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The ‘curse’ of LaBonte

The Story

It looks like an easy trip to a fifth consecutive Silver Broom world championship for the Canadians. They've won all seven of their round-robin games and beaten classic rivals Scotland to advance to the finals. But by the last end of the championship game against the United States, they're in trouble. Canada needs two points to force an extra end — and, amazingly, they get both, thanks to an error by the U.S. skip.

It will go down as one of the most infamous events in curling history. Canadian skip Orest Meleschuk knocks out a U.S. stone and the shot rock rolls to the inner edge of the eight-foot ring. U.S. third Frank Aasand glances at the Canadian stone and raises his broom in victory. Skip Bob LaBonte runs over to celebrate, slips on the ice and nudges the Canadian stone as he lands on his back.

Neither Aasand nor LaBonte is aware that the Canadian stone has been "burned," or inadvertently moved from its original position, and a measurement shows that Canada has the two points necessary to force an extra end. When the end is played, the United States scores no points but Canada scores one — and wins the 1972 Silver Broom. This CBC special from the 1976 Silver Broom in Duluth, Minn., looks back on the debacle.

Broadcast Medium: Television
Program: 1976 Silver Broom
Broadcast Date: Mar. 21, 1972
Host: Don Chevrier
Duration: 1:25

Did You know?

• The Air Canada Silver Broom was the men's world curling championship from 1968 to 1985. Before that, the Scotch Cup (1959-67) was the prize for the best rink in the world. The event is now known as the World Championship, administered by the World Curling Federation, based in Scotland.

• Heading into the 1972 Silver Broom, Canada had won 11 of the 13 previous world championships, but after the 1972 victory, seven more would pass before Canada would win again. Commentators joked that LaBonte had placed a curse on Canada, but most attributed the drought to a great improvement in the level of play among smaller curling nations such as Sweden, Switzerland, and Norway.

• According to curling etiquette, it's a player's responsibility to speak up when a stone is moved by accident. In 1972, the rules didn't call for an impartial judge at competitions, and the CBC's instant-replay unit was not available due to a labour dispute. Had LaBonte owned up to the burned stone, an extra end would have been played anyway, as Canada would have been given the benefit of the doubt and no measurement called for.

• Ten men's and ten women's teams play in the World Curling Championships, and the 2003 tournament in Winnipeg featured teams from up-and-coming curling nations such as Korea, Japan, and Russia.


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