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Curling for life with The Tam Heather Venerables

Dedicated curlers know that curling is a sport for life. Thanks to innovations in equipment (think Little Rocks and delivery sticks, for example) participants of practically any age or level of physical ability can take to the ice – and stay there.

Les joueurs sur la piste dans un match ordinaire des Venerables au Club de curling et de tennis Tam Heather à Scarborough, Ont. (Photo par Andrew Lamb)

Action on the ice during regular play by The Venerables at the Tam Heather Curling and Tennis Club in Scarborough, Ont. (Photo courtesy Andrew Lamb)

But no one embraces that “curl for life” theme more than a long-standing club in Toronto known as The Tam Heather Venerables. That’s “venerable”, as in someone who is respected and revered for both age and accomplishment.

The Venerables was the name chosen in 1978 by the original group of about 30 retired teachers who started renting ice time at the Tam Heather Curling and Tennis Club in Scarborough, Ont. This senior men’s curling club, the largest of its kind in Canada, currently comprises around 250 curlers aged 55 or older.

Andrew Lamb is one of those curlers, and he describes an approach to club curling that is both flexible and accommodating.

“The membership is divided into four divisions of approximately 65 players each who play in a variety of different time slots during the week,” Lamb explains. “Members can choose their division based on the other events and activities in their lives.”

Most participants come from Scarborough, Pickering or North York, but others travel from further afield. For regular games, teams are formed on the spot by captains, but there’s also a competitive league on Fridays and even an interclub league for those who want more competition. In-house bonspiels offer another opportunity for curlers of all skill levels.

The club also provides free clinics for new curlers, and as Lamb points out, knee or back problems aren’t a barrier for older curlers, thanks to the delivery stick.

“I took up curling at age 60, having been fascinated by the strategy I saw in the games on TV,” he says. “Reality set in when I found my first three years were spent trying to develop some feel and accuracy while trying to slide out of the hack.”

Ten years later, he’s still at it.

“Curling provides a great form of exercise that I can enjoy in the company of a great group of seniors in a range of ages with different histories and fascinating memories,” he says. “It also perfectly complements the golf season.”

Like any curling club, The Tam Heather Venerables take advantage of opportunities to socialize after games and beyond. These activities include euchre sessions open to members and their wives or partners, a Christmas party and an annual golf day.

“These social events, like curling, provide a wonderful way to meet new people and make new friends,” says Lamb.

At the end of the 2012-2013 season, The Tam Heather Venerables took time to honour 10 of its most senior members, all of them over 90, a number of them still curling several times a week and playing in club bonspiels.

“There are few other sports that you can start in your youth and continue into your eighties and beyond,” says Lamb. “I wish I had started many years earlier.”

Les nonagénaires des Tam Heather Venerables ont été mis à l’honneur à la fin de la saison 2013-2014 (de gauche à droite): Monte Miller (92), Bob McCowan, (96), Bill Wood (90), Ross Ellis (90), Gord Ramsay (90), Morley Lumby (94), Alex Smith (90), et un membre absent, récemment blessé dans une chute, mais présent dans les cœurs de tous : Bill Reid (photo en médaillon, 95 ans), (photo soumise par A. Lamb)

The Tam Heather Venerables’ “over nineties” were honoured at the end of the 2012-2013 season (from left to right): Monte Miller (92), Bob McCowan, (96), Bill Wood (90), Ross Ellis (90), Gord Ramsay (90), Morley Lumby (94), Alex Smith (90), and while he was there in spirit, Bill Reid (photo insert, age 95), who was unable to attend due to a recent fall (Photo courtesy A. Lamb)

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The Tam Heather Venerables’ “over nineties” were honoured at the end of the 2012-2013 season (from left to right): Monte Miller (92), Bob McCowan, (96), Bill Wood (90), Ross Ellis (90), Gord Ramsay (90), Morley Lumby (94), Alex Smith (90), and while he was there in spirit, Bill Reid (photo insert, age 95), who was unable to attend due to a recent fall (Photo courtesy A. Lamb)

“Many Venerables find helmets a matter of prudence.”

Action on the ice during regular play by The Venerables at the Tam Heather Curling and Tennis Club in Scarborough, Ont.