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Sam on Sports: Al Hackner

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Red Rock Indian Band member Al Hackner is content with his decision to retire from high-level competitive curling. – Photo supplied

THUNDER BAY – Al Hackner made his decision last year.

And the 69-year-old member of Red Rock Indian Band is not going to change his mind. He’s also not about to let anybody else convince him that he should continue playing a high-level of competitive curling.

Hackner, who lives in Thunder Bay, announced last fall that 2022 would be his final year of elite curling.

And what a career it was.

Hackner skipped teams to world championships in 1982 and 1985. And he also competed in the Brier, the Canadian men’s championship, a whopping nine times, winning twice.

Hackner also led his rink to a silver-medal finish at the world senior championships held in Edmonton in 2007.

After announcing his retirement plans last year, Hackner went on to participate in two more national championships.

He skipped his Northern Ontario rink to a gold medal at the Canadian men’s masters (60 and over) tournament in Winnipeg last November.

And then he represented Northern Ontario again at the national senior men’s (50 and over) competition in Yarmouth, N.S., last December.

That event ended up being Hackner’s swan song.

Hackner realizes he still might have what it takes to qualify for national tournaments, but the thought of playing 10 or more games over the course of a week is not appealing to him.

He believes he wouldn’t fare well in that type of competition any more. After all, he is 69. His knees and hips, key body parts for a curler, are not what they used to be.

Heck, most people over 50 know that feeling.

Hackner made it quite clear to all of his friends and teammates that he’s hanging up his broom and calling it quits – from high-level curling – last year.

He said that is why nobody has tried to persuade go give it another go since then.

But it’s not as if Hackner will never step foot in a curling rink again. In fact, he’ll be right back at it once the curling season starts in Thunder Bay next month.

Hackner plans to play in the city’s Major League of Curling, the highest level of the sport being offered in Thunder Bay. But he’ll only be battling other curlers from his own city. Not from across the country or the world.

Hackner has already let it be known that the 2023-24 season, which runs from October through to April, will be his final one in the Major League of Curling.

Besides competing in this league, Hackner will also take part in another laid-back, fun league in Thunder Bay just for kicks this year.

And unlike some athletes and rock stars who retire only to un-retire and come back again, Hackner insists that won’t be happening with him.

He said he’s fine with his decision of not wanting to play at a higher level again.

Hackner, who is also a former transportation conductor with CN Rail, is quite content in retirement – both from work and competitive curling.

These days, he’s helping out his son who is building a home. Plus, he’s got a couple of other recreational loves to keep him busy: fishing and golfing.

And no doubt he’ll also have plenty of time to reminisce about his storied curling career.

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