Neufeld excited to take on the world in Lethbridge

Gimli product B.J. Neufeld and his Calgary-based teammates Kevin Koe, Colton Flasch and Ben Hebert are preparing for the world men’s curling championship, which begins March 30 in Lethbridge, Alta. Michael Burns / Curling Canada

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The memory bank is a little light for B.J. Neufeld when it comes to what he remembers from the 1992 men’s world curling championship.

“I don’t remember too much of it,” he admitted.

Neufeld’s father Chris was a second on the Team Canada squad skipped by Vic Peters that topped the round-robin standings with a 7-2 record at that year’s worlds in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, only to lose 4-3 to Scotland’s Hammy McMillan and return home with bronze.

Twenty-seven years later, Neufeld will wear the Maple Leaf at worlds after capturing his first Canadian men’s curling title, raising the Brier tankard alongside his Alberta teammates Kevin Koe (skip), Colton Flasch (second) and Ben Hebert (lead) following a thrilling 4-3 victory over Team Wild Card’s Brendan Bottcher at Westoba Place in Brandon on March 10.

“I think it actually probably sunk in pretty soon after the game was over,” Neufeld told The Interlake Spectator. “Going over to my family and sharing that moment with them, that’s basically the ultimate moment there. You dream of being able to do that and emotion overcomes you. It’s just one of those things that you can’t really explain how amazing it feels and all the hard work you put in before to give yourself a chance to be a Canadian champion. 

“For me, it probably sunk in after reflecting on it after a couple of weeks gone by.”

Trading in the Manitoba yellow for Alberta blue netted Neufeld, who is originally from Gimli but now calls Winnipeg home, a national championship and he was grateful for the support as his team battled for the title in Manitoba.

“Just to have that connection still involved in winning was pretty special,” he said. “There’s no doubt that I’m a proud Manitoban and will wear the buffalo with pride. The only bittersweet part of it was not doing it for Manitoba. 

“To have a hometown crowd and really feel the support once Mike (McEwen)’s team was out, I really felt like the crowd got behind us and supported us really strongly. It was great to have that connection still for the week.”

Neufeld and company enter worlds riding an 18-game winning streak — five straight wins at Alberta playdowns and a perfect 13-0 mark at the Brier — and he said the key has been consistency.

“Obviously, we are not having any really bad games. Kevin is making timely shots, Colton makes a timely shot, I make a timely shot, or Ben makes a really good tick in the last end,” Neufeld said. “We are finding ways to make the shots that really matter in a game, or swing the game in a certain direction.

“We’re also getting good breaks along the way. We can’t have runs with 20 games in a row and not have some really good breaks. You need that because all it takes is one really small bad break to lose a game here or there.”

The world championship will be held in Lethbridge, Alta., from March 30 to April 7, with Canada taking on South Korea (Kim Soo-hyuk) and Russia (Sergey Glukhov) on the opening day of competition.

Neufeld, who is the head professional of Larters at St. Andrews Golf & Country Club, is looking forward to soaking in the atmosphere of worlds on home soil.

“I think it’s going to be an amazing experience. To have a hometown crowd behind you it does nothing but amp you up a little, and if you are feeling a little lethargic or low on energy that crowd can really pump you up and get you through some tough moments,” he added. “It’s a cool moment to have people cheering for you … and we’re really looking forward to putting on a good show for our hometown fans.”

As for any words of wisdom from his father, Neufeld said Chris hasn’t given him any advice on what to expect at worlds, and is enjoying being a proud parent, rooting on his son’s team as they try to give Canada its first title since 2017.