Victor Alvin Peters
Born: March 24, 1955 (Steinbach, Manitoba)
Died: March 27, 2016 (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
In a sport known for congeniality, the curler Vic Peters rarely allowed a fierce competitive spirit to trump sportsmanship.
The Manitoba skip, who hailed from a province which asserts its cordiality on license plates, was described as “pleasantly gruff,” “a classy competitor,” and an “all-around good guy.” Though he could not hide the occasional flash of anger on the ice, the gentleman curler maintained a reputation as a good sport, win or lose. He had plenty of experience at both.
Mr. Peters, who has died of cancer at 61, was one of Canada’s top curlers for more than a decade. He won the 1992 Brier in his first of three trips to the national championship.
A small-town curler who moved to Winnipeg to face tougher day-to-day competition, Mr. Peters needed a decade of seasoning at the highest level in his home province before he managed to win his first provincial Tankard in 1992. He repeated as Manitoba champion in 1993 and 1997.
A keen reader of ice and self-disciplined when it came to the tedious task of training, Mr. Peters’ preparations paid off at the 1992 Brier in Regina. On straight ice, he and favoured Russ Howard of Ontario played a dreary, conservative game of draw-peel, draw-peel. Their battle of attrition could have been settled on the final rock when Mr. Peters faced a basic hit and stick for the championship only to have his shooter roll just off the rings. When he faced a similar shot in an extra end, though, the Manitoba skip made it for a 4-3 victory.
His success on the curling sheet was all the more remarkable for his having recovered from a hockey injury that left him with impaired sight in one eye.
Victor Alvin Peters was born on March 24, 1955, at Steinbach, Man., to Margaret (née Klassen) and Jacob J. Peters. Both parents were Russian-born Mennonite immigrants who fled the Bolsheviks for sanctuary in Canada, his mother arriving aboard a coal freighter in 1923 and his father aboard an ocean liner two years later. His mother, a seamstress who was the oldest daughter of 11 children, taught for a year in a one-room schoolhouse in Rosengart, Man., before marrying Mr. Peters, who was also a teacher and who later became a principal and school superintendent in southeastern Manitoba.
Young Vic’s athletic exploits featured frequently in the coverage of his hometown newspaper, as he starred on the Little League baseball diamond and won ribbons in track and field as an elementary student. He later served as the starting shortstop for the Steinbach Steelers men’s softball team and played hockey for his Steinbach Collegiate Institute hockey team. As a quick, but slight 19-year-old centre with hockey’s junior Steinbach Millers, he suffered a bloody injury when he went to block a shot only to have his opponent’s stick shatter, leaving splinters embedded in his right eye. He suffered a detached retina and never regained full vision in the eye. His hockey career was over.
“I was too small anyway,” he told sports writer Randy Turner in 1997. “I got whacked around too much.”
Mr. Peters stayed on the ice, swapping the hockey arena for the curling rink. He got work as the icemaker in Steinbach, taking the chance to test the condition of the ice by throwing rocks. In time, he developed a daily regimen of throwing 64 rocks, honing his touch and ever improving his knowledge of ice.
“Sixteen back and forth twice,” he told the Winnipeg Free Press. “If you do that all winter, the strength in your legs really builds to the point four games a day isn’t any trouble.”
He found in the delivery of a curling stone a motion similar to the flow of a golf swing, a summertime sport at which he excelled. In short time, he became a force in Manitoba curling. After dominating local competition in rural Steinbach, he moved to Winnipeg to join the Granite Curling Club, the oldest in Western Canada.
The Peters rink twice lost provincial finals leading to a team shakeup. Childhood friend Chris Neufeld remained, while Don Carey and Don Rudd were added. The quartet’s victory in the Brier qualified them to represent Canada at the world championship at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, where they claimed a bronze medal after being defeated in a semifinal by nervy shotmaking showing “circus originality” by Scotland’s Hammy McMillan. Despite the loss, Mr. Peters was named a tournament all-star skipper.
The Peters rink finished fourth at the 1993 Brier. Four years later, with Scott Grant replacing Mr. Rudd as lead, the team went 11-0 in round-robin play in Calgary before losing the championship game to Alberta’s Kevin Martin. Mr. Peters was presented the Ross Hartstone Trophy in a vote by his peers for best representing sportsmanship, exemplary conduct and curling ability.
Mr. Peters won the Manitoba senior men’s title in 2008.
In recent years, he curled alongside his son, Daley Peters, a two-time Manitoba junior champion.
The Peters’ rinks from 1992 and ’93 were inducted as a team into the Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame in 2005.
Over the years, Mr. Peters worked as a curling icemaker in winter and as a golf greenskeeper in summer.
As a young man, he had a bout with skin cancer. In 2011, he was diagnosed with lymphoma. He died in Winnipeg on March 27, Easter Sunday. He leaves his wife, Debbie; son Daley Peters; and, daughters Kasandra Leafloor and Elizabeth (Liz) Fyfe.
Mr. Peters made what would be his final public appearance earlier this year at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts at Grande Prairie, Alta., when Ms. Fyfe curled second for Team Manitoba.