Curling clubs offer so many opportunities for competition. We can join weekly leagues, enter bonspiels near and far, and take part in traditional special events (Turkey Draw, anyone?) For those of us who get into the sport looking for something more, we can test ourselves at provincial or territorial playdowns with an eye to competing on the national stage.
But let’s face it: most of us club curlers don’t get the chance to reach those elite heights, and that’s just fine. For us, curling is a recreational sport. It’s about getting some exercise, meeting some friends, socializing after the game and simply experiencing the pleasure of playing a game that challenges us on so many levels. It’s a great way to spend the long Canadian winter. For most of us, that’s enough.
Still, who hasn’t watched the Big Kids play at the Brier or Scotties and wondered: “What would that be like?” Every year, as I watch our country’s top curlers strut their stuff on the national stage, I can’t help imagining myself stepping out on the ice, wearing an Ontario team jacket, getting down in the hack to throw a perfect stone, right on the broom, right on the money.
Ha! Like that’s ever going to happen!
Well, curlers, it could happen, and we have The Dominion Insurance Company to thank. In 2008, Dominion CEO George Cooke, a recreational curler himself, launched the idea of a national championship for regular club curlers. Not the elite athletes who compete on the national and world stage, but the regular curler who plies his or her curling trade at clubs across the country knowing that such rarefied air is probably out of reach.
Why not a championship for club curlers, Cooke asked, and immediately went to work making it happen. The result is The Dominion Curling Club Championship, which took place at Royal St. Georges Curling Club in Toronto in the Fall of 2009 for the first time. The second annual event took place this past November, hosted by two clubs in Charlottetown, PEI, and according to organizers and participants, the event was wildly successful and continues to grow.
Competitive curler Leigh Armstrong, The Dominion’s Branding Coordinator, and the chief organizer of the championship event, says that it’s amazing to see just how much the curlers appreciate this opportunity to experience competition at such a high level – and to represent their club and their province or territory. Some clubs simply choose the winner of the league play, but others hold a distinct Dominion playoff for teams interested in competing.
For the Quebec men’s team, this meant getting through some tough competition. Richard Faguy, the skip of team Quebec, has had some experience at the provincial level, but only one player per team is allowed that kind of curling background. For his three teammates, this was their first exposure to high-level competition.
“Winning the provincial championship was exhilarating and unreal,” says Rick. “The realization that we had won an event of this magnitude was overwhelming for all of us. The moment we realized that we would be wearing our provincial colors and logo on the back of our jacket was a very proud moment for us – four buddies/club curlers from the Buckingham Curling Club.”
Although Team Quebec didn’t win it all in Charlottetown, Rick says the experience of meeting curlers from across the country and forging new friendships, while playing in a national championship with all the trimmings (uniforms, banners, news coverage and publicity), was an amazing experience.
But wait – there’s more. Not only was this a curling championship, it was also a chance for the curling community to give back: all profits from the event – including money fundraised by the teams themselves – was donated to the Canadian Paraplegic Association in Prince Edward Island. And that’s fitting, because we all know that curlers love their sport, but they also give back.
So, club curlers, check with your provincial or territorial association to find out how you too can step onto the national stage next November 21-26 in Richmond, B.C., the site of the 2011 competition. You can find more information about the Dominion Curling Club Championship, its sponsorship of numerous curling events, and its charitable work on behalf of the Canadian Paraplegic Association on its website, The Dominion Curls. There, you can see a photo of this year’s champions: Team Saskatchewan, skipped by Darren Camm of the Sutherland Curling Club, and Team Alberta, skipped by Nanette Dupont of the Lethbridge Curling Club.
Next year – it could be you!