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Thursday, December 18, 2014

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Manitoba curler qualifies for national championships

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WINNIPEG — The best Jewish skip from Manitoba since the days of provincial champions Terry Braunstein (Canadian Brier winner in 1965), Bobby Robinson and Hersh Lerner may well be on the way.

Only 16, Kyle Doering qualified for the M&M Meat Shops Canadian Junior Men’s Curling Championship in Napanee, Ont., and got as far as the semifinals, losing to Northern Ontario 7-3. Northern Ontario went on to lose to Alberta in the championship game by a score of 9-6.

At 16, Doering was the youngest skip competing in Napanee. Back in Manitoba, playing at his home rink, the West Kildonan Curling Club, Doering upset No. 1 seed Joey Witherspoon to capture the Canola Junior Men’s Provincial Championship and propel him onto the national stage.

The win over the previously undefeated Witherspoon, who had reached the 2010 Canadian Final, didn’t go down to skip’s rocks, either; the final was 9-3.

Joining Doering on the provincial championship team were third Colton Lott, 16, second Derek Oryniak, 17, and lead Lucas Van Den Bosch, 17.

 How could a minor who is only 16 compete so successfully against opponents who range up to an age limit of 20? Well, let the modest-to-a-fault skipper tell it like it is.

“I started to curl around the age of five, when I really started taking an interest in the game. My dad [Grant] used to build a skating rink in our backyard and he turned it into a curling rink, believe it or not. He pebbled the ice and got me rocks and built hacks, so he kind of constructed a little curling rink for me to practise on, and he kind of explained to me what curling was and how it worked and all the rules and basics of it.”

The devoted dad, in his day, was an outstanding AAA hockey and baseball player and a recreational curler.

“He curled in a couple leagues. Up to this day we have a family team with my dad and his two brothers and my grandpa [on Grant’s side] and we curl once a week at the West Kildonan rink.”

At around the age of seven, Kyle curled at his dad’s rink, the Granite Curling Club, where small rocks about one-half the weight are used and thrown about half the distance. 

“I started off subbing for my dad’s team at age 10 and used to play lead for him. By age 12, I started to skip,” he said matter-of-factly.

Doering’s mom, Bonnie Lifchus Doering, is Jewish. His zaide, Billy Lifchus, who is a pharmacist in Toronto, was also a fairly decent curler in his day.

 A Grade 11 honour-roll student at Garden City Collegiate, Doering spent kindergarten to Grade 8 at public schools, where he participated in Hebrew programs. He’s been with his present team going on three years.

“We won the first bonspiel we ever played in. It was at the Canada Winter Games Trials. Then we went to the actual games in Halifax, where we won the bronze, defeating New Brunswick,” Doering explained.

It was there that Doering made a triple-raise takeout to score a six-ender against Ontario in the round-robin part of the tournament. His shot was featured across Canada on TSN’s Play of the Day.

Curling skills aside, what is the secret of Doering’s success in terms of his personality and leadership traits as a skip? Doering appears wise beyond his years, with a great deal of support throughout his formative years from his dad, whom he so much admires. “I guess I started off so early and learned so much,” he said.

“Curling is a game of experience. I have patience. You have to stay calm. A lot of skips slam their brush on the ice [when things don’t go so well]. I stay calm. Otherwise it hurts not just me, but the team. You have to be encouraging. You have to be positive. I learned that from my dad.”

Generally speaking, what is the strategy and modus operandi of the guy who may well be the youngest junior skip ever to represent Manitoba in the nationals?

“My main job is to read the ice and know where to put the broom and I have to give them good ice,” he explained. “Sweeping is a huge part of the game. Fifty per cent is me and the other 50 per cent is the sweepers. I tell them when to sweep. They watch the speed and I watch the direction. My sweepers do such a great job, and I give them 110 per cent of the credit because they deserve it,” Doering said.

Every skip embraces a particular strategy or philosophy against his opponents, and Doering believes strongly that “there is no wrong shot call and everyone thinks differently. It’s just someone else’s opinion. My specialty is the draw. We play the finesse game,” he said. “We use the freeze, tap backs and like to keep a lot of rocks in play. We know when to peel the guards.”

Doering not only plays well and often, but also watches the pros regularly on television. “Everything curling I follow,” he said emphatically. “Kevin Martin, Jeff Stoughton, Kevin Howard, everything pretty much, I follow.”

Canadians, beware, here comes the kid with the best draw in the West!

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