Ted Fai has always loved curling.
Whether it’s been playing at one of the many curling rinks that have dotted the southeast landscape for 70 years, or watching the sport on television, his love of the game endures.
He started playing in 1949 as part of a family team. He and his three older brothers, Steve, Alex and Nick, entered a bonspiel in Bienfait.
“We didn’t do very well, but I stayed with it all these years,” Fai said in an interview with Lifestyles.
The previous year, a new curling rink was constructed in Bienfait, and he helped add the shingles. He believes that’s where his love of the game began.
“Then my brothers, they said ‘let’s get a family rink in (a bonspiel),’” recalled Fai. “He thought maybe we’d get just as good as the Campbell brothers, but we never became quite that good.”
The Campbell brothers won four provincial men’s curling titles in the 1940s and 1950s.
As for the Fai’s sibling team, they continued for about five years, and then they stopped curling as a team. One of his brothers moved away, although Fai kept curling with Alex for a long time.
Ted Fai played with numerous teams, which is to be expected for someone who is into his eighth decade of rocks and ice.
“It’s all about the fellowship,” Fai said. “You meet a bunch of different guys.”
Fai has been a big part of the Bienfait community, serving with such organizations as the Knights of Columbus and the Bienfait Lions Club, so he curled with them in tournaments. The Saskatchewan Wheat Pool used to have a bonspiel in Bienfait, and Fai curled in that competition as well because he was a farmer.
“I curled in Moose Jaw, Neudorf, Fort Qu’Appelle, Oxbow, Frobisher and Hirsch,” said Fai.
Communities such as Hirsch and Steelman had rinks with just one sheet of ice. He also curled in Roche Percee back when they had a curling rink. A community for one of the mines had a curling rink, and so Fai played there. And he competed at bonspiels in several North Dakota communities.
“A lot of times I either used to ski to curl or I one time I rode horseback, all the way to Bienfait. Five miles,” he said. “I get there, and the other team never showed up. It was too cold.”
Then there was a time curling in Roche Percee. It was a nice sunny day in the valley, so Fai and his brother left after their game. But there was a storm at the top of the valley, and their vehicle became stuck. So they had to walk five kilometres to get home.
It wasn’t always easy. In the 1950s and 1960s, there was a lot of snow on the ground and the temperatures were cold. It took a lot of work just to get to the rinks, but they made it.
Games were always 10 ends back then. They had draws at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., which meant he didn’t get home until midnight.
“We used to have the corn brooms, and then they came up with that rink rat broom. And then they came up with the push brooms … and I had a heck of a time getting onto them. But I love them now,” said Fai.
Rules have changed a lot, too. The implementation of the three-rock rule decades ago changed the game a lot. Now it’s a five-rock rule.
“When I first started curling, it was mostly a take-out game. Now it’s more of a draw game. It takes more skill. But it’s still a game on ice with good fellowship,” Fai said.
He’s also become an avid golfer for about 35 years, and he played nearly 50 rounds last year alone.
Fait now resides at Creighton Lodge in Estevan. His eyesight is starting to slip away, making it harder to compete, because he doesn’t want to trip over a rock. But he still loves the game, and continues to participate in the Monday and Wednesday afternoon senior leagues offered at the Power Dodge Curling Centre in Estevan.
He really likes the people that he curls with, especially when they make the shot.
“We pull names out of the hat. We curl with different guys, and that’s nice, too.”
And whenever possible, he watches the game on television, so this is a perfect time of year with the national championships providing several hours of programming each day.