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Bonnyville senior not ready to hang-up his broom

A Bonnyville senior who has been curling for over 50 years continues to throw from the hack, and won't let his age slow him down.

BONNYVILLE - Gordon Hanna isn't letting his age put an end to his days on the sheet. 

At 87-years-old, the Bonnyville senior is still throwing rocks as well as he did 50 years ago, when he stepped into the curling rink for the first time. 

Hanna was working for an oil company in Valleyview when they suggested he join their curling team for an upcoming oilmen's bonspiel. 

He's been in love with the sport ever since. 

Two years after being introduced to curling, he was transfered to Bonnyville and was determined to continue his newfound passion. 

“I like the exercise and the friendship. They’re really a bunch of friendly people, the curlers. If you’re new in town, they make you feel welcome,” he told the Nouvelle

Hanna can be found throwing from the hack every Tuesday and Thursday. 

The skipper said he has always been involved in sports, and found curling to be the perfect fit for his active lifestyle, despite not knowing about it prior to his bonspiel debut. 

“I was raised on a farm, an old farm south of Athabasca. When I got off of the farm I went straight to work at the logging camps, and then I got into the oilfield,” he detailed. “Up until that time, when I started working in the oil patch, I played a little bit of ball as a kid, but other than that I didn’t know there was such a thing as curling.”

Showing no signs of slowing down, Hanna intends to curl for as long as possible. 

“The thing is, (curlers) have to be steady on their feet, because you can fall easily,” he explained. “We’ve had older people come out and fall, and then you never see them again because they got hurt."

What will force him to hang up his broom is the day he no longer feels safe going up and down the ice, but for now, he is all smiles as he lines up his shot. 

Over the five decades Hanna has been curling, he's collected numerous trophies, all of which he is proud of. 

“I never did get an eight-ender. That’s really something if you can get all of your rocks in the house,” he noted. 

Although he has many fond memories of the sport, there was one bonspiel in particular that stood out where he was reunited with an old friend. 

He was curling in Athabasca with his team, but they were short one person. 

There was a participant there that offered to step up to the hack, and it turned out they had known each other for years. 

“I went to school with her and I didn’t recognize her, but she didn’t recognize me either. This is 50 or 60 years later, more than that actually. That was a great memory. We had a great visit,” Hanna described, adding they shared stories and talked about their families. 

Since slipping on his first pair of curling shoes, Hanna has seen the equipment evolve. 

From his initial days using a straw broom, he explained how far this particular curling tool has changed.

"We used to have big straw brooms, they won’t let you in the rink with them anymore because they shed so many bits of straw... They’ve upgraded…They don’t even have brooms now, they have brushes. They’re easier on the person and they do more good."

He added, “If you have two good brushers you could drag that rock for probably an extra 20-feet."

Hanna believes curling hit a peak in the 60s.

"Everyone was just wanting to do it, from the youngest to the oldest."

Since then, interest in the sport has fizzled, but Hanna is confident it's on an upward sweep. 

As someone who had little to no experience in curling prior to his first bonspiel, he encourages anyone giving it a try to "keep it up."

"You'll meet so many people that will turnout to be long-time friends," he expressed. "To me, it's been a wonderful trip."

Meagan MacEachern, Bonnyville Nouvelle

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