Editor’s note: Yellowknife’s first-ever national curling championship came courtesy of a group of players who “cheated”. Here’s the story of how Klaus Schoenne, Don Sian, Doug Bothamley and Randy Waddell made history.
Before Steve Moss was winning on the national scene and before the Koe kids were taking over curling in Yellowknife, there was a team that made a bit of history.
It was 1983 and the Elks Corby Cup was in the NWT for the first time, held at the Yk Community Arena and hosted by the Yellowknife Elks Lodge #314. It would be a week to remember both for the city and for the four men who would sweep to victory.
Klaus Schoenne and his rink of Don Sian, Doug Bothamley and Randy Waddell came out on top to win the crown that year, becoming the first rink from Yellowknife to win any sort of national curling title. They would eventually be inducted into the NWT Sport Hall of Fame for their exploits in 2016.
But if you were to talk to the other teams that were there, there’s no way the Yellowknife rink could have won fair and square.
Just ask Schoenne as he spoke with NNSL Media shortly after the announcement of the team’s induction (“Welcoming the class of 2016”, Yellowknifer, Oct. 7, 2016).
He said the other rinks felt trickery was afoot.
“Everyone said we had to have cheated,” joked Schoenne. “They said the only way we could have won was because it was in Yellowknife.”
Yellowknifer published an article about the team’s performance following the completion of the tournament back in 1983, which reported Schoenne’s rink finishing third after the round-robin with a record of four wins and three losses.
But it the playoffs where they began to shine.
They first defeated the Atlantic representative and followed that up with a win over Manitoba. Ontario was next up and were dusted off before they defeated Alberta by a score of 6-3 in the final to claim a famous win.
“It was a tough competition all the way through,” said Schoenne. “We just happened to get on a roll at the right time and once you’re rolling, it’s a snowball effect and that’s what happened to us.”
Schoenne also remembered not much excitement among the guys after the win mostly because they were exhausted and not just from the on-ice stuff.
“We were part of the organizing committee as well as playing,” he said. “We spent a week putting the ice in before it all began, then working on it during the week and didn’t leave some nights until about 3 a.m. After all that work, we had to win it.”
As mentioned, the team has been immortalized in the NWT Sport Hall of Fame’s team category with all but one member in attendance. Bothamley died in 2015 after losing a battle with cancer but his widow, Nancy, was there to accept his award.
Even Sian, who was living in B.C. at the time, made the trip back.
“I know Don wants to come back and speak,” said Schoenne at the time. “He’s always looking for an excuse to come back.”
Schoenne and company are up against the 2016 edition of Team North, silver medalists from that year’s National Aboriginal Hockey Championships in Ontario, in the next round of the Greatest Of All Time competition.