At remote mining operations, sporting competitions brought a thrill and excitement to days otherwise defined by gruelling work. In mining towns, these events let everyone briefly forget their isolation and burn off stress in a (usually) healthy way. Winning a hockey or fastball tournament was a major source of local pride.
Curling prowess was another proxy for an operation’s prestige. Any mine worth its salt had a sheet or two of natural ice, where workers could congregate after hours—be it the Eldorado Curling Club on the shore of Great Bear Lake at Port Radium or the Rayrock club at the uranium mine near Marian Lake.
In the late 1950s, Max Ward, the legendary bush pilot and businessman, sponsored his annual Wardair Cup, and teams from across the NWT played for the trophy at different minesites. And on Saturday nights at Yellowknife’s Con mine, curlers battled for the Guzzlers’ Cup, so named because challengers had to bring generous quantities of rum to enter the competition–and the eventual champions had to ensure it was all gone by night’s end.