Growing the game

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Saskatchewan skip Rylan Kleiter stretches alongside Asham Future Stars participant Matthew Lysak at the Art Hauser Centre Sunday afternoon.

With his dad Dean having served as alternate at the then named Nokia Brier in 2001 and 2003, Saskatchewan junior men’s skip Rylan Kleiter got to see first hand what it was like to play at a high level of curling at an early age.

“There’s so many guys that my dad either played with or against that I still look up too,” Kleiter said. “Being able to see those teams and go to events like the Brier and the Scotties is a great experience, as it really makes you want to get to that level some day as you get older.”

On Sunday, Kleiter was the one who was giving a young curler a day to remember as eight-year-old Matthew Lysak joined the rink ahead of their game against Alberta at the Art Hauser Centre during the 2019 New Holland Canadian Juniors.

“That was awesome to have him with us,” Kleiter said. “We loved having him out on the ice with us and experience the venue, along with taking part in the warm-ups that we do before each game.”

Lysak, who curls out of the Prince Albert Golf and Curling Club, also received a signed broom from the three-time provincial junior champions and had the chance to wear one of the Saskatchewan themed balloon hats that the fans are seen with in the stands during Kleiter’s games.

“It was cool to be with them and to hold the (Saskatchewan) sign when we came out on the ice was awesome,” Lysak said.

“I’ve been curling for two years now with my dad and my brother, and I have been having a lot of fun with them.”

All 28 teams that are in Prince Albert have been paired up with a curler between the ages of eight and 13 through the Asham Future Stars Program.

During their assigned draw, the curler gets a tour of the Art Hauser Centre, receives a prize package, takes part in the team’s pre-game practice and joins them in a ceremony prior to each draw.

“It gives them an opportunity to meet competitive curlers, ask questions and see what it’s like at a national environment that they may be at themselves as a player one day,” host committee director of communications Trish Bibby said.

“The feedback that we’ve received from the kids and the players has been fabulous. I think the teams that have yet to been paired up with a Future Star are getting excited and thinking of ways to one-up the other teams, especially with teams giving away signed brooms and other items.”

The program was open to curlers throughout Saskatchewan and features players from Prince Albert, Wadena, Watrous, Melfort and Shellbrook.