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Ed’s note: It is perhaps the most famous burned rock in the history of Northern curling and it’s the one which meant defeat for the NWT at the 1994 Pepsi Canadian Junior Curling Championships. But it didn’t come without controversy as you’ll read about. Here’s a look back at the time Kevin Koe, Jamie Koe, Kevin Whitehead and Mark Whitehead could have – and to many, should have – won it all.

It’s been a few years since that time in 1994.

That time when Kevin Koe, Jamie Koe, Mark Whitehead and Kevin Whitehead were in the final of the 1994 Pepsi Canadian Junior Curling Championships in Truro, N.S. That time when they had received a bye to the final. That time when they were in an extra end with Alberta and all the marbles on the line.

That time when Mark Whitehead burned that rock.

In curling rules, a burned rock after crossing the hog line means one of three things can happen: the opposing skip can have it removed and replace any rocks it touched, the skip can simply have all rocks replaced close to where they last were before the rock was burned or simply leave it alone and let everything stay in place.

Problem was it wasn’t the Alberta skip who made the decision in the end and that’s where the controversy came into play.

In speaking with NNSL Media after returning home from Truro (“Koe named all-star skip at national spiel”, Yellowknifer, March 30, 1994), Kevin Koe still thought the officials got the call wrong.

“I think they came up with the wrong decision,” he said. “Basically, we were shot. He (Whitehead) kicked it into the house and even after he kicked it, our rock was still the closest one.”

The officials should have measured the the two rocks and determined a winner that, he added.

George Gibson, the team’s coach, said he had already shaken hands with the Alberta coach as if he’d won and they’d lost.

Little did he know.

“By the time we got down on the ice, we realized there was some discussion,” he said. “It was maybe one or two minutes later there was a discussion.”

That decision went against the NWT, giving the title to Alberta in controversial fashion.

Kevin Koe, left, calls the line as Kevin Whitehead, Mark Whitehead and Jamie Koe lay the brushes during action at the 1994 Pepsi Canadian Junior Curling Championships in Truro, N.S. The rink lost in the final of that year’s championships in the most heartbreaking of fashions.
photo courtesy of Sport North

The players met following the game and decided against filing a protest to reverse the decision however, Gibson did say he was planning on sending a letter to the Canadian Curling Association (now Curling Canada) stating the pros and cons of the ruling against the Koe rink.

Although the decision went against them, Koe said the boys received plenty of support from across Canada.

“We got faxes from people across Canada and almost all the curlers there who were watching thought of us as the winners,” he said. “That made us feel a lot better.”

But Gibson said the team was paid the ultimate compliment at the wrap-up banquet.

“A government official … said in all the years she’d watched sports, she’d never seen a professional or amateur team handle a bitter disappointment with more class,” he said. “Immediately, the whole crowd stood and gave them a standing ovation. They won with grace and lost with grace.”

Gibson was named the top coach on the boys side as voted by his opposite numbers, an honour he shared with Frank Comerford, who coached the girls entry skipped by Tara Hamer. Kevin Koe was named to the all-star team as the skip.

The boys are up against the Fort Smith Fire Department foursome of Howard Brazeau, Dick Cisarowski, Jim Schaeffer and Mickey MacEachern that won back-to-back titles at the Canadian Firefighters Curling Championships in 1976 and 1977 in the next round of the Greatest Of All Time competition. Voting will open up on Monday.

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James McCarthy

After being a nomad around North America following my semi-debauched post-secondary days, I put down my roots in Yellowknife in 2006. I’ve been keeping this sports seat warm with NNSL for the better...

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