By Terrance Gavan
The Canadian Curling Association gets it.
The fans of curling get it.
So what’s wrong with the sad sack, overly litigious, and pedantic beancounters at the Labatt Center in London?
Your guess is as good as mine.
I have a theory, but it was lamentably removed by the redactive red pen of an overzealous editorial board, two lawyers and an unapologetic publisher. Humbuggers all.
All I know about Jack Cox tells me the event centre staffers at John Labbatt Centre in London were wrong to keep Haliburton’s ‘Flag Guy’ from running with his large flag in The Brier, the Canadian men’s curling final.
He’s been running with the flag – aways accompanied by his lovely wife Willie, who this year was in a wheelchair recovering from, yes, a curling injury – at the national event for the past 15 years. He’s 79, and has a deep seated love for the game.
He is on a first name basis with many of the top curlers – Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton, Alberta’s Kevin Martin and Newfoundlander Brad Gushue – and Ontario skip Glenn Howard even followed him down the aisle last weekend during one of his many runs with the flag.
He curls several times a week at the Haliburton Curling Club and I caught up with him on Tuesday, where we curl together in the Tuesday night mixed.
Cox said he wasn’t that upset with Curling Canada or Peter Inch, the guy who finally delivered the decision to Cox personally last Monday morning (March 7).
Cox told me that Inch was polite and apologetic.
“Peter Inch came to me and said he’s been told by the owners that I couldn’t run any more,” said Cox. “They had a rental agreement with Labatt’s Center and it said they had to do what they were told.”
Inch has said that Cox adds flavor to the event and even invited him to a Halifax Brier. This was a decision undertaken by event center staff and Cox said the stories circulating in many papers, including one of the first stories posted by QMI’s Ryan Pyette, were misleading.
“The newspaper account saying that I was jumping over seats, and I’ve seen it in several other write ups, including the Haliburton Echo, was unfair,” says Cox. “The reason (Inch) gave me was that the facility’s insurance company was afraid I would hurt myself and they would be sued.”
The Toronto Sun followed up with a report that Willie especially was very upset about the printed allegations, which she told the Sun were blatantly untrue.
Brian Ohl, the JLC’s general manager, said some arena staff had reported seeing Cox jumping over chairs. “I don’t know if you’ve seen some of his things on TV – for me, it looked like potentially it could be dangerous either to himself or to other patrons,” said Ohl in the Sun.
“He has never jumped over chairs,” she told the Sun. “But personally we’ve had grandchildren phoning their parents to see why their grandfather is jumping over chairs. It makes him sound like he’s not quite stable.”
Never mind Willie. We all know Jack Cox Rocks. And I would personally put up $50 large to see Jack give Mr. Ohl a whuppin’ in a 40 yard dash.
Indeed, Cox says he never interferes with the play on the ice and times his runs meticulously around the action.
“I only run at the Ontario games, and I only cheer when I’m not interfering with spectators and other games on the ice,” smiles Cox, who was wearing a tee-shirt – one of 260 tees – made by a London Realtor that says ‘Jack Cox Rocks’ with a picture of Jack running with the Flag taken from the London Free Press.
Ontario lead Craig Savill called it a “terrible decision.”
“Let him run,” the 32-year-old said. “He’s a Brier fixture. He runs all the time and this is the first rink we’ve ever been to that has told him to stop.
“We all understand the concerns, but he’s great. It’s something he loves to do. The crowd goes crazy.”
“We heard talk they were going to take his flag away from him if he kept running. But our team talked about it and we said if they ever did that, we’d all get together and buy him a new flag.”
Jack and Willie already have their tickets for Saskatoon next year.
They’re crazy there too. In a good way – wink.
I think we’ll see Jack running again in the Prairies.