The trophy doesn’t leave Scotland, but a Canadian team returned home a curling champion over the weekend.
Among the group was Sault Ste. Marie’s Rob MacLeod, who curled as part of a Canadian team at the Strathcona Cup, a curling event held that sees a Canadian team compete against a group from Scotland every five years.
The historic trophy remains in Scotland, but the competition for it is fierce.
The event is a combined effort of Curling Canada and the Royal Caledonian Curling Club that is alternated between the two countries.
One of 40 curlers who made up the Canadian team, MacLeod said Thursday it’s an experience that’s not easy to put into words.
“We showed up to the airport and there were about a dozen guys from the 2013 (Scottish team) standing there with a big banner waiting to greet us,” MacLeod said. “These guys were with us for most of the trip. We made instant friends at the gate.”
The group that greeted the Canadian team at the airport traveled to Canada for the 2013 event and served as a liaison during the event, helping the Canadians with any issues during the trip. They were also the Canadian teams first opponent at the event.
“They transitioned us in quite nicely,” MacLeod said of meeting the group. “That was the start of the hospitality and it just kept getting better from there.”
MacLeod earned the opportunity to compete in the event after being selected from a group of about 200 applicants. At the time of his selection, MacLeod called the opportunity “the chance of a lifetime. My plan is to go over there and just soak it all in.”
Last held in 2013 in Canada, the Strathcona Cup wrapped up over the weekend with the Canadian team coming away victorious in Scotland.
“It was a pretty high level (of curling),” MacLeod said, adding that the intensity of the curling was high though the event brought together the groups as well.
“(After the games), you would just talk and tell stories,” MacLeod said. “It was always like that. No matter how intense the game was, as soon as the game was done, you were the best of friends.”
The Scottish team included Billy Howat, who represented Scotland at the 1985 World Curling Championship in Glasgow, Scotland, an event won by veteran Canadian curler Al Hackner of Thunder Bay.
“He’s still a darn good curler,” MacLeod said of Howat.
The trip wasn’t all curling for MacLeod and his Canadian teammates.
“Each time we went to a new town, they wanted to show off their best side,” MacLeod said. “They would either have a reception for us at the city hall or they would have a supper for us at the local hall and put on entertainment for us. We were treated like royalty the entire time we were there.”