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Two veteran skips quite familiar with each other will meet to decide the P.E.I. Tankard provincial men’s curling championship this weekend.
Blair Jay from the Silver Fox in Summerside and Eddie MacKenzie, whose team calls the Crapaud Community Curling Club and Montague Curling Club home, are the only two rinks registered. They will begin a best-of-five series at the Maple Leaf Curling Club in O’Leary on Friday afternoon.
“We go back a long way,” said Jay. “I’m sure he’s beaten me a heck of a lot more times than I’ve beaten him or teams we were on.”
MacKenzie, a product of the junior program at The Fox, is looking forward to the challenge of competing against Jay.
“Blair is a tough competitor who throws a lot of rocks, so he’ll be ready to compete,” said MacKenzie.
The winning rink will enter a bubble at the Tim Hortons Brier Canadian men’s curling championship in Calgary, March 6-14.
At a glance
Draw times for the P.E.I. Tankard provincial men’s curling championship
Friday, Jan. 29
Draw 1 – 4 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 30
Draw 2 – 11 a.m.
Draw 3 – 4 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 31
Draw 4 – 11 a.m., if necessary
Draw 5 – 4 p.m., if necessary
MacKenzie’s teammates are third stone Tyler Smith, second stone Sean Ledgerwood and lead Ryan Lowery. MacKenzie said his rink hopes to draw "on our experience" as all team members have multiple provincial championships on their resumé.
The Jay rink includes his son, Chuck Jay, at third stone, with Jon Philip playing second stone and Glen Rogers at the lead position. The skip is looking forward to this weekend and feels he has a decent team.
“I’m quite happy with where our game is at,” said Jay.
Jay and MacKenzie acknowledge it will be different this year with only two teams. Provincial championships generally follow a modified triple-knockout format.
MacKenzie said the best-of-five series is essentially a triple-knockout format.
"Lose three (games), and you’re out, which is fair for all teams,” said MacKenzie.
Here are the recent winners of the provincial Tankard:
2020 – Bryan Cochrane, Ian MacAulay, Morgan Currie, Mark O’Rourke
2019 – John Likely, Anson Carmody, Steve Burgess, Robbie Doherty, Matthew Nabuurs
2018 – Eddie MacKenzie, Josh Barry, Chris Gallant, Sean Ledgerwood
2017 – Eddie MacKenzie, Sean Ledgerwood, Matthew Nabuurs, Robbie Doherty
2016 – Adam Casey, David Mathers, Anson Carmody, Robbie Doherty
2015 – Adam Casey, Josh Barry, Anson Carmody, Robbie Doherty
2014 – Eddie MacKenzie, Anson Carmody, Tyler MacKenzie, Sean Ledgerwood
2013 – Eddie MacKenzie, Anson Carmody, Alex MacFadyen, Sean Ledgerwood
2012 – Mike Gaudet, Tyler MacKenzie, Tyler Harris, Sean Clarey
2011 – Eddie MacKenzie, Mike Gaudet, Mike Dillon, Alex MacFadyen
Both skips have plenty of experience at the Tankard. Although this will be just his fifth time playing in the premier men’s event on P.E.I. since 2009 as he has been competing in senior competitions, Jay has curled in the Tankard approximately 30 times throughout his career.
Jay’s previous-best finish was third in 1975 and 2014.
“I have always enjoyed the Tankard,” said Jay, who is 69. “The Tankard is completely different than anything else, that’s for sure.
“You are a little more focused and pay more attention to things.”
MacKenzie has skipped five Tankard champions – 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2018. He also won the provincial title as third stone with Mike Gaudet-skipped rinks in 1994 and 2012.
“The Tankard and Brier are why competitive teams play the game; it never really gets old,” said MacKenzie, 48. “Very few sports afford you the chance to represent your province at a national event from a young age to 60-plus. …
"Curling is great that way as every curler in the country can enter their provincial playdowns for the chance to play at the Scotties (national women’s championship) or Brier.
“I have been fortunate enough to win the provincial Tankard several times, and each year is an exciting challenge.”
Jay noted his recent meetings against MacKenzie in the Tankard have resulted in low-scoring MacKenzie wins.
“I’ve been thinking I have been playing too defensively,” said Jay with a chuckle. “I should go hard at him and fill the house as much as I can. Change the strategy up and be a little more aggressive.”
For ongoing coverage from this weekend's P.E.I. Tankard provincial men’s curling championship and the provincial Scotties Tournament of Hearts, visit www.theguardian.pe.ca.
Based on their history, MacKenzie expects more tight games against Jay this weekend.
“We’ve played Blair in a number of tight games over the years, especially as I started playing in Summerside, his longtime home club,” said MacKenzie. “We’ll likely have some ends with lots of rocks in play, depending on ice conditions, of course.”