8 Ends: McEwen’s chickenpox game highlights provincial takeaways

Michael Jordan has his flu game as a feat of mythical sports proportions and now another Mike has his chickenpox game.

A quick primer: Jordan came down with the flu prior to Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals but managed to score a team-high 38 points and power the Chicago Bulls to a critical 90-88 victory over the Utah Jazz to take a 3-2 series lead. The Bulls shut it down the following game to claim their second consecutive NBA championship and fifth title in seven seasons.

Winnipeg skip Mike McEwen’s story doesn’t share the same ending but Sunday’s Viterra Championship final will still go down as one of the most unbelievable sets of circumstances in curling lore.

The two-time Manitoba champion McEwen spent three nights in a hospital with a serious case of chickenpox while his team carried on through the men’s provincial championship as a trio. Vice B.J. Neufeld moved up to skip, earning tournament all-star honours at the position, while second Matt Wozniak and lead Denni Neufeld threw three rocks each.

They could have opted for a substitution from the spare pool but chemistry is huge, especially when they’ve been together for 11 seasons now, and the double knockout preliminary round doesn’t exactly leave a lot of room for error while you’re getting used to a new player. Team McEwen, minus McEwen, won four consecutive games before falling to Reid Carruthers in Saturday’s Page 1-2 playoff and B.J. Neufeld was still in charge for their 6-2 victory over J.T. Ryan in Sunday morning’s semifinal.