Russ Duhaime – a career curling dad

Gav on Sports
Owen Duhaime curling in world under 18s championship
By Terrance Gavan

Ask any hockey mom or dad exactly how many miles they put on their SUV during a normal hockey season in cottage country and the answer comes by way of an invariable and rambunctious roll of the eyes.

If the eyes roll to a semi-comatose state, you may be assured that it’s over 10,000 kilometers.

If the eyes roll, the head lolls back, and a deep ungodly sigh rumbles from larynx, you know that this particular parent has four kids playing hockey at various levels, and the family sedan is due for a brake job, a new clutch, a good wash and an oil change.

Turns out that hockey is not the only sport that compromises the time of parents in the Highlands.

I had an interesting and invigorating discussion with my friend and elite curling coach Russ Duhaime just this week.

Russ has two sons – Owen and Connor – involved in curling, and he coaches a few teams, attends clinics, and participates in the Haliburton Curling Club’s junior development program on Tuesdays.

Owen is the third on the Hal High Red Hawk curling team this year. But like a lot of hockey players his age, he also curls on a number of other teams.

In lands far, far away from home, hearth and Highlands.

Connor – a junior curling phenom – is a former Red Hawk and is also a multi-platform curler, who is also very busy attending university with a demanding engineering course load.

Russ says that running herd on his growing prodigies is expensive and time-consuming.

But it’s not something that concerns him.

“I’m like any other parent,” says Russ. “I like spending time with the family; and I love the game.”

Owen just received word from the Ontario provincial sports body that he will be receiving carded status as part of the Quest for Gold program.

The Quest for Gold Program was established to provide additional support to athletes from Ontario and to increase the performance and number of Ontario athletes competing at the highest national and international levels, thereby contributing to the improved performance of Canada at international competitions.

What does it mean for Russ Duhaime and the family?

“Well, it means that we won’t have to sleep on people’s floors at bonspiels,” laughs Duhaime. “It’s going to allow Owen to pursue curling and that’s the point of the whole Quest for Gold program.”

Owen curled lead on the provincial Bantam Champions last year.

This year  that same team skipped by Jack Lindsay with vice Spencer Nuttall and second Ben Bernier – a Mountain Lake Cottager – and Owen will represent Ontario in the under 18 Optimist International bonspiel slated for Toronto in March of this year. It’s a huge bonspiel.

It’s quite an honor for the young Duhaime. Owen and Nuttall are too old to compete in Bantam this year and so both have moved up to play with that other Duhaime, Conor in the juniors.

That team has already won a pair of cash spiels in Welland and in Kitchener-Waterloo on the very tough Ontario junior circuit (OJCT). They are ranked fourth in Ontario and will be competing in the playdowns this weekend (Jan22-23).

More miles for Russ and Owen who will be hopping in the car heading south to pick up Connor on Friday on the way to Hamilton’s Glendale Country Club, home of the OJCT brier.

Last year Haliburton’s Jake Walker – another Red Hawk – skipped his rink to the Ontario gold, won the Canadian championship and then went on to capture the world bronze in Switzerland.

Russ says that the Ontario junior circuit, both men’s and women’s ranks, has one of the deepest talent pools in Canada.

“I have friends who moved to Newfoundland, just because there’s a better chance of advancing,” says Russ. “Getting out of Ontario is brutally tough.”

So the Duhaime’s will be making the trip to the provincials without any large expectations.

As it stands, this is just another part of that long and curling road.

Owen has duties with his high school team, his Team Ontario rink and he even finds time to curl in the Thursday and Monday men’s league here in Haliburton.

And Russ says that with the boys growing up quickly, he’s forever looking for new opportunities.

In fact, Russ is already dividing loyalties, supporting a group of young JDH girls who surprised an older field by capturing the B-Side Bantam Zones.

Alexandra Casper (skip), Alanna Casper (vice) Mia Kocot (second) and Sam Miller (lead) never expected much when they entered the zones.

In fact, says Duhaime, it was the first time that the girls had played a full eight end game. And because they just kept winning, they played a total of three eight enders in the one day. Tiring stuff.

“They were just so excited when they won, and that’s one of the reasons I love coaching,” says Duhaime.

“It’s kinda cool because they entered the tourney to get ready for their Timbits appearance in March… and now they’ll be competing in the Regionals in Peterborough.”

For Russ Duhaime, the smiles, the winning and the investment in the kids is just a bonus.

And it’s worth all those miles and miles of snowy road.

And those billets on sofas and hard floors.

“I wouldn’t trade it,” smiles Duhaime.

“I love it.”