Fifty-seventh Oilmen’s Bonspiel set for first weekend of March

We were going to go out on a limb and say this year’s edition of the Slave Lake Oilmen’s Bonspiel is the 60th annual.

It could have been, but the tournament missed a couple of years due to the COVID pandemic.

But it seems pretty solid that the tournament (and its sponsor, the Slave Lake Petroleum Association) started in 1964.

Looking back through the older editions of the Lakeside Leader, we found the 1997 Oilmen’s was reported as the 33rd annual. That was 27 years ago, so this year should have been the 60th. Or is that the 61st?

SLPA President Taylor Kelham says it’s actually the 57th time it’s been held, so we’ll go with that.
Whatever the number, it’s pretty impressive. We were trying last week to get in touch with a couple of old-timers who might have played in the Oilmen’s back in its very early days, but didn’t have any luck. Grant Baird and Al Kubel would have been good sources, we’re told, but sadly they are not around anymore.

We did talk to Charlie Prichuk, who curled the Oilmen’s as far back as 1976. Back in those days, he says, the tournament was so popular they couldn’t fit it into the old, three-sheet rink in Slave Lake. So for a few years it was moved over to the hockey arena, which could fit six sheets, prepared by Bob Hutchison. With that, the SLPA was able to fit in 64 rinks over a weekend that started on Thursday.

Prichuk was a pretty good curler back then. Harry Bartlett remembers him beating hotshot Calgary curler Paul Gowsell (who was twice a world junior champion) at the Oilmen’s one year.

Last week, organizers sent around its second notice of the tournament, encouraging entries (“The more the merrier!”) and sponsorships.

The 2024 Oilmen’s runs March 1 – 3 at the Slave Lake curling rink.

The Oilmen’s is always a big fundraiser for the SLPA, which turns around and donates to non-profit groups in the community.

“With your help, we donated over $29,000 to the community in 2023,” says the letter, “through bursaries to Roland Michener, food programs, CJ Schurter School, EG Wahlstrom and various other donations.”

Organizers are looking for donations of door prizes, silent auction items and team prizes.

Cash donations are always welcome as well. Donations can be dropped off at Slave Lake Helicopters; otherwise, arrangements can be made by calling SLPA President Taylor Kelham at 780-849-0030 (email tkelham@slheli.com), or through Wayne Dastou, Cody Stasow or Max McGregor.

Kelham says they are hoping to have 32 teams in the bonspiel. As of last week, registration was 22, so well on the way to the goal. Kelham calls that a, “major increase” from last year’s 14 teams.

Back in the day….. opening ceremonies for the Slave Lake Oilmen’s Bonspiel, probably in the early 1990s.

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