Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The passing of Wheels

There was some sad news yesterday when the curling world learned of the passing of Keith “Wheels” Reilly. He'd been in the hospital for some time.

Reilly did just about everything there is to do in curling. He was part of the Alf Phillips Jr., rink that won the Brier in 1967. And, of course, he was part of one of the most infamous incidents in international curling when they played in the world championships that year. Here’s how it was recalled in my book The Brier:

 Near the end of the round robin, the Canadian team was in the running along with Scotland and the United States. Despite a late-night sampling of the sponsor Scottish Whiskey Association’s products, Phillips hammered a hapless Norwegian team in an early morning contest. In the afternoon, a showdown for first place was looming between Canada and the United States, and the Phillips team decided to return to the hotel for a short nap. They emerged from the rink and found two buses waiting to transport the teams but no driver. Phillips boarded one, and, finding it running, summoned Reilly to join him. The skip then began a short tour of Perth that ended when he parked the bus on top of a guardrail. “Originally we had intended to just hide it,” remembered Reilly. “But we got stuck on a roundabout and couldn’t get off. We tried to pick up some passengers to help us, but once they got a look at who was driving, no one wanted to get on.”

Reilly also became an exceptional coach, guiding many top teams. He led Alison Goring’s rink to the 1990 Scotties Tournament of Hearts title.

And made his mark as an umpire, where he was on the scene at Briers, Scotties, world championships and just about every other major event you can name.

Reilly also was a champion of change. I remember him telling me how the governing bodies weren't giving any opportunity to new officials to break into the game. The OCA would put people through courses, charging them for that, but then just use the same people time and time again.

 I had many great chats with Reilly over the years, usually at big events where he would give me many great scoops that became stories. He also just loved to talk about the game and would tell you why certain players weren’t performing well technically or why events weren’t running well. He just seemed to have his finger on the pulse of everything.

 Deep down, it was very obvious that Reilly loved the game, loved being a part of it and loved giving back to it. I will truly miss his friendship.

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