A team of elite Canadian curlers, including a 2014 Olympic champion, was thrown out of a world curling tournament Saturday for “unsportsmanlike” behaviour after a drunken, belligerent and disruptive display, organizers said.
“I guess they were here to party,” said Wade Thurber, manager of the Red Deer Curling Centre, host of the Alberta bonspiel. “And then they went out to curl and it went sideways.”
There was boorish behaviour, such as swearing and disturbing other teams on the ice during two games of the Red Deer Curling Classic, a World Curling Tour event. Then there were the smashed brooms by Ryan Fry, who won a gold medal for Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
“It was temper. Smashed them. He hit one on the ice and broke the head off, and one on the scoreboard, and one over his knee,” Thurber said.
The curlers have since apologized and offered to pay for a hole in the locker room wall.
The team won their first game of the tournament on Friday. On Saturday, they arrived at the rink and were drinking in the rink’s bar prior to the their first of two Saturday games. Thurber said they were drinking beer and liquor shots.
“They were cut off at the bar, eventually,” he said.
A photo of the team in the bar before the game shows them two-fisting bottles of Corona at the table.
By the time of the team’s second game that day, their skipper, Jamie Koe, 41, of Yellowknife, who is a veteran of 10 Canadian curling championships, wasn’t able to take to the ice. He was “too drunk to curl,” Thurber said. The other three — Fry, 40, of Sault Ste. Marie, Chris Schille, 35, of Regina, and DJ Kidby, 31, of Regina — pressed ahead for back-to-back losses.
“There were so many complaints and demands to do something about the situation that we decided to remove the team from the spiel, which we did on the Saturday, after the game,” Thurber said.
“That team left the rink and since, though, they have contacted us and are very apologetic and offered to pay for damages. I think they are regretting crossing the line.”
Koe issued an apology on behalf of his team.
“Due to a lapse in judgment on Saturday, we contributed to a unpleasant experience for others,” his written statement says. “We were disrespectful and the committee was right to disqualify us from further play, which we did not argue. I would like to sincerely apologize to the athletes, fans and organizers of the event. I will be taking steps to ensure this never happens again.”
Schille also issued a statement for the “unfortunate situation.”
“We took our fun a little too far which led to curlers and fans being uncomfortable and upset.” He said he has apologized to the team they were playing against and to organizers.
Fry apologized to fans, other curlers and organizers in a statement, saying: “I came to the event to play and enjoy the sport. My actions were truly disrespectful and embarrassing — the committee was right to disqualify us from play.”
He added: “I will continue to strive to become a better version of myself.”
Curling is often called the “social sport” and typically features less bravado and in-your-face competitiveness than most sports. Sportsmanlike behaviour is often a marker of even tense competition.
Players do sometimes drink, but usually not like this.
“Drinking and curling has gone hand-in-hand forever, it is a very social sport,” Thurber said. “Yes, there’s been drunk people on the ice curling before and, yes, people have smashed brooms and swore here and there throughout the history of curling.
“It’s just that when you’re high profile and break three brooms in one game and disrupting people around you and putting on a display that was unacceptable, it takes it to another level.”
The tournament featured 28 men’s teams, including entries from Japan, China, Scotland, Korea, Switzerland, the United States alongside several Canadian teams.
With the entry fee of $1,000 and a chance to win $10,000, elite players typically work to maximize their chances.
“They are all elite players. It wasn’t like four regular club curlers that just decided to get together to curl. It doesn’t make sense to be in that shape,” Thurber said.
“When you have a world curling tour event where you have elite curlers, you do not see elite players showing up to play drunk.”
Thurber said his committee would meet soon to discuss what ramifications the incident might have on the four players.
The finals were scheduled for Monday afternoon.
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