2015 Scotties Tournament of Hearts

Fonger continues as Moose Jaw’s curling ambassador

Moose Jaw native Merv Fonger is long renowned for his role in advancing the development of the sport of curling in Saskatchewan, across the country and, in recent years, around the world.

His legacy dates back to 1988 when he took on a position at Peacock High School, joining fellow teacher Roger Anholt in the curling program his colleague had introduced some 15 years before.

In the early years, Fonger taught the fundamentals to some very notable names in the game, including Cindy Street and Amber Holland. He coached the Street and Holland teams to national junior and women’s championships. In 2011 he was on board when Holland won the Scotties Tournament of Hearts and went on to win silver at world championship.

Coach Merv Fonger (right) talks with Team Saskatchewan, skipped by Amber Holland, at the 2011 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Charlottetown, P.E.I. (Photo CCA/Andrew Klaver)

Coach Merv Fonger (right) talks with Team Saskatchewan, skipped by Amber Holland, at the 2011 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Charlottetown, P.E.I. (Photo CCA/Andrew Klaver)

While he is still involved in coaching, his focus has moved to the high performance level of the game. “I spent time in South Korea last year working with some of their players and coaches,” says Fonger, who has been invited back to work with the country’s national teams. “A lot of my time now is spent teaching coaches how to coach.”

Fonger was involved in the process when the southwestern Saskatchewan city earned the right to host the 2012 Canada Cup. “We had an excellent building (Mosaic Place) and I took pictures of it to the Scotties when it was held in Sault Ste. Marie to show to CCA (Canadian Curling Association) representatives.”

That was followed by a site visit, opening up the opportunity to pursue the rights to host a Season of Champions event. “I wasn’t on the organizing committee, but they picked my brain a bit and I suggested the Canada Cup would be a good fit based on the calibre of the competition. I also told them if they did a good job, the Scotties would eventually follow.”

His prediction was right on the mark and Moose Jaw is now preparing to host the 2015 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, Feb. 14-22 at Mosaic Place.

“Having the Canada Cup here, and now the Scotties, is huge for the community – simply the volunteer aspect of it, People become a part of it. We get a lot of non-curlers involved and they develop an appreciation for the game.”

“The bottom line is creating interest in the game,” says Fonger. “People get involved at the volunteer level and you find them wanting to play. We’ve seen a lot of enthusiasm over the past two or three years.”

Another valuable asset is the exposure the championship events provide across the country. “People watch the coverage on television and they get a chance to see what our city is all about,” he says. “Especially the Scotties, which is arguably the most publicized event in Canadian women’s sports.”

While admitting that television has had a tremendous impact on the popularity of the sport, Fonger feels there is nothing like being in the arena for the live experience of championship curling.

“TV gets down to the science of the game. But when you’re there, you get a feeling for the event as a whole. Being there is so much better. When you have a tight game you can cut the tension in the building with a knife. You see the games on all four sheets. You get up and applaud the great shots… something you don’t do at home. You don’t dress up in your team’s colours when you’re sitting in front of the television.”

“Live it Live” at the 2015 Scotties Tournament of Hearts. The best seats in the house are available now just by clicking here.