Team B.C. men shine on and off the ice at 2017 Canadian Juniors

Tyler Tardi’s focus this week is on the ice at the Archie Browning Sports Centre, as he chases gold at the 2017 Canadian Junior Curling Championships, presented by Ambrosia Apples.

B.C. skip Tyler Tardi, left, discusses strategy with coach (and dad) Paul Tardi and vice-skip Sterling Middleton during a between-ends break on Monday. (Photo, Curling Canada/Al Cameron)

But the 18-year-old skip and his team from the Langley and Royal City (New Westminster) curling clubs are also aware of the big picture, and that curling can open a lot of doors in a lot of ways.

On Friday, for instance, Tardi and his team — vice-skip Sterling Middleton, second (and older brother) Jordan Tardi, lead Nick Meister and coach Paul Tardi (Tyler and Jordan’s dad) — paid a visit to nearby Craigflower Elementary School. A former teacher of the Tardi brothers, Michelle MacFarlane, is now the principal of the school, which is located on the traditional territories of the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations and has a large indigenous population.

“We walked in and all the kids were waiting for us when we got there; they were all excited — ‘Oh, it’s Team B.C.,’ ” recalled Tardi on Monday, moments after a 5-4 win over Ontario’s Matthew Hall (2-1; Kitchener) that left B.C. still unbeaten at 3-0. “For a lot of them, it was their first exposure to curling. It’s nice to get the word out about our sport.”

Team New Brunswick second Carter Small, right, clearly liked what he was hearing from coach Felipe D. Marin. (Photo, Curling Canada/Al Cameron)

Many of those kids will return the favour on Tuesday morning when they visit the Archie Browning Sports Centre to watch B.C. play Northern Ontario’s Tanner Horgan in a crucial round-robin game at 9 a.m. (PST).

“The kids are absolutely excited about coming to the game tomorrow,” said Craigflower vice-principal Jana Dick. “The B.C. team were great ambassadors; the kids loved them.”

That’s just an example of Team Tardi being not just great curlers (three-quarters of the team won bronze at the 2016 Canadian Juniors, while Tyler Tardi and Sterling Middleton joined with Nova Scotians Mary Fay and Karlee Burgess to win gold at the 2016 Youth Winter Olympics in Norway) but great citizens, too.

They’ve done fundraising work for both B.C. Children’s Hospital and the Sandra Schmirler Foundation, and both Tardi and Middleton won $1,000 scholarships from the Curling Canada Foundation. Tardi added a $5,000 Spirit of Sandra Scholarship from the Sandra Schmirler Foundation — all the result of combining curling prowess with academics and community leadership.

“It just feels good to give back,” said Tardi. “A lot of people give to us, and it’s always a good feeling to give right back.”

A year after taking bronze, the B.C. team arrived in Victoria with expectations, a situation it’s embracing.

Well, we like the pressure, especially being the home-province team,” said Tardi. “And we really like playing with pressure; it feels good, it pumps us up, which we like. But I wouldn’t say there’s a big target; there are around six teams here who are pretty much even.”

Curling is an awfully fun game — just ask Alberta lead Brenna Bilassy, left, and second Kate Goodhelpsen. (Photo, Curling Canada/Al Cameron)

In other men’s games Monday afternoon, Manitoba’s JT Ryan (Winnipeg) improved to 4-0 in his bid to make it five straight Canadian junior men’s titles for his home province, scoring three in the extra end for a 9-6 win over Quebec’s Vincent Roberge (0-4; Lévis); Northern Ontario’s Horgan foursome (3-1; Copper Cliff) broke the game open with a steal of three in the fifth end en route to a 12-4 win over Nunavut’s Arthur Siksik (0-3; Rankin Inlet); and New Brunswick’s Liam Marin (3-1; Saint John) rolled to a 9-3 win over Sawer Kaeser of the Northwest Territories (0-4; Fort Smith).

In women’s play, Ontario’s Hailey Armstrong (4-0; Ottawa) remained perfect with a narrow 6-5 win over New Brunswick’s Samantha Crook (2-1; Fredericton); Alberta’s Kristen Streifel (3-1; Edmonton) stole three in the second end and cruised to an 11-6 win over Manitoba’s Laura Burtnyk (2-2; Winnipeg); Nunavut’s Sadie Pinksen (1-3; Iqaluit) picked up her first win of the event, doubling the Yukon’s Alyssa Meger (0-4; Whitehorse); reigning Canadian and world chap Kristin Clarke and her Nova Scotia team (2-2; Chester) evened its record with a 6-4 triumph over Saskatchewan’s Kaitlyn Jones (3-1; Regina); and Quebec’s Camille Boisvert (3-1; Lévis) stole the winning point in an extra end to beat Northern Ontario’s Krysta Burns (1-3; Sudbury) 9-8.

Action at the 2017 Canadian Juniors concludes Monday with a draw at 6:30 p.m. (All times PST).