“There’s a lot of great tradition in the Legion,” he said. “The Legion does a great job of organizing it.
“It’s not all about competition; it’s about being Canadians. They push that fact home.”
And Bernard finds something really special about curling in the national competition in his home province, too.
Prior to this year, the veteran of between 15 and 20 national Legion curling championships, Bernard has competed in the Legion in every province except P.E.I.
That changes Sunday with the opening draws of the 2013 national championship at the Western Community Curling Club in Alberton. Bernard and his P.E.I. rink from the Summerside Legion has the bye for the opening 2 p.m. draw, but will be on the ice against Newfoundland and Labrador at 7 p.m.
There are seven teams entered in this year’s championship and seven round-robin draws. Every team gets one bye during round-robin play.
Monday and Tuesday’s draws go at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., and the final round-robin draw is set for 9 a.m., Wednesday.
Round-robin results will determine the final standings unless there is a tie for first place. If that happens there will be a tiebreaker draw on Wednesday at 2 p.m.
The closing dinner will be held at the host St. Anthony’s Legion in Bloomfield on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Social events during the championship will be held at the curling club, Legion and Rodd Mill River Resort.
Bernard is confident all seven teams are in for a great experience.
“We love curling in Alberton,” the P.E.I. skip said. “It’s our favourite rink to curl in, all four of us, and a lot of that is (club members are) very welcoming there, very warm and friendly.
“They treat you like royalty when you’re up there. And they will do that for the other six provinces, and that’s great. That’s why it’s such a great place to curl.”
Bernard described his team’s style of play as “cautiously offensive.”
He went on to say: “We play a mix of offence and defence. We like to feel we can play both sides, and we like to have an understanding of our opponents and figure out the ice before we make too much of a commitment to being too offensive.
“There’s a lot of great tradition in the Legion. The Legion does a great job of organizing it. It’s not all about competition; it’s about being Canadians. They push that fact home.” - Team P.E.I. skip Mel Bernard
“I’ve got three pretty experienced curlers curling with me.”
His third stone, Blair Jay, has been to several Legion nationals and two national seniors with him.
“He’s an excellent shot-maker, loves to throw bigger weight and is also good on tap-backs and light-weight stuff,” said Bernard in describing Jay.
He described second stone Lou Nowlan as very experienced, having curled nationally in the Legion, seniors and masters.
“He’s still an excellent curler,” offered Bernard. “When we play against him in club play, he’s very difficult to beat, because he’s an extremely good shot-maker, loves to curl and is a class act, a real gentleman.”
Lead Earle Proude has curled with Bernard competitively for eight or nine years, and Bernard suggested he’s possibly the best first-stone senior on P.E.I.
“He’s a tremendous team player, and you always get his best effort,” Bernard said. “(He’s) strong at sweeping and judging rocks.”
As a unit, Bernard said, “We understand each other and work well together.”
Bernard’s first trip to the Legion nationals was in 1986 with Grant Somers, just one week following his one and only Brier appearance. He won the national Legion competition once, and has been runner-up several times.
Bernard has played in several senior and masters championships, and said the pinnacle of his curing career was a bronze medal the last time the Canadian senior championships were held in Summerside.
Bernard is hopeful home ice will work to the Summerside Legion team’s advantage in Alberton.
“Our goal is to enjoy ourselves and to curl as well as we can,” he said. “We’re quite familiar with the ice there.
“Usually, it’s tremendously good and, like any curling club, it can get tricky, but it’s tricky for everybody.”