Photo by Don Fennell
Twenty years ago, three longtime friends were sitting in the lounge at Richmond Curling Centre discussing their favourite pastime. From that conversation came the annual Pacific International Cup, an annual celebration of the sport that continues to cultivate the grassroots of the game.
Wayne Braun, who was part of the summit along with Jim Schuman and Jim Mann, remembers it well.
“(Schuman) said ‘Why don’t we do it? We can do it. And we did,” says Braun, former president of both the B.C. and Canadian curling associations.
“We had the Challenge going the year before, but that was looking after B.C. curlers only. His idea was the world.”
Said Schuman: “We were trying to promote club curling. There were cash spiels, the Brier, whatever, but nothing for the club curlers.”
Like Braun, a member of Curling Canada’s hall of fame, Schuman has dedicated more than half his life to advancing club curling. During opening-day play at the 2019 PIC (an acronym that has become the most recognized reference to the Pacific International Cup), the pair are forced to fight back tears looking at sheet three on which India is playing Australia. The participation by two non-traditional curling countries is yet another confirmation that Schuman’s vision of curling becoming a global game is being realized.
“I’m pleased we’ve gotten all these different associations coming to Richmond and playing B.C. teams, and the competition being fair,” said Schuman.
As early as its second or third year, recalled Braun, the PIC was already becoming a worldwide event with perennial entry Australia making its debut. Skip Matt Panoussi has been a regular ever since, and become an unofficial spokesperson for the event. He’s also now works for the Australian Curling Federation as a coach.
Since then, the likes of Chinese Taipei, Japan, Korea and China have also been represented. The Chinese team, which trained at the Richmond Curling Club for a year, became world women’s champions in 2009.
For Schuman, his fondest memories are of seeing teams—like India this year—making their PIC debuts.
“I’m most excited seeing interest from teams that have never been here before,” he said.
Added Braun: “Back in the day, Texas didn’t have any curling, California a little bit, and Idaho not at all. Today (after playing in the PIC) they’ve all got rinks.”
The PIC organizing committee that also includes original members Ettie O’Connell and Howie Larke remains intact and ever dedicated to the original vision. The group was recently recognized by Curling Canada with its prestigious Award of Achievement.