The Russell Curling Club gathered at the rink on October 14 to celebrate the amazing achievements of Cochrane, who has been a member of the club for 50 years. He won five championships between 2003 and 2021, the fifth being last November.
“It’s not something that you try to achieve,” said Cochrane. “You’re not trying to go for the Lifetime Achievement Award for the Ontario Curling Association, but it’s something that comes along with success. Winning five provincial championships in your career gets you to that spot.”
He got into curling because his parents were members of the Russell Curling Club and brought him there often. He has fond memories of running around the lounge as young as seven years old, running around the ice and helping teams get the curling rocks out for games. He joined the club when he was 15 after seeing his brother’s team whip the town up into a frenzy.
“My brother was on a high school team, and they got to the final game and lost,” he said. “If they had won that game, they would have gone to the Canadian schoolboy championships in Kamloops, B.C. I saw the excitement of the town, of the curling club and how everyone was into it. That was big back then, and it was devastating that they lost.”
However, his career was always impacted by a congenital disease affecting his vocal cords, which led to a lifetime of surgery.
“I’ve had 42 surgeries on my vocal cords,” he said. “I had it (medical condition) when I was a little kid, and then it went away so I thought I was done with it. It went away for 21 years until I was 27, and then boom I got this pain. So, I had to start up again, and I still get it done at least once a year.”
The frequent surgeries put a strain on his vocal cords, meaning he needs a whistle to effectively communicate with his teammates. There weren’t many protests when he first started using it as he was still a small-time player, but he did have to apply for special permission to use it in the Briar in 2003. He said some players thought the whistle gave him an unfair advantage in noisy arenas, but Cochrane said it’s more of a disadvantage as voice intonation can dictate urgency and other sub-vocal directions, while the whistle is a definitive yes-or-no.
After fifty years of curling competitively across the country, Cochrane thought after his last championship win, it might be time to hang up his broom and put away the rocks. Even though curling allows people to play competitively at a much older age than other sports, as evidenced by Cochrane’s age of 65, he thought it might be time to retire. Then the Canadian Curling Association made a rule change, and he thought, “why not?”
“When we won the World Senior Championships in Norway in April of 2019, it was kind of looking like we should just wrap it up,” Cochrane said. “Not even a month later, the Canadian Curling Association changed the rules of how you can represent your province at the Briar.”
Long story short, provincial teams could now have one member from out of province, and Cochrane’s World Championship team had two players from P.E.I. They picked up one other P.E.I. player, and Cochrane was the one out-of-province player allowed. They went undefeated in the provincials and traveled to Kingston to compete in the Briar, and many Russell residents went out to support him.
“We had some good games, played pretty well, could have played bette,” he said. “It was a thrill. Then COVID happened two days later.”
After five championships and a lifetime achievement award, Cochrane said he doesn’t have any serious plans for competition in the future. He said his team is thinking of playing in the 2022 Ontario Senior Playdowns, but that doesn’t involve a lot of serious training. Just playing often to keep their skills sharp.