The third week of November is a busy one for curling clubs in my part of Ontario. Here in the Waterloo-Wellington region, this week is devoted to a bonspiel involving multiple teams from thirteen different clubs. Hosted by the Kitchener-Waterloo Granite Club, the Home Hardware spiel draws curlers of all ages and stages. With three games guaranteed, the teams who keep winning earn the right to keep playing – Monday through Friday, and up to the finals on Saturday, including a posh banquet and presentation of prizes.
I’m not involved in the spiel this year, and I’m kind of sorry about that. The opportunity to meet other teams on the ice – and off – was a highlight of the curling season for me. This year, however, I’m just a one-night-a-week curler; time and other obligations make it impossible for me to participate.
Too bad. What I liked best about this multi-town spiel was the opportunity to visit different clubs around the region and soak up the personality of each one. The club rooms in Ayr, Galt, Fergus, Elmira, not to mention KW Granite and the others, have their own distinct atmosphere. Trophy cases, championship plaques, photos, busy bulletin boards, even the bartenders – walk into any curling club anywhere, and some things never change. But each club seems to be able to put a stamp on these things and make them unique.
Winnipegger Emma Durand writes a blog called “Winnipeg O’ My Heart”, and in it she recently talked about following her husband’s team, which was competing in last year’s city-wide MCA bonspiel. Here’s what she says about the fun of visiting other curling clubs (quoted with her permission – thanks, Emma!):
Over the past couple of years I’ve been to watch my husband and his team curl at various clubs around town during the MCA Bonspiel, and each one has its own atmosphere and charm. There’s something so comforting and homey about them. From the old school logos to the well-worn ceramic mugs of coffee (according to my brother, “rink coffee” is some of life’s best), I love how stepping into a curling club feels like stepping into a time machine, in the best possible way.
My home club is in St. Adolphe, and I’ll be honest: my favourite thing about it is the plastic cup of OV and basket of delicious, salty popcorn (that costs only fifty cents!) that follow a game.
Thanks, Emma. You nailed it! Every club has something that makes it special, whether it’s home or away.
My original “home” club was the Vankleek Hill Curling Club, a small-town two-sheeter in the lower Ottawa Valley. It has changed a bit over the years, but I remember a cozy, dark-paneled party room chockablock with tables that were re-arranged with jigsaw-puzzle precision for parties and dances, and always, a familiar face at the bar, and the ladies of the club in the kitchen. Coming into this club was like walking into a friend’s house, and spending time there was always a pleasure.
The best part of the Vankleek Hill Curling Club? The people, of course. But also the sound of the rocks rumbling down the ice in that relatively small space. Oh, and the yearly “Town and Country” event, in which teams made up ladies with rural addresses played against the ladies who lived in town. The championship was hotly contested and enthusiastically celebrated – until the following year when the battle for supremacy was fought again. Good times!
Since then I’ve belonged to a couple of different clubs, each with its own distinct personality: one with eight sheets and a big-city bustle, and the other one smaller and slower-paced. It didn’t take long to feel at home in either one. Curlers tend to find a club and hold on hard.
Yes, I will miss curling in the Home Hardware spiel this year. But even more, I’ll miss walking through the door of all those unique curling clubs and experiencing, as Emma describes it so well, each club’s special “atmosphere and charm.”