curling is rugby and that bluff, Pat Parfrey.