Yukon Nuggets

1977 Yukon Nuggets

Lionel Stokes


Here at home, I have a beat-up old curling broom. A real broom. Not the kind of shot-enhancing devices that curlers use these days to control the speed and curl of the rocks. Nope, this one is a real corn broom. The kind that used to make such a racket in the hands of good sweepers that even Russ Howard had a hard time being heard over the smack of corn broom on ice.

The broom I have is well used. Well worn. Almost worn out, in fact. But you can still read the name written, by felt marker, on the cloth covering. One word. Stokes. He's the guy who gave me the broom, back in 1977, at the Macdonald's Brier in Montreal. Lionel was shooting second stones for skip Don Twa's Yukon foresome that year.

At the end of round-robin play, the Yukon finished with a respectable record of five wins and six loses, much better than northern teams usually fare in men's national competition these days. But not nearly as good as this team did the first time the north was directly entered in the Brier. That came two years earlier, in 1975, when skip Don Twa, third Chuck Haines, second Kip Boyd and lead Lionel Stokes nearly won the Brier.

Staged in Fredericton, New Brunswick, the north, for the first time, had a direct entry into the Brier and Don Twa's team from Whitehorse was it. How well did they do? you ask. Well, the winner, Northern Ontario, had to make an almost impossible last rock shot in their last game to finish with a record of 9 wins and 2 losses - there were no playoffs then - while the boys from the Yukon finished with 8 wins and 3 losses. Never again has the Territories team come that close, and maybe they never will.

Lionel Stokes had a lot to do with that fantastic result. Two years later, in 1977, the Twa rink was back in Brier final. Lionel was now throwing second stones and, even though the final placing was not like the 1975 showing, Lionel was named the All-Star Second. The best second in Canada. He was that good.

Through it all, he became a renowned team player and dedicated curling organizer. In 1973 and 1974, Lionel and his team toured Europe on a goodwill curling marathon that gained the Yukon and Canada recognition worldwide.

In addition to his athletic ability, Lionel spent many years serving on Yukon curling committees, organizing curling events, and initiated the Bert Boyd Memorial Trophy.

So while you are in Whitehorse, take a moment and visit the Edgewater Hotel and dining room. The food is great, but more important - especially for curlers - is the chance to meet Lionel Stokes, a member of the Yukon Sports hall of fame, and oh so close to being Brier champ. Oh yes, please tell him Les McLaughlin still has his 1977 Brier broom.


A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.

Les McLaughlin

Les McLaughlin

As storyteller, radio man, and music producer, Les proved a passionate preserver of Yukon heritage throughout his life — nowhere more evident than as the author and voice of CKRW’s “Yukon Nuggets,” from its inception until his passing in 2011.