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Benito legend announced as hall of fame inductee

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On July 29, the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame announced the 2020 inductees, which included some locally sourced talent – Ed ‘The Wrench’ Werenich – who was and is renowned nationally and internationally as a curler who helped shape the game of curling into the revered sport it is today.
The 73 year old Werenich learned the sport at the age of 10 when he attended school in his hometown of Benito.
“I was very lucky to have an unbelieveable teacher in Grade 5,” said Werenich from his home in Ontario. “Instead of the normal gym, she managed to get us to the curling rink and that started my career. Shirley Koroluk was a huge part of that.”
After high school, Werenich moved out east to the Toronto area, where he met up with his notable teammates and built a curling career that would land him two world championships, two Canadian titles, 10 appearances at the Brier and 18 trips to the provincial finals.
Werenich was also inducted into the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame in 1988, and the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame (OSHOF) in 2009 along with his 1983 and 1990 World Championship-winning rink of Paul Savage, John Kawaja and Neil Harrison.
“It’s a great feeling of accomplishment to be inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame, being from Manitoba and learning to curl in a very small community,” said Werenich. “My name being among a lot of great athletes and especially some great curlers is a very proud moment for me and my family and many friends.”
When Werenich was curling at a young age, he graduated to men’s curling at the age of 15, which he said was a lot of fun because it meant he could play with his older brother Tony and experience a lot of success.
“We had five sheets of natural ice in Benito, so curling was a popular event,” he said.
Benito resident Dale Offenberger grew up with Werenich and stayed close friends with him after he moved away, and noted that – in that day and age – there wasn’t a lot of proper coaching in sports at that level, and those who were passionate about it had to figure it out for themselves to improve.
“(Werenich) always had the knack of curling, especially with the angles and the draw shots,” he said. “He was basically a draw artist rather than a knock-out artist, and it was a knock-out game in the ‘70s.
“He was probably one of the ones that set the game as we see it today on the draw. He was an excellent pool player too that gave him the angles for the game of curling as well.”
Offenberger also confirmed what many seem to remember, that Werenich had a colourful personality that left a memorable mark on the world of curling.
“Ed stood up for his beliefs,” he said, citing an example where the Canadian Curling Association asked Werenich to lose some weight when the sport of curling was first being introduced as an Olympic sport at the Calgary Winter Games in 1988. “He stood up to them and ended up breaking their back, hypothetically speaking.
“Ed was always a very good guy, had a great sense of humour and took his curling seriously. He was very successful at it over the years and he did very well for himself.”
The OSHOF describes him as being ‘one of curling’s most flamboyant and exciting players, sometimes being compared to Arnold Palmer of golf, as they brought their respective sports to the forefront.’
Historica Canada – the organizational descendent of the group that produced Heritage Minutes – describes Werenich’s nickname of ‘Wrench’ as coming from his ability to ‘ratchet up the pressure on the ice, often abrading other players and curling officials off the ice’.
Werenich retired from curling in 2000 – making a brief reappearance in 2004 to play a one-off bonspiel with his then-25 year old son Ryan and former teammate Harrison.
“I was always treated great by the fans,” said Werenich. “I feel that if some of the children enjoyed watching my team curl and gave them inspiration to curl, like the others who inspired me, then that’s a fantastic thing.”
Even though Werenich doesn’t curl anymore, and hasn’t for quite some time, his wife still curls with a passion, as well as both sons, Ryan and Darren, and all four grandchildren.
“(My grandchildren curling) makes watching them grow very special,” said Werenich.
“As far as (inspiring) the rest of Canada, I think that my team of great guys and curlers were awesome ambassadors for the game everywhere we curled.”
As well as his OSHOF-inducted rink, he also praised former teammates Pat Perroud, Ian Tetley and Ron Green.
Even though the aging Werenich is no longer as capable or willing to make the trip to the Swan Valley from the Greater Toronto Area, he has left a legacy sure to be remembered.

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Jeremy Bergen
REPORTER
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