History of the Juniors
Only the Brier, which began in 1927, has been around longer than the Canadian junior men’s curling championship.
The first officially sanctioned (by the Dominion Curling Association) national schoolboys championship, as it was known then, was held in 1950 in Quebec City. Ten teams participated…Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Northern Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. Team members all had to attend the same high school or they were ineligible to represent a province.
The inaugural ‘Canadian schoolboys’ was won by Saskatchewan, skipped by Bill Clarke. In fact, Saskatchewan won the first three ‘Schoolboys’, including back-to-back victories by skip Gary Thode in 1951-52.
After Ontario took the 1953 renewal, Saskatchewan proceeded to win three in a row again, with Bayne Secord joining Thode as consecutive two-time winners, in 1954-55.
From 1950-57, inclusive, the teams played for the Victor Sifton Trophy, named for the Canadian publishing magnate whose Sifton newspaper chain was the event sponsor.
In 1958, Pepsi-Cola became the title sponsor and Newfoundland joined the competition. The championship became known as the Pepsi Schoolboys from 1958-75, before morphing into the Pepsi Juniors in 1976, when the competitor’s age limits were changed to reflect the guidelines adopted by the World Curling Federation for the world junior men’s curling championship, which had begun a year earlier in 1975.
Meanwhile, in 1971, the inaugural Canadian Girls Curling Championship was held at the Vancouver Curling Club, under the direction of chairperson Nellie Hrdlicka of Calgary, who had been the driving force behind creating such a national championship.
Only four teams (British Columbia, Alberta, Yukon (Territories) and Nova Scotia) participated in the event, which was won by Alberta’s Shelby McKenzie.
Beginning in 1972, the event was organized officially by the Canadian Ladies Curling Association. Eight teams participated at the Rossmere Curling Club in Winnipeg, as host Manitoba, skipped by Chris Pidzarko, won the championship.
In 1980, Pepsi-Cola Canada Beverages also assumed sponsorship of the junior women’s championship, which continued to be held in a different city than the men’s championship each year. However, in 1987, in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, the Pepsi Junior Men’s and Women’s Canadian Curling Championships were combined for the first time under one roof and have remained together ever since. Pepsi continued its long-time sponsorship of the Juniors through 1994.
In 1995, the Canadian Juniors became a key component in curling’s ‘Season of Champions’, a marketing concept which combined all of the televised national and international curling championships.
Maple Leaf Meats came aboard as the title sponsor for 1996-97, followed by Kärcher from 1998-2005. Beginning in 2006, M&M Meat Shops, Canada’s largest retail chain of specialty frozen foods, assumed title sponsorship and has subsequently extended its involvement through 2009.
Over the years, a few changes have taken place to the championships. For example, beginning in 1996, representation was expanded to include single entries from both the Yukon and Northwest Territories for both men and women. Prior to that, only one team had represented Y/NWT. It now meant a 13-team draw, rather than the traditional 12-team draw.
Alberta has won a leading 15 Canadian junior men’s titles, including the last two in a row (2006 and 2007) by Charley Thomas, who also went on to win consecutive world junior titles. Saskatchewan is next with 13.
Newfoundland’s Brad Gushue holds the record for the most appearances (at any position) at the Juniors, with six, while Quebec’s Martin Crête leads all skips with 41 wins.
Only four teams have gone undefeated: Saskatchewan in 1952 (9-0) and 1962 (10-0), Alberta in 1963 (10-0) and Manitoba in 1986 (12-0). Every province has won at least once. Only Yukon and the Northwest Territories have yet to win.
However, just one winning junior men’s skip, Kevin Martin, has also gone on to skip a team to victory at the Brier. Martin won the 1985 Pepsi Juniors and has since captured two Briers (1991, 1997).
Saskatchewan leads all provinces with 10 junior women’s crowns, followed by Manitoba with seven. Every province has won at least once. Only Northern Ontario, Yukon and Northwest Territories are winless.
Three teams have gone unbeaten during the championship: Saskatchewan in 1975 (10-0), Alberta in 1978 (10-0) and Manitoba in 1989 (11-0). Prince Edward Island’s Suzanne Gaudet and Quebec’s Marie-France Larouche share the record for most appearances as skip, with five each. Gaudet also holds the record for most wins, 49.
A number of curlers have won both Canadian junior and Canadian women’s titles, including Alison Goring, Julie Sutton, Cathy King (Borst), Jennifer Jones and Kelly Scott (MacKenzie), all of whom also skipped at both championships.
When the world junior men’s championship came into being, the scheduling was such that it was impossible for the Canadian junior champion to represent Canada at the world event in the same year. Therefore, it was decided that the Canadian champion of one year would represent his/her country at next year’s world juniors.
Thus, 1974 Canadian junior men’s champion Robb King played in the inaugural 1975 world junior men’s, held in East York (Toronto), finishing second to Sweden’s Jan Ullsten.
Similarly for the women, when the first world junior women’s championship was held in 1988 in Chamonix, France, it was Julie Sutton, the 1987 Canadian champion, who represented her country (and won).
This arrangement continued until 1994, when the CCA’s revised competition schedule allowed the current national junior champions to compete in the world juniors the same year. However, Alberta’s Colin Davison, the 1994 Canadian junior champion, represented Canada at the world junior men’s that year only because 1993 Canadian champion Shawn Adams had been suspended.
But 1993 Canadian champion Kim Gellard still represented Canada at the 1994 world junior women’s and, like Davison, also won.
However, for 1995, at the Canadian Juniors in Regina, the CCA had to come up with a plan to amalgamate the women’s winner from 1994 with the finalists in 1995, in order to determine who would represent Canada at the world juniors a month later.
Jennifer Jones, who had won the 1994 Canadian Juniors, arrived for a sudden-death four-team playoff (two semi-finals), joining three other teams which had qualified during the week. Jones lost that one-game playoff to Manitoba’s Kelly MacKenzie, who subsequently defeated the other semi-final winner, Ontario, skipped by Kirsten Harmark, in the final. McKenzie would then go on to win the world junior women’s title in Perth, while Chris Galbraith, winner of the 1995 Canadian junior men’s championship, finished third in the world junior men’s.
Overall, Canada has won a leading 16 world junior men’s titles since 1975 and a leading eight world junior women’s titles since 1988.