Every March, nearly 100 curlers from around the province descend on the Village of Stirling in Ontario. With a population of just over 2000 people, the annual Stirling Skins Curling Bonspiel is one of the town’s marquee events of the year and with a total prize purse of over $10,000, this event attracts some of the best curlers in the area. 2016 marked the 25th anniversary of this event and bonspiel organizer and head ice maker Rick Barnard gives new meaning to word hospitality. This event should not be missed by any avid curler.
The Stirling Skins Bonspiel this past weekend reminded me why I love curling. Great competition, good times with friends, a weekend away, hearty meals and of course beer (lots of beer) at a price that can’t be beat.
The popularity of curling seems to be at an all-time high right now. With exciting new teams playing at the professional level and television coverage seemingly on a nightly level it is no surprise that curling is quickly capturing the hearts of Canadians.
A quick reality check will remind most of us that we will never play at the professional level, but that doesn’t stop an estimated 700,000 Canadians from curling at least once a year.
I was introduced to the sport of curling at a young age by my father. He curled out of the Stayner Granite Club (a fancy name for a curling club) and he sometimes took me to the club while he had his league nights. I won’t pretend that I had an idea of how the game was played or what all the yelling was about, but it was an exciting experience.
In high school I curled competitively with the school team. Yes we were made fun of and those who didn’t understand the sport were quick to dismiss it. I am extremely thankful for my high school curling experience. Learning the sport, frequent practices and essential coaching helped me to develop much needed skills.
I took a leave from the sport throughout University but returned to curling through a Corporate Curling League offered at the Collingwood Curling Club. Since then I have been active in the sport and I am proud to say that curling is a part of my being.
Curling clubs around the country will be wrapping up for the season over the next few weeks. They will have their club championships and their closing bonspiels (a funny curling word for ‘tournament’) but a number of clubs also use this time to introduce new curlers to the game. These clubs will hold open houses and allow non-members to come out and participate. Club volunteers are usually on hand to help assist new curlers with the fundamentals and introduce them to the game. Don’t be fooled, curling requires much more skill than most people think.
If you aren’t able to get out to an open house this spring, look for more opportunities in October when the curling season is firing back up.
And just in case you needed some further convincing to get out and try this wonderful sport I have put together my top reason to curl.
Darren’s Top Reasons To Curl:
The Price: Compared to many other sports, curling is relatively inexpensive. With few exceptions, curling club memberships range between $200 and $500 annually. This generally allows you to curl as many times a week as you like. Equipment costs can range from $15.00 for up to a couple of hundred dollars, but a quality pair of shoes and a broom will last for years.
It’s Social: There are few sports that are as social as curling. Sure you socialize with your hockey team, but do you spend much time socializing with the other team? Curling promotes this and the curling club is a great place to get to know other locals in the area. If you are new to an area I highly recommend joining a club. If you own or operate your a business, curling provides you a wonderful opportunity to network and develop new business.
It’s Ageless: It is rare that an 18 year old and a 75 year old can compete in the same sport. It’s even rarer that people can continue to play the sport well into their twilight. Plan for your retirement now and learn how to curl!
It’s Exciting: I recognize that this is pretty subjective, but the sport of curling is fun and exciting. Each shot made during the game matters and you will always remember that ‘one shot’ that you made during the game. That ‘one shot’ will be enough to bring you back next week and the week after.
Quality Time With Family and Friends: Many clubs offer mixed nights for couples that allow them to curl together. This may or may not be a good idea, but it’s an option. Most clubs will also host a league that allows you to select your team or have team mates randomly put together. This is a great format to meet different people in the club.
Free Beer: This might be a bit of a stretch, but there is free beer involved with curling. The etiquette is that the winning team buys the losing team a beer (or beverage of choice). That’s a pretty good deal! I would however be remiss if I didn’t mention that the etiquette is to reciprocate and offer the other team a beverage in return (it’s a MAJOR curling foul if you don’t make this offer).
That’s it! That’s the list. I encourage everyone to give the sport of curling some serious consideration. It’s not just your grandparent’s game anymore!
Some On-line Curling Resources:
Startcurling.ca is a great resource for new curlers: http://startcurling.ca/
The Ontario Curling Association: http://ontcurl.com/
Curling Canada: http://www.curling.ca/
The Curling Club of Collingwood: https://collingwoodcurlingclub.ca/
The Stirling Curling Club: http://www.stirlingcurlingclub.ca/
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