Daryl and Linda Kirton have been working quietly in the background as high-level curling officials for more than three decades, so being thrust into the limelight recently by the Abbotsford Sports Hall of Fame came as something of a shock.
The husband-wife duo are the only nominees to make the cut for entrance into the local sports shrine this year – they’ll be officially inducted in the coach/builder category at a banquet on April 28 at the Legacy Building.
“It’s an honour,” Linda Kirton said, reflecting on the recognition. “We’re sort of quiet about things that we do, and that’s just who we are. We just do our job and quietly move forward.”
For the Kirtons, both age 64, their shared passion for curling has been a constant in their relationship. They met in the late 1960s, after Daryl moved to Abbotsford from Armstrong, B.C. Linda’s father, Ray Boury, was one of the founders of the local curling club, and he would drag Daryl down to the club after dinner, as a means of getting to know the boy who was dating his daughter.
Daryl and Linda would go on to become top-notch curlers in their own right – they’ve competed together at the provincial mixed championships on multiple occasions, and Daryl was part of an Abbotsford men’s rink that lost to Rick Folk in the final of the 1989 B.C. championship.
But it’s as officials where they’ve really made their mark. In the late 1970s, the Abbotsford Curling Club began hosting a men’s cashspiel, and the $10,000 first prize drew rinks from across Canada.
Wanting to standardize some rules for the event, Daryl attended the first officiating course ever held in B.C.
That started the couple on a journey that has seen them preside over a wide variety of national and international championships – men’s, women’s, mixed, junior, wheelchair – while adding passport stamps from Switzerland, Finland, South Korea and Japan.
Name a big-time curling spiel, and there’s a strong chance the Kirtons have officiated it.
They’re in agreement that the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Vancouver have been the highlight. Daryl served as supervisor of play for both events, while Linda was the statistician at the Olympics and the deputy chief umpire at the Paralympics. She also got to read the official’s oath at the Paralympic opening ceremonies in front of 60,000-plus fans at B.C. Place, a moment she describes as “very emotional.”
Daryl said he’s particularly enjoyed watching the growth of wheelchair curling in recent years – the sport has come a long way since the first time he worked at the Wheelchair World Championships in Richmond in 2005.
“There were no rules or anything – they had a piece of paper with a couple things jotted down,” he said. “But they have improved 550 per cent, and it’s unbelievable how they’ve mastered the game. At first, most people threw with their hand. Now, everybody throws with a stick. They can make triples, and they really know the game.”
Beyond the officiating, the Kirtons have been involved extensively with the local club, whether overseeing the junior program or helping to organize the various national championships the city has hosted.
Linda said it’s fulfilling work because of the relationships.
“When we were in Korea, we were in a store, and the Chinese wheelchair team, which we had met in Finland in 2011, saw us,” she recounted. “They wheeled their chairs over to greet us just like we were their long-lost friends. It was exciting, even though we don’t speak Chinese.”
• Tickets for the Abbotsford Sports Hall of Fame banquet are $60 each or $450 for a table of eight. They can be purchased at Hub Fire Engines, or by calling 604-859-3124.
In addition to the Kirtons’ induction, six teams and nine individuals will be honoured for their exploits in 2011 with a plaque on the Wall of Fame, which will be displayed at the Hall for one year.