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Around the House: A virtual visit to the “local” curling club

When I’m travelling, one of my favourite things to do is check out local landmarks – the library, for instance, or the town hall.  The smaller the town, the better, because then these landmarks play an even larger role in the community.

Pictou, Nova Scotia

And that goes for the curling club, too.

As a curling writer, I get to tell stories about all sorts of things, including my “visits” to clubs around the country.  For instance, this summer I travelled to the Yukon, spending a week in Whitehorse and another week in Dawson City.  Although my days in Whitehorse were filled with driving and sight-seeing  (and eating far too much at the Klondike Rib & Salmon Barbeque), and my week in Dawson was mostly spent ferrying my family up and down the Dempster Highway to trailheads, I did have a chance to find at least one curling club.  I wrote about my hunt for the Dawson Curling Club on my blog, Grassroots Curling, and I can give you a hint: the club can be found right beside Diamond Tooth Gertie’s (where else would it be?).

But unfortunately, I missed my chance to seek out the Whitehorse Curling Club – until a news item popped up recently about that club’s efforts to recruit new members this season.  “Why not make a virtual visit?” I asked myself, and headed for the CCA’s club listing to check out the Whitehorse CC website.  I found lots of information there, including great photos of past events the club has hosted and shots from regular league play, but I wanted a guided tour – and that requires a tour guide.

After a quick email to the club, I was soon in touch with Gary Brown, Membership Director, who shared with me the story of how this busy club is keeping even busier recruiting members, running bonspiels and cashspiels, and just generally spreading the word of curling in the North.

Gary also shared a wonderful anecdote about how much curling has attracted the interest of his American neighbours in Alaska.

“Just last week,” Gary told me a few weeks ago in our “visit” by email, “Whitehorse was host to the Alaska Tourism Conference, and there were about 400 Alaskans in town attending the conference.  One of the events for the conference was a night at our facility, with the option of trying out curling.  We did not know what to expect in terms of interest as Alaska, I believe, has only two curling rinks.”

Oh, there was interest all right!

“There was so much interest in the curling they had to limit the number of teams to 30 due to time constraints,” reports Gary, “and an additional 30 or so Alaskans not involved in the bonspiel received some instruction on the only open sheet and got to experience throwing a rock on curling ice.  Most were all gushing about how much fun it was and about six to eight teams were going to pursue curling back home in Fairbanks and Anchorage, not to mention the ones who have been pushing for a curling club in the Alaskan capital of Juneau.  I think a big part of this interest was due to coverage of curling in the Olympics.”

Whitehorse isn’t the only club feeling the effects of the Olympic afterglow, of course.  Take an online stroll and you’ll find news items popping up about curling club open houses and learn-to-curl clinics. At the outdoor rink in Palo Alto, California, they’re planning a mini-spiel and learn-to-curl session.  At an outdoor rink! Imagine!

The Whitehorse Curling Club caught my interest with the story of its recruitment efforts, but there are lots of other great stories out there, too. For instance, the East York Curling Club is celebrating its Golden (50th) Anniversary. And at the PEI Curling Hall of Fame dinner, held at the Charlottetown Curling Club recently, five PEI curlers were celebrated – but you’ll have to go on a virtual tour to find the details for yourself.

I’d love to be able to walk right up and through your club’s doors – or stand by its sign, as I’m doing in the photo (above) in Pictou, Nova Scotia. For now, I’ll have to rely on the virtual route, and I recommend it as a great way to visit curling clubs, everywhere.