RIP Neil Harrison, Legend of Curling

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Joy for life, love of the game

Too young, too soon

Too young, too soon

By George Karrys

TORONTO – Just back from the amazing spectacle that was the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, and I get a call from Peter Steski: Harry has died.

Neil "Harry" Harrison had been in poor health for some time now, and to be frank, the man they called the World's Greatest Lead – to no dissent, by the way – wasn't expected to survive much past Christmas in December. This was a bitter pill to swallow, given how well he recovered from his first bout with illness back in early 2007.

However, repeat visits from friends including fellow 1983 world champion teammates Ed "The Wrench" Werenich and Paul Savage – plus curling firefighter buddies like Frank McCourt – clearly lifted his spirits and kept him fighting through to the end of the Games. That's a great way to think about this tragedy, at any rate.

Harry was the prototype for the perfect team player, and a model to all who aspire to "carry the brooms" for the other three guys (okay, no one aspires to do that). He was also the secret weapon for Savage and Werenich's pioneering approach to the game, which involved attacking opponents with corner guards, a strategy that shocked opponents who were still following scripture in the curling bible – western Canada's bang-bang hitting game. Harry zipped his stones behind those guards with a millimetre to spare, every time, always above the tee-line and regardless of the ice conditions.

An artist, rather than a technician? You're darned right... and Harry was one of the best.

The icing on the Harry curling cake was his joy for life and his sheer love of the sport, and love for his fellow curling men and women. If you couldn't find him in a crowded Patch or hospitality suite, you just listened for that laugh – a howling cackle – and followed the bursts of laughter that followed. There would be Harry, holding court around a crowded table, standing-room only.

Before his health struggles, Harry was giving back to the game as a coach, and this came after he showed off some serious journo skills as a columnist for the late SWEEP! Magazine. We blogged about one of his columns back in 2008 because Harry, God bless him, really told it like it was.

There will be many, many Harry curling stories told today, tomorrow and in the weeks and months to come, for his passing is sure to cause emotional tremors just like those that occurred last year, when his good friend Shorty Jenkins took his pebble can into the skies.

And just as we did then, we invite one and all to type away below this space, in the Comments section, and tell us your stories involving Harry. These are stories that deserve to be told and remembered among all those who love The Roaring Game.

We miss you already, Harry.

[Graphic by George Elliott courtesy of Peterborough and District Sports Hall of Fame. Used by permission.]