History of the Canadian Mixed
The Canadian Mixed Curling Championship began in 1964 in Toronto and was held at the Royal Canadian Curling Club. At that time, Carling O’Keefe Brewery was the event sponsor and remained so through the 1971 edition.
Manitoba’s Ernie Boushy won the first Canadian Mixed and would go on to win his second title two years later in 1966.
During the eight years of the O’Keefe Mixed Championship, Saskatchewan and Alberta each won three times (Manitoba took the other two), while Saskatchewan’s Larry McGrath became the event’s only three-time winning skip, in 1967, 1968 and 1971.
In 1972, the Canadian Curling Association temporarily took over as the sponsor, but starting in 1973, Seagram Distillers came on board as the new title sponsor, after deciding to shift its existing curling sponsorship from the Senior’s men’s championship to the Mixed. Seagram would remain the sponsor through 1983.
During the Seagram Mixed years, the winning skips included Manitoba’s Barry Fry (1973), Saskatchewan’s Rick Folk (1974, 1983) and Northern Ontario’s Rick Lang (1981). Fry would go on to skip Manitoba to a Brier victory in 1979. Folk won two Briers and world titles, in 1980 and 1994, while Lang won three Briers, all as third, for Bill Tetley in 1975 and for Al Hackner in 1982 and 1985, when he also took two world titles.
From 1984-1994, the CCA once again assumed sponsorship of the Mixed, which was normally held in late March, one of the final events in the Canadian championship calendar. Among the winning skips during that era were Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton (1988, 1991) and Prince Edward Island’s Peter Gallant (1987) and Robert Campbell (1989). Stoughton would also eventually win three Briers (1996, 1999, 2012) and two world titles (1996 & 2012).
Other well-known curlers who won the Mixed during this time included Saskatchewan’s Jan Betker (1984), an eventual three-time world champion (1993, 1994, 1997) and 1998 Olympic gold medallist, Ontario’s Hugh Millikin (1986) and Nova Scotia’s Colleen Jones (1993).
In 1995, some significant changes took place to the Mixed, which was staged that year in Sarnia. Unitel became the title sponsor and the event, now held in January, became the first one in the new ‘Season of Champions’, a marketing concept involving all of the televised Canadian and world curling championships.
A new playoff format was also introduced, the Page Playoff system, which placed the top four finishers in a unique playoff structure. The Page system was also adopted that year for both the Labatt Brier and Scott Tournament of Hearts.
The ‘Page’ paired the first and second place teams in one game, with the winner advancing to the final, the loser to the semi-final. The third and fourth place teams met in the other game, with the winner also advancing to the semi-final, while the loser was eliminated.
Unitel sponsored the Mixed in 1995 and 1996, before its parent company, AT&T, took over for the 1997 and 1998 editions. The CCA assumed sponsorship of the national championship once again in 1999.
The Mixed continued to be the first event in the Season of Champions through 2004. Among the two-time winners during that period were Nova Scotia skips Steve Ogden (1995, 1998) and Paul Flemming (1999, 2003). Other skips to win included Quebec’s Jean-Michel Ménard (2001) and Nova Scotia’s Mark Dacey
(2002), both of whom would also go on to win the Brier…Dacey in 2004, Ménard in 2006.
Record six-time Scott Tournament of Hearts winner (1982, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004) and two-time world champion (2001, 2004) Colleen Jones also won her second Mixed title during this time, as third for Flemming in 1999.
In 2003 in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Alberta’s Shannon Kleibrink of Calgary became the first woman to skip a national Mixed team. The following year, in Schumacher, Ontario, Kleibrink made history again, this time winning the Canadian Mixed.
However, beginning with the 2005 edition, the Mixed was no longer part of the televised ‘Season of Champions’. The event was moved to mid-November, since many of the provincial champions were now being determined during the previous spring. The 2005 Canadian Mixed was actually held November 21-28, 2004 in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
In addition, the Page Playoff system was replaced by the traditional first place team (at the conclusion of the round robin) advancing to the final while the second and third place teams play in a semi-final. The 2005 Canadian Mixed was won for the first time by Newfoundland and Labrador, skipped by Mark Nichols, a former world junior champion (2001) who would also go on to Olympic glory in 2006, as third for Canada’s Brad Gushue when winning the gold medal in Turin, Italy.
In 2008, the city of Iqaluit in Nunavut staged the 2009 Canadian Mixed. It was the first time that the territory of Nunavut had hosted a national sporting championship of any kind.
Only two provinces have gone unbeaten at a Mixed: Alberta in 1965 (10-0), 1969 (10-0) and 2016 (11-0); Saskatchewan in 1968 (10-0) and 1984 (12-0).
There’s been one seven-way tie for first place, in Weyburn, Saskatchewan in 2001, when the teams were eventually seeded for the playoffs by their won-loss records within the group plus the pre-event draw to the button results.
Prince Edward Island’s John Likely holds the record for most appearances as skip, 9, and most games won, 55.
Currently, Alberta has won a leading 11 Canadian Mixed titles, followed by Saskatchewan with nine wins and Manitoba with eight wins. However, every province, plus Northern Ontario, has won at least one Mixed since 1964.