Curling Canada – 2014 Scotties Tournament of Hearts

Whyte has plans for the Scotties

You can debate whether or not Sean Whyte is the best all-around kicker in the Canadian Football League, although the third-year Montreal Alouette is certainly in the conversation.

Montreal Alouettes kicker/punter Sean Whyte is a curling fan, not to mention a participant as well as a former assistant icemaker. (Photos, courtesy Montreal Alouettes)

There is, however, little questioning this statement about the affable 27-year-old from White Rock, B.C. — he is, beyond a doubt, the CFL’s best curler and curling icemaker.

“I haven’t heard of any and I don’t think anyone would admit to it if they were,” admits Whyte with a chuckle. “Hey, they’re football players. I’m a kicker, so I can admit that I like to curl and it’s a great sport.”

If all goes according to plan, Whyte will be in Montreal for the 2014 Scotties Tournament of Hearts Feb. 1-9 at Maurice Richard Arena to watch the country’s top female curlers play for a Canadian championship.

Sean Whyte

Whyte comes by his curling credibility honestly. He wasn’t an active participant growing up, although his parents, Tom and Pat, were (and still are) active curlers at the Peace Arch club in White Rock.

As he was starting his pro football career on the practice roster of the B.C. Lions, buried behind Paul McCallum, Whyte needed a supplementary job and was hired as the assistant icemaker at the Peace Arch club.

He soon discovered that not only did he have an affinity for making ice (“If he wasn’t a football player, he could be a great icemaker,” former Peace Arch head icemaker Darren Spencer told the Vancouver Sun), he enjoyed the game, and played a few games with Peace Arch president Darrell Zbeetnoff.

“I respect it, my parents still play it, and I always watch it when it’s on TV,” says Whyte, who was the East Division nominee as the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian in 2011. “I’ve always said that you have to play the game to respect the game, and a lot of these guys have never played and don’t understand how tough it can be and how skilled you really need to be.”

Believe it or not, there are parallels between kicking and curling, and Whyte is one of the very few who can draw that parallel.

“With my kicking, I talk about golf a lot — a nice and easy stroke. But when you’re in the hack, the more oomph you put on the throw, the more off you’re likely going to be. You have to be smooth and your technique has to be spot on,” he says. “Just like kicking — you have to rely on your technique. That’s why when you watch guys like Kevin Martin make those big shots consistently, you’re just like, wow! Some of those shots they make are unbelievable, it just blows your mind. With kicking, all I have to do is kick it straight. Those top curlers, they’re banking it off other rocks, hit-and-rolls to the button. But it is similar in a way — you just have to stay calm, rely on your technique and not think so much. And just stay smooth.”

Sean Whyte is a former East Division nominee for the Canadian Football League’s Most Outstanding Canadian award.

It’s not common knowledge among his Alouette teammates that Whyte has a curling pedigree, and very few of them have been exposed to curling. But Whyte already has an ideal curling team picked out from the Als’ roster.

“I think I’d take (Canadian linebacker) Marc-Olivier Brouillette for his smartness; he’d have good vision out there,” says Whyte. “(Import linebacker)n Chip Cox — he’s a natural athlete. I think at first he’d fight it, but he’d eventually give in once he realized how tough the sport really is and how much fun it really is. And you know who else? (Offensive lineman) Scott Flory. Good Saskatchewan boy. He’s gotta be good at curling. I’d make him my skip. I’ll throw skip rocks but let him call the game.”

(Ironically, prior to the season, the Alouettes actually had two legitimate curlers on their roster; they signed kicker William Dion during the off-season — the same William Dion who won the Canadian junior men’s curling championship in 2008 and a bronze medal at the 2008 world junior men’s championship; Dion was released prior to training camp.)

Whyte is familiar with the snickers that curling attracts from those who’ve never tried it. He also knows that if he had some his teammates on the ice with him, they’d be in for an eye-opener.

“I know my first time, it was terrifying,” he recalls. “It’s intimidating — you look from the hack to the other end, it’s a long way and it’s not easy. It takes a lot of hours of hard work and practice. Never mind the sweeping. That’s tough, too. I play with my parents and my mom throws lead stone, and you have to sweep the WHOLE damn way.”

Whyte’s offseason plans are muddy at present; he’s in the option year of his contract with the Alouettes, but he’d love to re-sign with the team. And he’d love to be at the Scotties in February, and urges Montreal fans, and fans from across the country, to get on board with the event, for a few good reasons.

“Well, the women are beautiful,” he says with a smile. “The city is beautiful, and the atmosphere is awesome. I went to a match at the (2009) World Juniors in Vancouver, and people were screaming; it was amazing. Curling is growing as a sport, and the atmosphere is great, it’s fun and enjoyable. It’s like going to a hockey game; you can have a beer and really get into the game. And the availability of the players and being able to meet them is awesome, too. I want to meet some of those curlers. I’ve always liked (2000 Scotties and Ford World champion) Kelley Law, she was one of my favourites to watch. And I’d like to meet (defending champion) Rachel Homan.”

For more information and to purchase tickets for the 2014 Scotties, click here.