History of the Maple Leaf Curling Club

My Story...

In the early 1930's two "curling buffs", Dave and Harry Ditlove who recently moved to Winnipeg's north end from Dominion City, cajoled enough friends to form two teams to curl at the old St. John's rink on Machray and Aikens. Those original eight curlers besides the Ditloves were Max and Major Margolis, Louis Goldstein, Frank Atnikov, Jack Abrams and 'Kelly' Cohen. Eventually four additional teams were formed to formally launch the Maple Leaf Curling Club in 1933. Curling popularity increased amongst Jewish curlers and by 1945 the club had over 120 members.

In 1946 when the opportunity arose to own its own building, the St. John's Curling Club was purchased for $15,000 and the club was incorporated as the Maple Leaf Holding Company Ltd. In the same year with the help of Bill Lumsden, an MCA vice-president, Maple Leaf became a member of the Manitoba Curling Association.

The club continued to prosper with men's, ladies', junior, mixed, twilight and family curling accommodating over 200 curlers under the guidance of club secretaries Izzy Gotlieb, Ralph Hamovich, Dave Diamond and Zivan Saper.

In 1949 the club was instrumental in starting and establishing the legendary B'nai B'rith Bonspiel thanks to the efforts of Eph Portigal, Rock Calof and Charlie Krupp. That first year 43 rinks participated in two events. The first winners were the team of Eph Portigal, Harry Henteleff, Maitzie Weinerman and Nate Stall. The bonspiel continued to grow and become the "World's Largest Jewish Bonspiel" attracting participants from across Western Canada, Mid-West United States and in some years even from Eastern Canada. The bonspiel was to continue until 1980.

Following the sale of the building in 1971 to the Zion Apostolic Church, club operations were carried on briefly at the Granite and Rossmere Curling Clubs. The Highlander Sportsplex became home for approximately twenty years until it was converted to hockey in the early 1990's. Since then curling has continued at the Grain Exchange Curling Club on Fort Street where the club presently operates under the guidance of Saul Greenberg and Garry Gumprich.

In 1979 the shareholders voted to wind up the Maple Leaf Holding Company and to establish a $25,000 trust fund for possible future development. The fund had grown and in 2006, upon the termination of the trust, $5,000 was donated to the Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame to perpetuate the Curling Club's name and over $100,000 was turned over to The Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, with one-half of the proceeds designated to the curling program at Special Olympics Manitoba and the other half to the Jewish Heritage Centre which maintain the club's archives.

Over the years Maple Leaf has had many outstanding curlers who went on to win numerous events in bonspiels and other competitions. Of particular note was the 'Decade of Champions' between 1963 and 1973. Teams from Maple Leaf were to win three Provincial men's curling championships; Hersh Lerner along with Cole Staniloff, Bob Lemecha and Alan Dudar in 1963; Hersh Lerner again along with Bob Lemecha and Bob and Alan Dudar in 1966; and Bob Robinson along with Alan Shinfield, Leonard Easton and Doug Strange in 1969. In 1973 the Maple Leaf team of Barry Fry, Peggy Casselman, Stephen Decter and Susan Lynch won the Canadian Mixed Curling Championship.

Off the ice Maple Leaf was always a strong supporter of the Manitoba Curling Association with many members serving on its numerous committees. In 1968 Max Saper was the first Maple Leaf member elected to serve on the MCA Executive Council. For the 1980-81 year Max then became the first Maple Leaf member to serve as president of the MCA. Zivan Saper followed in his father's footsteps to become president for the 1994-95 year and was to go on to become president of the Canadian Curling Association for the 2000-01 year. In 2005 Zivan became the only Maple Leaf member to be elected to the Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame.

The club has five members who have been elected as honorary life members of the MCA. They are: Eph Portigal, Ralph Hamovich, Bert Shatsky, Max Saper and Zivan Saper. Maple Leaf honorary life members are Harry Ditlove, Eph Portigal, Norman Zimmerman, Rock Calof, Henry Guttman, Ralph Hamovich, Max Saper, Bill Lumsden, Jack Knelman, Max Margolis, Phil Jeffries, and Zivan Saper.

The Maple Leaf Curling Club has provided recreation, competition and good fellowship within both the Jewish and general community for almost 75 years and is proud to be included in the Endowment Book of Life.

By the Trustees of the Maple Leaf Curling Club Fund.Martin Buchwald, Ralph Hamovich, Zivan Saper, Ron Zimmerman and Wilf Jeffries (of blessed memory)