All in the family-the Osbakken Bonspeil
In northern Minnesota curling circles, there are names that appear over and over in the annals of the sport--among them are Gervais, Pluth and Lindgren. Last weekend, 26 teams converged on the Two Harbors Curling Club for a bonspiel that bears the name of another well-known competitor, mentor and friend among curlers, Jim Osbakken.
The event, which started Friday evening, brought curlers from around the region and as far away as Thunder Bay for prize money, bragging rights and the fun of a sport that almost anyone can play.
"I like(curling) because you're playing with young junior curlers and seniors--all ages can play and you don't have that in other sports," said Tom Brozic, whose team included son, Jesse, and daughter- in- law, Jill. "There are three Brozics on the ice," he said with a smile. Also on Brozic's team is Rick Osbakken, president of the Two Harbors Curling Club and son of the bonspiel's namesake.
Rick, along with brother, Jay and sisters Debra and Laura were all on hand over the weekend and have many years' experience on the ice.
"Us kids grew up at the curling club," said Laura pointing out pictures and curling memorabilia in one of the club's back rooms, where friends and family were gathered around a big table. "Our dad has been a member of the Curling Club since it started in 1963."
In fact, both of the Osbakken quartet's parents were active in the sport for many years and participated in numerous mixed competitions, including nationals. Now, a third generation of the family has been introduced to the sport. Rick's daughters Courtney and Tricia both curl--Courtney, age 17, a student at Two Harbors High School, competes on a junior girls' team.
Asked if growing up in the family meant automatic membership at the curling club, she said, "No, I have a choice, and I choose to curl."
In addition to two generations of Osbakkens at the weekend's event, were three generations of Lindgrens. Lenny, 73, of Palo, his son and daughter, John and Tracy in their 40s and 13 year old grandson, Jeffrey.
The elder Lindgren is the son of John and Lorna Lindgren, both curlers from the Gilbert area on the Iron Range. Lenny's love of the game runs deep, as evidenced by the five years he drove 110 miles round trip from his home to Two Harbors for league competitions.
"Once a week for five years and I only hit one deer," he boasted jovially.
John, who lives in Silver Bay, has been curling since he was 12, the same age his son Jeffrey began in the sport. John has been playing out of the Two Harbors club for a number of years.
Twin Cities resident Tracey Lindgren also started at age 12, but said she was not convinced that she wanted to be a curler.
"Being a kid, I didn't want to go," she confessed, "but my mom said, 'just goes this once to make your dad happy.'" The rest is history. She's been curling ever since and has an impressive list of accomplishments to show for her effort. In 1987, for example, when she was just 15, she was the skip for the first Minnesota junior women's championship team.
Although Jim Osbakken died in 2008 at the age of 76, the mark he made on the sport remains. He was one of the founding members of the Two Harbors Curling Club and is credited with bringing many new members into the fold, said Rick. Other curlers, such as Ron Gervais who still competes in over 120 games per year, was a long-time friend and teammate of Jim Osbakken and recalls his love of the game.
"I played with Jimmy many, many years," he said, including the last few years of his life when he was severely vision impaired.
"He couldn't see, so Jay put a battery powered flashlight on the ice," said Gervais, "he couldn't see Jay (at the opposite end of the sheet) but he could see the light and he had such good accuracy. He was a great curler and a great competitor."
By Sunday afternoon, the results were in and the third annual Jim Osbakken Memorial Bonspiel was in the books, but in the air was the echo of granite stones sliding across pebbled ice, the swish of the broom and friendly folk carrying on a legacy.