Monday, February 24, 2014

Everyone loved Harry

We knew the news was coming but that didn’t make it any easier to hear.

This morning, word came down that Neil Harrison had passed away, succumbing after a long battle with cancer.

Harrison made his mark as one of the greatest leads to every slip on a slider. The pinnacle of his career came when he won the Brier and world championship as part of the famed Dream Team skipped by Ed Werenich.

“He was the ultimate teammate,” said John Kawaja, who played with Harrison on that ’83 team. “He brought so much to the team and the team dynamics, to the point where he wasn’t afraid to be in your face if it needed to happen.

“He was the best and most effective teammate I ever played with.”

"That was who you modelled your team after," stated Wayne Middaugh, who battled Harrison while playing for Russ Howard. "Everyone wanted a guy like Neil Harrison as their lead. It wasn't just because of what he did on the ice. He was the ultimate teammate. He kept everyone loose."

In an era before there were specialists, when the weakest links usually played lead, Harrison revolutionized curling by making the lead position his craft. He was a lead and proud of it.
In fact at the 1983 World Curling Championships, Harry become the first player to ever throw a perfect game.

"Everybody knew that Harry only had one turn," added Middaugh, "but he threw it perfectly, every time."

Although he played lead, he was one of the sharpest strategists. He knew the game better than most skips. It’s what made him a great coach after his competitive days ended.

Harrison also contributed to the game via his writing. He was a longtime columnist for the Ontario Curling Report, penning a column that was honest, stark and often hilarious. He wasn't afraid to call out an individual or organization, but also wasn't above poking fun at himself. 

But what made Harry so great didn’t have anything to do with his ability to perfectly place a corner guard or peel out an opponents’ stone, it was his great friendship, his trademark high-pitched laugh, and his love of a good story. Harry was everybody’s friend. He loved the game, but he loved those who played it more. He revelled in sitting around with his pals after the game and sharing a drink and a tall tale.

Funeral arrangements were being made for Harrison who is survived by his wife, Jane and children.

Do you have a favourite memory of Harry? Please post it below in the comments section. 

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