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The History of Curling

Library and Archives Canada holds one of the richest collections of documents on curling in Canada, acquired from various regional, national, and international curling bodies. In Bonspiel!, selections from these records are united under the theme of playing and enjoying the unofficial national sport of curling.

See the collection here                        Go to CCA Hall of Fame & Museum Web Site


CANADA CURLS – AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF CURLING IN CANADA

This condensed history is reprinted from the book Canada Curls – An Illustrated History of Curling in Canada courtesy of Whitecap Books and author Doug Maxwell.

From whence came iron curling stones?
In their book, Sports and Games in Canadian Life, 1700 to the Present, Maxwell L. Howell and Nancy Howell offer a slightly more prosaic, but also more likely, answer. They suggest that the circular, metal-rimmed hubcaps of gun carriages, with handles inserted, became the first irons that introduced curling to North America. It seems a better explanation than any other.

Whatever the facts, and however they were fashioned, it is indisputable that iron curling “stones,” shaped like tea kettles and weighing about 60 to 80 pounds [27 to 36 kg] each, for men, 40 to 48 pounds [18 to 21 kg] for women, were the first stones to be used in the latter half of the eighteenth century.

Only in Canada, you say? Yes, ’twas only in Canada that irons appeared. There are no records, in Scotland or anywhere else, indicating iron stones. When twenty merchants in Montreal elected to form the Montreal Curling Club in 1807, they used irons exclusively. (That’s not all that was exclusive, incidentally; the members were handpicked – no others need apply.) The Montreal Curling Club and 1807 are both significant: that curling club became the first organized sporting club in North America. Irons were used in Montreal and throughout the Ottawa Valley until the mid-1900s. Today they can be found in various parts of the country in trophy cases, as hog-line sentinels, as historical curios, or even doorstops at the local club.

Even today, when irons are only a memory, exhibition games are played at Montreal’s Stewart Museum on Ile Sainte-Hélène by members of the Olde 78th Fraser Highlanders.

The Howells also provided a Canadian answer to “Why curling?” that echoes W. H. Murray of Scotland, whose book The Curling Companion is of great interest to the curling historian. The Howells write that “the years before Confederation were years of hardship, travail, hunger, disappointments, disasters, wars and terror on the one hand, and ingenuity, settlement and comradeship on the other. Against this patchwork background, we can picture the life of the times. Work, more work, and still more work gave birth to the desire to find means of relieving the drudgery and monotony of life. As a result, the central core of life seems to have been an atmosphere of gay sociability combined with a quest for new and daring experiences”. In addition to those Scottish newcomers who had some curling in their background, there were others who wanted to help alleviate the long winters with some kind of sporting activity, and wondered if curling might be the way to do so.

Over the many years there were high points in the growth of curling in Canada, and plateaus that marked spurts of the sport. Changes included the move from outdoor ice to covered rinks; the growth of friendly matches between adjacent towns; the advent of artificial ice; the building of roads and railway and the growth of communication; eventually regional and provincial competition and then national championships; world championships; and the Olympics.

Curling had become an essential element of grassroots Canada. Through its long history, it became a sport attractive to all levels of society, all ages of participants – a lifetime persuasion.

 

Westward Ho
When the last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway was driven in 1885, the CPR set out to convert much of the land it had been given into farm land. Its immigration efforts, particularly in Great Britain, Europe, and the Ukraine helped open up the West. And as settlers moved from eastern Canada and the United States to join those from overseas, curling tagged along and quickly became a staple of the new villages and towns.

Winnipeg became the hub of the game. Indeed, to many Canadians (and all Winnipeggers), it is still regarded as the epic centre of curling, worldwide.

In 1876, the year after Sir John A. Macdonald became Canada’s first Prime Minister, Manitoba’s first curling club was formed, in Winnipeg. December 11th saw the first match held there and, as was the custom, the losers were required to donate a barrel of oatmeal to the hospital.

In 1879, a game between the City Fathers and the “Ordinary People” was won by the latter, and the aldermen on the losing side were required to pay a forfeit of an oyster dinner. Why an oyster dinner? No one seems to know. The assumption is that oysters, in Manitoba, were difficult to obtain, expensive, and therefore highly prized. What better way to gently rub salt in a wound than to savour a victory while slurping down oysters at a post game banquet?

That same year, 1879, saw the first curling in Saskatchewan, in Prince Albert, Rosthern, and Battleford. It would be another ten years before curling arrived in Regina.

In Alberta, the first curling club was formed in Lethbridge in 1887. Although there had been curling in Calgary since 1885, it wasn’t until 1888 that the Calgary Curling Club was formally brought into being, and became affiliated with the Manitoba Branch of the RCCC. Edmonton began its curling in the same year – 1888. In 1889, curling came to Macleod, Banff, and Anthracite. The arrival of the railroad not only helped open up the foothills, but it also made travel between curling centres that much easier. Curling was booming.

It was Scots miners who brought the game to the interior of British Columbia toward the end of the nineteenth century. The first club was formed in Kaslo in 1895, and within three years, the Kootenay Curling Association played host to a bonspiel that drew eighteen teams from Rossland, Sandon, Revelstoke, and Kaslo.

Curling in Canada has always been aligned, historically, with the military, and their early offshoot, the police force. It was the military that brought curling to Canada (thank you, 78th Fraser Highlanders), and early accounts of the game are replete with references to Colonel Smith or Major Jones or the Commissioner of Police. When early regiments were disbanded in Canada, and their members given tracts of land, the regimental officers became the elite of the new community, and often formed the first curling clubs.

The association of curling with the military has continued to the present day. Most Canadian Forces Bases (CFBs), both at home and abroad, featured a curling club, particularly in the years following World War II. Those clubs catered to members of the Canadian Forces and also welcomed local residents to the sport. Curling in the Forces did several things, all of them good. The game was considered good for morale and fitness. In a service that required members to dine and socialize in certain strata (officers’ mess, non-commissioned dining area), curling became a democratic “melting pot” – the colonel could play with, or against, the corporal; the pilot with the tank driver.

In 1910, there was a major societal change that helped foster curling everywhere. Starting in the US, and then moving into Canada, the five-day work week was introduced, slowly at first, and then with growing prevalence. “The weekend,” with all its implications for extended leisure pursuits, had arrived.

Of even greater importance to the growth of curling was the opening up of the western provinces with paved highways. In the first days of the game on the Prairies, small, one- and two-sheet clubs were built close to the players’ homes. But as highways replaced dirt roads and cars became more common, it became ever easier for curlers to drive to a newer club with more sheets of ice where greater numbers could gather.

There was nothing fancy about most clubs. What was important was the sense of belonging, of becoming involved in a game that attracted most members of the community. In his book Saskatchewan Curling-Heartland Tradition, Bill Argan tells of his own start in the game. The Regina club, he writes, was “halfway between home and band practice.” We curled, he continued “on natural ice with colorless rings and unmatched rocks in a very cold rink”.

As in eastern Canada, the curling club was more than just an athletic club. It became the social centre of the community, perhaps best exemplified by a short 1963 National Film Board movie, Gone Curling, which depicted a lone visitor to town, trying to find a variety of people, only to discover they had all “gone curling”.

 

Irons & Granites, Wooden Rocks, Jam Cans, and Thunder Mugs
You would think that in a country as large, as geographically diverse, as steeped in curling as Canada is, it would be a simple thing to produce superb curling stones for enthusiastic players. Right? Wrong.

Canada has tried time and again to produce curling stones to match those from Scotland. None have worked. Only in Scotland, you say? Well, not quite.

In recent years, curling stones have been manufactured in Scotland, but the granite has been quarried in the Trefor Mountains of Wales. Still, many have asked why Canada, with at least half of it nestled in the Precambrian shield, and with its wealth of granite, with its million-plus curlers and over 1,100 clubs, has not been able to produce stones suitable for the game.

From the Highlands of Cape Breton, through the Laurentians, the Niagara Escarpment, and the hard rock mining areas of Northern Ontario and Quebec, to the rocky outcrops along the shoreline of Lake Superior, the search has been relentless.

Farther west, Scots miners who emigrated to the interior of British Columbia in search of gold also sought suitable granite for the game they brought with them. The search has proved elusive. Nowhere in this vast land, it seems, have curlers been able to find a granite that could be coaxed into the perfect curling stone.

Not that there haven’t been attempts. But every time a new source was teased into a curling stone, the crashing of stone upon stone would chip off shards of rock, or cracks would appear that would cause the stones to break apart.

In Canadian curling, incidentally, the words “rock” and “stone” are virtually interchangeable. “Last rock” is synonymous with “last stone.” Not so in Scotland, where “stone” (or stane) is preferred to “rock.” It’s a subtle difference between the two curling bastions.

It seemed that nothing could be found to replace the granites from the island of Ailsa Craig, sometimes known as Paddy’s Milestone, set in the Irish Sea off the Ayrshire coast of Scotland. Ailsa Craig granite is the hardest, purest, most dense granite extant. It is impervious to moisture, which in coarser granite freezes, expands, and “pops out” the impurities in the lesser stone, leaving it with an imperfect running surface.

Technically, Ailsa Craig is known as a volcanic plug, meaning the solidified lava in the vent of a long-ago volcano. It looms 1,100 feet [330 m] above the level of the surrounding ocean, and a fanciful story had it that the end of the world would have arrived when the island was reduced to a level stretch of rubble with heavy waves washing over it! The supply of raw material for curling stones seemed inexhaustible. But obtaining large enough “blanks” or “cheeses” from which a stone could be manufactured became an expensive process.

When it became clear that only one percent of all the rock blasted on the island produced cheeses large enough to make into a curling stone, the soaring costs dictated that the Ailsa quarry be closed down. In 1973, the island was abandoned as the prime source of curling stones, and instead became a bird sanctuary. Ailsa granite, however, still comes into play today. The manufacturers have developed a method whereby a smaller piece of Ailsa granite can now be inserted into an older rock to provide the superior running surface of an Ailsa Craig. The “Ailsert” has arrived.

In the early game of curling, there were no specific dimensions for a curling stone, neither height nor weight nor diameter nor circumference. The early game was played with stones of varying sizes, shapes and weights-small ones that could skinny through a narrow port, huge ones that made a fantastic guard once in place, impossible to move.

Shortly after the formation of the Grand Caledonian Curling Club in Scotland in 1838, there was a move toward standardization of stones. But even when the basic measurements were agreed upon, there was considerable controversy over the sole of the stone. And for some considerable time the matter of the running surface stirred much debate. Should it be flat? Concave? Convex? Which was best? Most predictable?

While it is as true today as it was long ago that the stones for the game all come from Scotland, there is still a Canadian connection, albeit little known, involving J.S. Russell. About this time, Mr. Russell, of Toronto, was an enthusiastic pillar of the curling community in early Ontario. A native of Lanarkshire in Scotland, Russell was secretary of the Ontario Curling Association from 1892 to 1902. He was also a later member of the famed Toronto Red Jackets foursome, and was always seeking a better, more predictable, curling stone.

In the years after 1870, Russell experimented with a variety of running surfaces, and as curling moved indoors, with better and more stable ice conditions, the need for a standard stone became increasingly important. When he arrived at a design he deemed suitable, he passed along his suggestions to Andrew Kay in Scotland, the primary manufacturer of curling stones, and “Russell’s Improved” stone, with its concave bottom and narrow running surface, became the standard around the world, and remains so to this day.

There were other Canadian contributions to alternative curling stones, although none were made as anything other than a short-term substitute for the real thing. The 78th Fraser Highlanders’ idea of irons started out as a stop-gap measure that somehow turned into a long-term idea.

Other concepts never became more than temporary: hardwood blocks of maple or birch, with angle-iron handles and iron striking bands; wooden blocks with holes filled with lead; why, there was even a suggestion that chamber pots (thunder mugs) might have been pulled out from under pioneer beds, filled with mortar and used for the occasional game! The mind boggles.

The use of irons in Quebec and eastern Ontario had a huge impact on the nature of the game. Both the weight and the texture of irons were such that even a heavy takeout shot, on target, would only move an iron a short distance, whereas the same weight of takeout, with a granite stone, would remove the stone completely. Thus a “granite-grade takeout” on a rock in front of the rings would, in irons play, turn into a raise! As a result, irons play was more amenable to a draw game (get a stone in the rings, then put up a guard), while the granite game became a takeout event. The takeout game is said to have originated and come into vogue with Winnipeg’s famed Bob Dunbar rink around the end of the nineteenth century.

For younger curlers, the beauty of wooden stones was the fact that they could be fashioned to whatever weight was wanted. In more recent times, youngsters took a large marmalade or jam can, used a baseball bat to gently round out the bottom of the can, filled the can with cement, and put a U-shaped, tubular-steel handle, or an angle iron into the cement as it was setting. The resulting stones could be used in a backyard version of curling for youngsters on the days they weren’t absorbed in hockey.

According to some authorities, jam-can curling got its start in 1946, when Harold Covell, a Regina school principal, came up with the idea and initiated his pupils into the enjoyment of the game.

Towards the end of the 1900s a variety of plastic “little rocks” were developed, which permitted pre-teens to learn proper delivery as a preliminary to using full-weight granites. Such modern-technology stones helped to initiate young curlers into the game when some of them were only slightly heavier than the granites their parents used.

The other essential article in the game is the broom or brush. And what a change has occurred over the past half-century in that implement!

Somewhere around the beginning of the twentieth century, when everyday house brooms were being used, there were those who suspected that sweeping could influence both the path and the distance a rock could travel.

Early experiments were conducted, using an inclined plane down which a rock could be slid. It was soon discovered that judicious sweeping could increase the distance a rock could travel by as much as 10 to 15 feet [3 to 4.5 m], depending on the condition of the ice surface. And every experiment since has proved the same thing: expert sweeping or brushing can produce winning shots. The delivered stone does not travel in an arc, but in a straight line at first, and then, as its momentum decreases, the rotation of the rock takes effect. Knowledgeable sweepers not only can increase the distance a stone might travel, but can also delay the moment the stone begins to curl. Thus, sweeping both for “line” and “distance” became an essential part of the game.

When, in 1958, Fern Marchessault of Montreal inverted the corn straw in the centre of the broom to form “the Blackjack,” the result produced not only a deafening sound (much admired by muscular front-end sweepers; much maligned by elderly spectators), but also left considerable mounds of debris all over the ice that could affect the course of stones of both teams. “Keep it clean” became a watchword of sweepers in the heyday (hayday?) of the corn broom.

Eventually, when Calgary curling developer Ted Thonger invented “the rink rat” – a synthetic, three-fingered broom – he boasted that there would be no more corn chaff on the ice, but did allow that there might be some fluff from the cotton that covered the springy pieces of plastic in the interior of the broom!

Then in the late sixties, a pair of Calgary curlers, John Mayer and Bruce Stewart, switched from a broom to the horsehair brush much favoured by Scots curlers. And soon discovered they could get the same results as the corn broom, but without the pain and blisters. It wasn’t long before others joined the parade – notably a youthful Paul Gowsell and his title-bound team of juniors – and a variety of brush heads were available: hog’s hair, horsehair, and synthetic coverings in a bewildering set of coverings and styles, still in use today.

OK, we’ve covered stones and brooms: what else is left? Ice, naturally. And here we are getting out of the orbit of almost all curlers. While 98 percent of all curlers will pontificate about what it is that makes “good ice,” 98 percent of all curlers haven’t an ice-worm’s idea of why it is good ice.

In the early days in both Scotland and Canada, ice was where you found it, and the way you found it was the way you played it. It was outdoors, of course, just the way nature prepared it, perhaps on a sluggish stream, a stretch of still water behind a dam, on a pond or lake. It had to be sufficiently thick-six to seven inches [15 to 17 cm] to hold the assorted stones, curlers, and their provisions, when “brooms would be stacked.”

In 1837, the curlers of Ste. Anne de Bellevue built a curling shed, where water was poured onto wooden flooring and allowed to freeze. When covered over, it became the first indoor rink in Canada. Farther west, on the Prairies, hay or straw bales were used to provide shelter from the wind. The bales allowed the prairie cold to permeate the walls and aid in the freezing of the ice, but protected curlers from the ever-present wind. In the far north, there are stories of ice blocks being used in place of the hay bales to create a curling club – a club that melted in the spring, only to be reborn and rebuilt in the first frost of the fall.

As the country prospered and grew, so did curling. Some of the clubs that moved indoors stuck with natural ice, and though they may not have had to contend with wind and snow, curling conditions were often unpredictable. The weather outside affected the curling inside. But as refrigeration equipment became more easily obtainable, more economical, more and more clubs switched to the certainty – and longer season – provided by artificial ice.

With refrigeration, a whole new dimension of curling was possible. In particular, after World War II, there was a building boom that saw new clubs spring up like mushrooms after a warm rain. More attention was paid to the construction of the ice shed, and the curlers’ demand for better ice. Contractors would excavate a depth below the frost line in which coarse gravel and sand could be poured to create a level area, free from frost heaving. Iron pipes, through which a refrigerant could flow, were laid on wooden sleepers, and sand covered all. Later the sand would give way to a cement floor, and eventually, a “floating cement” floor, meaning a concrete slab, with pipes embedded in it, would “float” on a layer of insulation. Then the ice-maker could work his magic.

Pebbling the ice with a steaming spray of water created the knobby surface that permitted a stone to travel a much greater distance. In the days before pebbling cans, which were used to hold the hot water, some ice-makers used a length of perforated pipe attached to a hose, that could be dragged diagonally across the ice in one direction, and then another (at right angles to the first) to create a diamond pebble.

The quality of the water became paramount. Water that was high in alkali content would leave “greasy” patches where the impurities would not freeze at the same temperature as the water. Instead the impurities would migrate to the surface of the ice where they created problems for curlers who were unaccustomed to it. Later, engineers would develop de-ionizing processes that would create water more akin to distilled water in purity. This resulted in faster freezing times, less power used by ice-making machinery, better ice.

Some ice-makers became known for making “fast” ice, others for straight ice, and still others for creating ice “with a good swing” in it. It was all part of the growing up of the game.

In earlier times, the condition of the ice was taken as a challenge to each team. The “runs and falls” in the ice were accepted as something a canny skip would discover before his or her opponent did, and win the game playing “the ice as it is, not what you think it should be,” as one veteran skip put it. The idea of “negative” ice – in which a skip would call for a turn to the stone that would counteract the direction the stone wanted to take due to the condition of the ice – was one that has largely been lost in today’s cosseted game.

One thing about today’s ice: it may not be as haphazard in design as in yesteryear, but it does permit the making of today’s incredibly precise shots, and the game is the richer for it.

 

The Ever-Changing Rules, and Customs of the Game
In recent years, as curling has spread around the world, there has been a move to simplify and standardize its rules. Consider the delivery of the stone.

In the early days of the Canadian game, when a curler delivered the stone from the hack, there might have been a step or two after release, but there was no slide. Years would go by before some curlers found their swing momentum resulted in an involuntary slide from the hack rather than a few short steps.

Some Canadians, in delivering the stone, might (wow) slide to the back of the rings. It wasn’t long before some of the better curlers could reach the tee line. Ken Watson, originator of the “long slide,” could glide comfortably to the front of the rings. And beyond.

Soon it was the slide that captured the fancy of newcomers. The delivery might be somewhat wide, or narrow, of the broom, but, oh, how they could slide!

To produce a graceful slide, curlers took to many methods of improving their footwear. Liquid solder, seasoned leather, plastic milk carton sides – all were attempted. And to some degree, all worked. Then came Teflon, the red brick slider and as other, more improved materials surfaced, it soon became apparent that a curler could slide any distance he or she wanted. “By the way,” you ask, “What is the origin of the term ‘hog line’?” It’s a question often asked but seldom answered, other than with a “beats-me” shrug of the shoulders.

According to Scots curlers, the term is derived from Scottish agriculture. In a country where so many sheep were raised, a lamb in its first year of life was called “a hog.” (Don’t ask.) In time, the name came to represent a straggler, a weakling, the one most likely to fall prey to predators, or to be culled from the flock. Similarly, a stone that could barely make it into the playing area was called a hog, and was therefore culled from the rest.

Years later, new rules would be constructed to help improve the game. There was a move in 1989, dictated by necessity that saw time clocks introduced to curling. That was the year the ICF moved to integrate the Women’s World Championship with the Men’s, in Milwaukee. With this doubling of game activity, the worry for the organizers was that games could drag on to unmanageable lengths. The solution? Time clocks.

The original research on time clocks had started in 1983, and when The Sports Network (TSN) introduced time clocks to curling’s Skins Game in 1986, they proved a popular addition to the game, in that the clock mandated a specific length of time for each team’s game.

When the Milwaukee organizers, in 1989, became concerned about scheduling four or five draws a day, the time clock turned out to be the saving grace of the event. Time clocks have been present in top-level curling ever since.

The “Free Guard Zone” rule arrived two years later, as a modification to a 1991 big-money competition, The Moncton 100. The event was designed as a celebration of Moncton’s civic centennial, and with $250,000 in prize money, it was the world’s richest cashspiel.

To give the event added allure, one of the competing teams, Ontario’s Russ Howard foursome, suggested a rule change similar to one of his team’s practice drills: neither side would be allowed to remove the first four stones of an end from play, whether in the rings or not. They could move the rocks around, but not remove them.

The rule, dubbed The Howard Rule, proved a popular addition to the Moncton event. A year later, when renamed the Free Guard Zone rule, and with one modification, it became a feature of the Winter Olympics of 1992. The Olympic modification restricted the Free Guard Zone to an area between the hog line and the tee line outside the rings. While subsequently Canada opted for a three-rock FGZ rule, the rest of the world thought a four-rock rule was preferable.

Go back in time-way back-and you can get a perfect example of the divisiveness of a rules debate that raises nary an eyebrow now. Curlers take it for granted that there has always been an in-turn and an out-turn in the delivery of the stone. Not so.

In the Scotland of the late 1700s, curlers simply threw their stones up and down the ice. Straight handle, no turn. Then the curlers in the parish of Fenwick (pronounced Fen-ick) discovered that if you imparted a turn, or as they called it, a twist, to the handle in delivery, their stone would curl around an opposition rock and be hidden.

The uproar that ensued over this “illegal” method of play threatened to split the game apart.

“Tha’s nae curling,” some said. A few curlers of the day called for the twist to be outlawed as going against the spirit of the game. Curling, they said, wanted, and needed, straight shooters. Others reasoned that if the Fenwick curlers could make one stone curl around another and bury in behind a guard, then they could learn the same “illegal” manoeuvre for themselves, and beat the Fenwickians at their own game. And so the in-hand (in-turn) and out-hand (out¬turn) came into being.

According to some authorities, the curl in curling didn’t come to Canada until somewhere around 1840. Up until then the stone was delivered with a (mostly) straight handle.

But with all the changes that have taken place over the years, curling is still a game with the fewest of rules possible; it is still a game that depends on the players themselves to follow the rules, both written and unwritten.

 

Birth of the Brier
Although the name The Roaring Twenties had nothing to do with curling, it could have. As Canada began its long recovery from the haunting horrors of the Great War, as it moved from economic distress to staid society and then to the flapper era, curling began its expansion into becoming a national sport. The Roaring Twenties loved the roaring game.

By now Winnipeg had established itself as the centre of curling, nationally. The annual Manitoba Bonspiel became the dominant event of the sport, and one company, the W. C. Macdonald Tobacco Company of Montreal, became a major benefactor and catalyst of the game.

In 1924, George J. Cameron, an enthusiastic Winnipeg curler, dreamed aloud his idea of uniting the east and west of Canada through curling. Cameron was president of W. L. Mackenzie and Company, the western representative of the Macdonald Tobacco Company since 1880. Two of his friends, Walter Payne, known as Manitoba’s “thane of curling,” and John T. Haig, a past president of the Manitoba Curling Association, encouraged his thinking.

On his next trip to Montreal he placed his idea before the tobacco company. His proposal to cement the two islands of curling-east and west, irons and granites-was accepted by the company. While the theory was easily agreed, translating theory into practice was another matter altogether.

The Macdonald Company agreed to support the establishment of the Macdonald Brier trophy, as a key part of the 1925 Manitoba Bonspiel. In addition to receiving the honour of having their names engraved on a magnificent silver trophy (later rechristened the British Consols trophy) the winners would receive an all-expense trip to eastern Canada for a series of friendly games against eastern teams. In 1925, the winner was Howard Wood of Winnipeg, whose rink of Johnny Erzinger, Vic Wood (brother) and Lionel Wood (son) traveled east in the spring of 1925.

In 1926, the winners of the Macdonald Trophy event – the George Sherwood rink – were sent east to participate in the famed Quebec Bonspiel, where they won the Holt Renfrew Trophy. This second visit attracted greater attention, and subsequent conversations between Cameron and Thomas Rennie of Toronto (and others) led to the concept of a national event, with inaugural play to be held at the Granite Club in Toronto in 1927.

And so the Brier (a Macdonald Tobacco trademark name) as the national curling championship of Canada, was born.

Eight teams took part that first year. There was one rink from western Canada, skipped by Ossie Barkwell of Yellow Grass, Saskatchewan. There were provincial teams from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Ontario. City champions from Toronto and Montreal were on hand, plus an eighth team from Northern Ontario. Earlier it had been agreed that the fairest method of determining a winner was for each team to play each of the others – a round-robin series. The only time a playoff would be needed would be if two or more teams tied for first place.

The first winner was a foursome from Halifax, skipped by Professor Murray Macneill. When Macneill’s original Nova Scotian team was unable to travel, he recruited three other skips to join him. The move paid off as Macneill, Al MacInnes, Cliff Torey, and Jim Donahue finished the round-robin series with six wins and only one loss. It is now a part of Brier lore that the Atlantic Canada quartet of four skips who won that first Brier never played together as a team again.

In 1928, it was decided to expand the event to ten teams, with the addition of two more teams from the West, and in 1932, city teams were discontinued, bringing the number of competing teams back to eight. In 1936, with the inclusion of British Columbia and Prince Edward Island, the number of competing entries returned to ten. Newfoundland entered the fray in 1951, and in 1975 a combined entry from Yukon and the Northwest Territories brought the total number of teams to 12, its current number.

The Brier continued to be played at the Granite Club in Toronto until 1940, when action was shifted to the Amphitheatre in Winnipeg. For the first time, matched stones, with coloured tops (for easier identification), were used, and a movie of the event was made. Play continued into the early forties, but from 1943-45, World War II travel restrictions forced a halt to Brier play.

During the initial decades of its existence, the Brier was known mainly just to curlers. But in the years after World War II, the event took a quantum leap in the eyes of the public, and it soon became as important a national and public event as the Stanley Cup or Grey Cup.

Two reasons stand out for the transformation.

The first was the involvement of a pair of advertising and public relations executives, Reg Geary and Frank O’Brien of Montreal. As employees of the tobacco company’s advertising agency, they were given the task of making the Brier into a major event in the Canadian sporting parade. They did so by enlisting the help of the media, who found ideal working conditions when they arrived at each Brier site. And through the radio broadcasts, newspaper stories, and photographs, the public soon found the daily reports, akin to a soap opera, to their liking.

The second reason grew out of the first. In 1946, Geary convinced the CBC to provide full network, live radio coverage of the Brier in Saskatoon. It fell to Doug Smith of Montreal and “Breathless” Bill Good of Winnipeg (later Vancouver) to provide the commentary. As luck would have it, the competition that year ended in a three-way tie, involving Alberta (Billy Rose), Manitoba (Leo Johnson), and Northern Ontario (Tom Ramsay).
Good and Smith brought the full drama of each day’s games, and then the playoffs (Rose won), to every corner of the country. Suddenly newspapers everywhere, in an attempt to match the radio reports, kept asking for stories on “that crazy curling thing going on in Saskatoon.” Each succeeding year, the thirst for coverage escalated. Much of the credit for that is due to Frank O’Brien, the unfailingly good-natured and highly capable PR man.

When television came to the party, suddenly people at home were able to watch their heroes in action, and they loved it. The ratings increased year by year and, today, the Brier is one of the most avidly watched sporting events in Canada. At first, the coverage consisted of a daily half-hour report late at night.

In 1962, on the spur of the moment, the CBC provided live coverage of the final playoff game between Ernie Richardson and Hector Gervais.

In 1973, the CBC decided to move to scheduled live coverage of the final draw. The move backfired. The network had scheduled such coverage, convinced that the final round of games would determine the Brier champion, as had happened in most years. That year, however, Harvey Mazinke’s Regina foursome so dominated the Brier that they clinched the title the night before the final draw. The Friday games turned out to be meaningless, but even so were given the full majesty of live television coverage!

In 1977, fifty years after the first Brier, the Macdonald Tobacco Company announced that it would discontinue its support of the Brier (it always disdained the term “sponsorship”) in 1979. That year, with the playing of the final Macdonald Brier in Ottawa, there was an electric moment when every living Brier Championship skip was introduced and honoured. It was a moment of spell-binding curling history, and the photo of the event showcased the Brier in a distinct and compelling way. The Brier had become one of the jewels of the Canadian sporting scene, a jewel that has been polished in several excellent books about the event.

The first Labatt Brier took place in Calgary in 1980, and featured a major change in the event. Up to that point, the only time there had been playoffs was when two or three teams were tied for the top after the round-robin series. But television revels in playoffs and, in 1980, the Brier moved to a playoff format following the preliminary round-robin games.

Brewery sponsorships normally have a relatively short life, but the Labatt sponsorship of the Brier lasted 20 years, well past the norm. Finally, the suds support ran its course, and at the turn of the century, the Canadian arm of the giant Finnish telecommunications company, Nokia, took over followed soon after by Tim Hortons.

The Brier, it must be noted, is far more than the Canadian Men’s Curling Championship. In its early days, it was the catalyst for change in Canadian curling. The bitter rivalry between the apostles of irons curling and the disciples of the granite game was settled with the arrival of the Brier. The change from a local pastime to a provincial and national event came with the Brier. The move to showcase the Canadian Championship by hosting it in every provincial capital and in major cities across the land, came from the Brier. The popularization of the sport, based on illustrious names and powerful corporate support, came from the Brier. The fact that all subsequent curling championships, both national and international, used the Brier as their model of excellence attests to its unique nature and stature.

Where did the purple heart come from? Quite simply, it was another trademark of the Macdonald Tobacco Company – a trademark that became more famous in curling than in its commercial life. In the early Macdonald days, those smokers who carved off pieces of tobacco from a plug of the product found a small tin heart pressed into the centre of the plug, along with the slogan “the heart of the tobacco.” The same heart appeared on tins of pipe tobacco. Later, when other national championships were developed, each took the heart (same shape, different colour) as its identifying symbol.

A further measure of the impact of the first Brier came in 2000, when the original Macdonald Brier trophy, by now the property of the CCA, was refurbished, and the names of twenty years of Labatt Brier winners added to the names of the 1927-1979 champions. The elegant trophy remains one of Canada’s proudest sporting emblems.

Unlike many other sporting championships, in which the players are hived off in glossy, luxurious surroundings, far from the fans who support the event, the Brier puts curlers and fans together, usually in a gathering place known as the Brier Patch. There had always been a meeting place at the Brier, but never one as elaborate as “the Patch.” The first Brier Patch (under that name) was established by Don Pottinger’s Brandon committee, in 1982. It has been a feature of the Brier ever since.

It wasn’t until the 1950s that women’s curling moved beyond provincial borders in an organized way. At the time, there was a Western Canada Women’s Championship, sponsored by the T. Eaton Company. In the east, there were individual provincial championships (Macdonald Tobacco, for example, sponsored a Quebec women’s event) but no all-eastern championship. There was talk in women’s curling circles about how wonderful it would be if they could have a championship of their own to emulate the Brier.

At the 1959 Western Canada Championship in Brandon, two eastern curlers, Hazel Watt of Thunder Bay and Rita Proulx of Quebec City, arrived to discuss a possible national event. Watt said she had a sponsor, but could not reveal its identity. Proulx indicated that Macdonald Tobacco was willing to extend its Quebec sponsorship into Ontario as a prelude to a wider event. But the Westerners were quite happy with the Eaton sponsorship, and they felt in no hurry to discuss a national championship. Discussions about the formation of a national women’s body were put on hold.

Some months later, in February of 1960, the Canadian Ladies’ Curling Association was formed, with Hazel Watt as its first president. At the inaugural meeting, John Hull of Public Relations Services Limited (PRSL) was there to present a sponsorship plan on behalf of Dominion Stores Limited. It was one of the few times in curling history (up to then) that a sponsor, intent on targeting a specific demographic – women – approached the sport, and not vice versa. For women’s curling, it was a “first” of considerable magnitude.

The following year saw the Diamond D turn to the Brier format of ten provincial teams seeking a national crown. The teams were assembled in Ottawa, and the event proved instantly popular. The 1961 title was won (as in 1960) by the Joyce McKee team, this time with a new front end of Barbara MacNevin and Rosa McFee to accompany Sylvia Fedoruk at third. McKee would go on to win a third crown, as skip, in 1969, and three more Canadian championships as second for Vera Pezer. Between them, McKee and Pezer helped establish and solidify the stature of the Canadian Women’s Championship.

More importantly, the Macdonald Tobacco style of sponsorship had arrived. David Stewart and his coonskin coat had come to the world of women’s curling. The company would put up the necessary dollars to make the event a success, and would provide the promotional and public relations support to ensure a championship event with flair. The CLCA would look after the essentials related.

The first Lassie championship, in 1972, was won by Vera Pezer of Saskatchewan, a repeat of her victory from the previous year. When Pezer won again in 1973, it gave her and teammates Sheila Rowan, Joyce McKee, and Lenore Morrison three consecutive championships – at the time, a remarkable record, unmatched in the annals of either the Brier or Hearts/Lassie/Diamond D play.

The happy Lassie arrangement lasted till 1979 when Macdonald Tobacco, under increasingly heavy pressure from the Canadian government’s anti-tobacco thrust, reluctantly withdrew its support of both the Brier and the Lassie.

Once again, the women were on their own, and for the next two years, the CLCA operated its own championship.

It was in the last year of Macdonald sponsorship that the curling women of the world united to form their own global championship, with the first Ladies’ World Curling Championship (LWCC) title shoot taking place in Perth, Scotland. The event went through some name changes: World Ladies’ Curling Championship (WLCC) and eventually, World Women’s Curling Championship (WWCC). The Canadian team in 1979, the winner of the last Lassie, was a B.C. foursome skipped by Lindsay Sparkes, with Dawn Knowles at third, second, Robin Wilson and lead Lorraine Bowles.

In 1979, at the time Macdonald Tobacco announced its imminent departure from Canadian curling, Wilson was leaving the employ of Scott Paper to have a child. In 1980, she was invited by John Leonard of the Walker Leonard Advertising Agency to help prepare a proposal inviting Scott Paper to become sponsor of the Canadian Women’s Championship.

The proposal was accepted by Scott, and in 1981, by the CLCA. In February of 1982, the first Scott Tournament of Hearts was held in Regina, with Wilson acting as coordinator.

When the ad agency was sold in 1987, Wilson formed her own company, Robin Wilson and Associates, to handle the administration and promotion of the Tournament of Hearts. She quickly became the dominant figure in the newly minted Scott event. Her stature as a former champion herself, together with her promotional background, ensured the success of the event. Today, the Scott Tournament of Hearts is Canada’s longest-running, sponsored, national event, and Wilson has become the dean of championship curling administrators.

The winner of the first Tournament of Hearts, in 1982, was Colleen Jones of Nova Scotia, ably supported by her two sisters, Monica Jones and Barbara Jones-Gordon, and Kay Smith. Colleen Jones would go on to skip five more Canadian winners, in 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004, making her the first women’s skip to win six national women’s crowns. She had less luck internationally, winning only two world titles, in 2001 and 2004, in that 25-year span.

The combination of adroit promotion, skilled play, and full television coverage helped the Scott Tournament of Hearts to become a vital component of the Canadian curling scene. It also helped that one of the assets of the TV coverage was the outstanding analysis provided by the 1985 Scott champion and gold medalist at the 1988 Calgary Winter Games, Linda Moore. As with the Brier, until a team made its reputation at the Scott Tournament of Hearts (or either of its predecessors, the Diamond D and The Lassie), it was not considered a household name. Some of those household names that stand out include foursomes with such outstanding skips as Joyce McKee, Vera Pezer, Lindsay Sparkes, Linda Moore, Heather Houston, Connie Laliberte, Marilyn (Darte) Bodogh, Colleen Jones, and, of course, Sandra Schmirler.

 

School Curling, or Junior Curling

In 1950, championed by legendary Brier hero Ken Watson, a national School Championship for boys was instituted, with the opening event being held in Quebec City. Pepsi Cola of Canada was the sponsor. There had been regional and provincial school championships in western Canada before then, first sponsored by the Winnipeg Free Press newspaper, but it wasn’t until 1950 that school curling made it to the national stage.

School curling was said to be the only high school sport that provided its devotees with a national championship. Not all school boards were in favour, for the event removed forty to fifty teens from school for a week of play each February. Nevertheless, school curling became the next national event after the Brier, pre-dating national competition at the ladies’ level, or mixed curling, or seniors’. Many of the early organizers, nationally, were school teachers or board of education administrators who felt that the week away from classes in a different part of the country was a valuable education in itself.

Nor should school curling be overlooked as a major catalyst in the expansion of the game from coast to coast to coast. The sport leaped ahead as teams were organized in high schools large and small, in cities and towns across the country. The costs involved were minimal. Equipment was inexpensive, local clubs were usually willing to provide ice at a low cost, or no cost. A large contingent of players was not necessary. Nor were size and strength important factors. Four friends could join forces and shoot for the brass ring.

Supervision was relatively easy, and curling’s dedication to proper etiquette and behaviour helped the sport to grow, both athletically and administratively. “The curling heroes of tomorrow,” it was said, “were created in the classrooms of today.” Those heroes came together annually, in a carbon copy of the Brier.

Saskatchewan’s Bill Clarke, with Gary Carlson, Ian Innes, and Harold Grassie, won that first School Championship of 1950.

Some twenty or so years later, in what many considered a dubious decision, the annual School Championship was changed to a Junior Championship. Why dubious?

Two reasons. A positive reason involved the international move at the time to establish a World Junior Championship, in which the age limit would be 21 years. Other than in Scotland, school curling did not exist anywhere outside of Canada, so a world school competition wasn’t worth considering. There was, however, junior curling in enough countries to warrant a world junior event, so junior curling it was. While some felt that a team of Canadian school champions, maximum age 18 or 19, might be at a disadvantage when playing another country’s 21-year-olds, there were others who felt that Canada’s strength in numbers more than made up for the age difference. In any event, when Canada joined the junior crowd, it was easy to move to a 21-year age limit.

The down-side of the decision saw the event move out of the schools and into the curling clubs, where, said observers, the competition would limit the event to sons of club members. School competition had no such restriction. Indeed, many of the country’s top curlers came into the game from school curling, where club membership was not essential. Years later, many agreed that the loss of curling in the schools had been unfortunate, to say the least. Others, not so sanguine, called it a disaster.

The final piece to be inserted into the mosaic that forms the Canadian Championship scene was the junior women’s event. Here too, there is a smidgen of controversy about its formative years. Did it begin in 1971? Or in 1972? The 1971 championship was held in Vancouver and while Canadian Curling Association records show it as an official event (Calgary’s Shelby McKenzie, Marlene Pargeter, Arleen Hrdlicka, and Debbie Goliss were the winners), other accounts report it as an unofficial championship, since only four western provinces competed. In 1972, when the event was held in Winnipeg, the number of competing provincial teams had doubled to eight, with only Saskatchewan and New Brunswick missing. That year was a hometown delight as Manitoba’s Pidzarko twins (Chris and Cathy, with Beth Brunsden and Barbara Rudolph) won the title, undefeated.

By 1973, all ten provinces were represented, with later entries (as in the other national events) added from the territories. Today a total of 14 provincial / territorial champions meet annually. The very nature of junior curling, with its age limit, means that few winners are able to repeat their first triumph. Even so, five teams have been able to win a pair of titles over the past thirty and more years. The Pidzarkos repeated as national champions in 1974, as did Alberta’s Cathy King in 1977 and ’78. In 1975, Colleen Rudd played third on the winning Saskatchewan team and then skipped her province to another title in 1976. Another pair of twins, Jodie and Julie Sutton of B.C., were winners in 1986, and in 1987, when Jodie was traveling abroad, Julie took over as skip and won again. In 2001 and 2002, Suzanne Gaudet of P.E.I. became a repeat winner followed by Sk’s Marliese Miller (Kasner) in 2000 and 2003. Finally, Manitoba’s Kaitlyn Lawes and Jenna Loder won titles in 2008 and 2009.

Canada’s title teams in domestic play have also been successful internationally. In the period between 1988 (when the world junior women’s championships began) and 2012, Canada won 8 of 25 of the global titles but only once since 2002 and one title behind Scotland who lead with won nine crowns, Sweden won three times, Switzerland twice and the USA, Norway and Russia once each.

 

The Canadian Mixed Championship
In the heady days following World War II, and with the possibilities of being able to add artificial ice, club curling expanded exponentially. Nowhere was this more evident than in Toronto, where the “original” four clubs of the city soon exploded into 24, 25, and 26 separate operations. Nor did that include clubs that were just outside the city boundaries.

One aspect of this expansion was the addition of mixed curling – two men and two women to a team – and the growth of a city-wide mixed championship.

The O’Keefe Brewing Company was the initial sponsor of the Toronto Mixed Bonspiel in the mid-fifties. And within a year or two of its start-up success, the brewery dreamed of expanding the event to a national championship. Still, there was hesitation among the promoters of the idea. In the society of the mid-twentieth century, their concerns now seem dated, but forty and more years ago, the sponsor was faced with a nagging worry. Brewery executives were concerned about how they would be perceived if teams, composed of other than married couples, were to participate in an event where all would be housed in a hotel away from home, for over a week’s time. When it was pointed out that any couple desirous of a quiet (and illicit) weekend would hardly go to the trouble of winning a provincial title and then spending a week at a national championship for their tryst, the sponsor’s worries were laid to rest.

The first O’Keefe Canadian Mixed championship was held in Toronto in 1964. Under the guidance of incoming CCA president Frank Sargent of Thunder Bay, the event proved successful and quickly became a staple of the Canadian championship curling scene. Ernie Boushy of Manitoba (with Ina Light, Garry DeBlonde, and Bea McKenzie) won the opening crown, and with Betty Hird replacing McKenzie two years later, Boushy won again in 1966.

In the same fashion as the Brier and the Tournament of Hearts, the Mixed attracted many of the country’s best curlers. To name just a few, there were Larry McGrath, Rick Folk, Barry Fry, Rick Lang, Steve Ogden, Jeff Stoughton, Randy Woytowich, Mark Nicholls and Mark Dacey among the male players; Colleen Jones, Marnie McNiven, Dorenda Schoenhals, Pat Sanders, Karen Fallis, Dawn Ventura, Kathy Fahlman, Heather Smith-Dacey and Susan O’Connor among the women.

 

Seniors Curling
In 1965, Leo Johnson of Manitoba, the 1934 Brier champion, became the first winner of the Seagram Stone, the newly-minted Canadian Senior Men’s title. Along with Marno Fredericksen, Fred Smith and Cliff Wise, Johnson’s victory helped solidify the concept of Seniors curling.

It wasn’t until 1973 that a Senior Women’s championship was added to the roster of Canadian events, and that year it was a British Columbia team, led by Ada Calles, with Ina Hansen, May Shaw, and Barbara Weir, who helped inaugurate the Senior Women’s competition.

In 2000, Glasgow, Scotland, added a Seniors exhibition series to its hosting of the World Championships, and in 2002, the World Seniors Championships became an official part of the Worlds in Bismarck, North Dakota. Canada’s Senior Women’s Champions, skipped by Anne Dunn, won the inaugural event: the USA men (Larry Johnston) took the men’s title.

All of these outstanding competitions were valid offspring of the Brier. All adopted the same format. All provided yearly-and worthy-champions. All are a part of Canada’s curling history.

 

The World Championships
Sometime in the late 1950s, John Hull, and his firm, Public Relations Services Limited, came up with the concept of a Canada versus Scotland championship. The idea went from PRSL to the McKim Advertising Agency, and from there to one of McKim’s clients, the Scotch Whisky Association. They liked the idea, and agreed to sponsor it. It wasn’t hard to find a suitable name: the Scotch Cup. However, when presented to officials of the Dominion Curling Association, they reacted with something approaching ennui. They feared it would detract from the Brier.

The first Scotch Cup series was slated for 1959, and shortly after the Brier had been completed in Quebec City, the new Canadian champions, a little known family foursome from Regina, flew to Scotland for a five-game touring series against the Scots champions. It turned out to be a serendipitous occasion. The likeable and youthful Canadians – Ernie, Arnold, Garnet (Sam), and Wes Richardson – were drawn against a much older foursome skipped by Willie Young.

From a two-country event, Canada and Scotland, in 1959, the Scotch Cup grew to an eight-country competition by adding the USA in 1961, Sweden in 1962, Norway and Switzerland in 1964, France in 1966, and Germany in 1967.

Although nominally an invitational event, to most curlers the Scotch Cup was accorded the same status as a fully-sanctioned world championship. In its nine years of existence, Canada won seven of the titles (four by the Richardsons) while the USA won in 1965 with their Hall of Famer, Bud Somerville, and Scotland took the other crown when Chuck Hay won the final Scotch Cup in 1967.

About the time that Somerville was winning the Cup, and giving it an air of legitimacy world-wide, some of the lesser members of the Scotch Whisky Association felt their sponsorship of the Scotch Cup had served its purpose. They were able to convince the majority of their fellow members that the Scotch Cup should be mothballed following the 1967 championship.

The early years of the Silver Broom were heady times. The level of competition was spotty at first, but the carrot of an all-expense paid trip to participate in a bona-fide world event was enough to attract the best curlers in the world.

When the first Silver Broom was held in 1968, three teams dominated: Bud Somerville of the USA, Chuck Hay of Scotland, and Calgary’s Ron Northcott. In the round-robin series, Scotland went undefeated (7-0), while Canada (6-1) and the USA (5-2) placed second and third.

After ousting Somerville in the semifinal, Northcott moved on to hand Hay his first loss of the week and claimed his second world title (the first had come in 1966).

The classy Calgary curler would win again the following year, giving him three world crowns in four years of play. In each case, he had the same front end of Fred Storey and Bernie Sparkes, but enlisted a different third player each year. In 1966, it was George Fink; in 1968, Jimmy Shields. Dave Gerlach was the third in 1969.

The Silver Broom remained an eight-country competition until 1973, when Italy and Denmark were added, to increase the roster of competing teams to ten, each of the participating countries. It was also enough to prompt a number of the countries to seek help in improving their competitive abilities.

So as the years progressed, the teams and the calibre of competition-improved. So did the event itself. Spectator interest mushroomed. Host committees worked hard to make the event as attractive a visit for supporters as possible. The formation, in 1970, of a rollicking group known as the ACSBPHAICBJS – Air Canada Silver Broom Pond Hoppers And International Curling Buff Jet Set – created a camaraderie that was totally consistent with the sociability of curling, and helped create an atmosphere around the World Championship that was beguiling. And unique.

For the first five years of its existence, the Silver Broom was an enjoyable, but intimate, occasion. All that changed with the 1973 Broom in Regina. An enthusiastic committee, headed by Laurie Artiss, turned the event that year into “a happening,” and suddenly the Silver Broom moved to a new plateau. Artiss, who would later become a Canadian representative to the ICF, was the driving force in changing the Worlds from a pleasant, albeit sleepy, event into a bustling, high-energy occasion. He also helped put Regina on the international curling map when he later chaired a successful Brier, in 1976, and a second Silver Broom, in 1983.

But just as the Scotch Cup had been torpedoed from within, so too did the Air Canada Silver Broom suffer internal problems. Changes in the airline’s executive suite were followed by changes in philosophy and administration. By now the ICF had become an independent body, separate from the RCCC, but largely dependent on the direction and financial support of the sponsor, Air Canada. Most of the internal changes to the event, requested by the sponsor, were accepted. But in 1984, a major, and unilateral, change was suddenly introduced, without prior notice to the participating countries.

When it appeared that the Silver Broom was headed for the same six-foot depth as the Scotch Cup, six (people) of those involved in the Silver Broom over the years formed a group called Hexagon Curling International.

For the next three years, Hexagon attempted to find an international firm interested in sponsoring the world event. But every time a sponsor appeared set, to sign a contract, mysterious mutterings were heard and somehow or other the nascent sponsorship evaporated. After three years of searching, while sponsoring world events in Toronto, Vancouver, and Lausanne on their own, Hexagon threw in the towel.

 

Curling and the Olympics
Ever since its formation, the International Curling Federation had talked of having curling recognized as an Olympic sport. There was a naive assumption that once the International Olympic Committee realized curling’s traditions and appeals, which mirrored, and seemed eminently compatible with, Olympic ideals, then the sport would gain an easy and welcome entry into the five-rings family.

The first real move to curry Olympic favour began with Clif Thompson, the Canadian president of the ICF from 1982-85, when he met with IOC president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, in December 1984 in Lausanne, Switzerland. While Samaranch appeared receptive to the ICF, he was also noncommittal. Thompson’s successor, Philip Dawson of Scotland, continued the lobbying, and there “were high hopes that with a successful demonstration of curling at the Calgary Games of 1988, entry to the Olympics as a full-fledged medal sport would be as easy as a hogged rock. After all, the ICF had a stunning record of over twenty-five years of world championship play to buttress its bid.

It fell to Calgary’s Ray Kingsmith, a past president of the CCA and a long-time media personality, to become the prime organizer of the curling events at the ’88 Games. Although Kingsmith and his cohorts organized the curling to showcase the sport to the Olympic officials in attendance, and although tickets for the event sold out early, and although the knowledgeable fans in the Max Bell Arena were enthusiastic, the IOC didn’t take the bait. It began to dawn on the world of curling that entry into the Olympics was perhaps more a political matter than a sporting one.

According to IOC regulations, curling would need a minimum of 25 participating countries, from three of the five world continents, before it could be welcomed into the Olympic Family. It didn’t matter that the regulations had been overlooked before (and would be again) for other “ice and snow” events to gain admission. So curling went back to square one and set out, once again, to gain favourable notice from the rest of the Olympic world. The ICF (rechristened as the World Curling Federation to avoid confusion with the International Canoeing Federation) set about to meet the IOC requirements.

The “favourable notice” the WCF had coveted for so many years finally came, in Barcelona, in July 1992. The IOC announced that curling would be a definite addition to the 2002 Winter Games, and a negotiable addition to the 1998 Winter Olympics, depending on which city won the bid for ’98.

It should be noted that, in a related move, the IOC had switched the years of the Winter Games so they would occur midway through the four-year Olympiade, with Lillehammer, Norway, originally slated for 1996, advanced to 1994.

Although the Norwegians had originally indicated a desire to include curling as a demonstration sport, it was turned down when the IOC ruled against any further demonstration events after 1992.

When Nagano, Japan, was chosen as the site for the 1998 Winter Games, curlers were happy, for Nagano had earlier said it would include curling in its schedule. The curling portion of the ’98 Games was held in Karuizawa, and with “proper” medals on the line, there was enhanced excitement over curling. Curling fans were entranced by the prospect of their heroes winning Olympic medals; the World Curling Federation was entranced by the prospect of funding beyond their wildest dreams. Both dreams became reality. Canada’s Sandra Schmirler foursome won gold; the Mike Harris team won silver. And the WCF gained US $3.8 million dollars – about $6 million Canadian – from its share of the television rights fees.

Since curling’s entry into the Olympics, there have been a variety of formats used to determine the winners of gold, silver, and bronze. In Chamonix, 1924, there was no women’s curling, and only three countries showed up for a series of 18-end games. In Lake Placid, in 1932, Canada’s four teams played the USA’s four teams. There were no playoffs, and no women’s teams were present. In Calgary 1988, women’s teams competed for the first time. The format this time was a round-robin preliminary series, followed by a three-country playoff.

In France in 1992, when curling was again a demonstration sport, arena difficulties in Pralognan la Vanoise, near the main Olympic city of Albertville, forced organizers to put the eight teams into two four-country groups. A preliminary round-robin in each group decided which two teams would then go to a “cross-over” playoff in which the leader in Group A played the second-place team in Group B, and vice versa. The 1992 decision that brought curling into full membership in the Olympics also agreed that the best form of competition for 1998 in Japan would be an eight-team preliminary round-robin followed by a four-team playoff.

In 2002, the number of teams was increased to ten in both the men’s and women’s events. Four-team playoffs followed the round-robin, but because the arena in Ogden was configured for only four sheets of ice (for TV purposes), only eight teams could play at anyone time (the other two teams would draw a bye). As a result, it took almost two weeks of play before the medals were handed out.

No matter what format was used, there was the constant of gold, silver, and bronze waiting at the end.

 

Canada’s Olympic Past
If Canada mined Olympic silver and bronze in February 2010, while seeking gold, then it would be fair to say that the mining of those metals began about 250 years earlier. Those “miners” of the eighteenth century may not have been the lineal forebears of Cheryl Bernard and Kevin Martin and their teams, but they most certainly were their spiritual forebears. Not only could Canada’s Olympic curlers sing their praises, but thousands of Canadians could also join the gratitude chorus, for those first Scots who came to Canada loved the game and their new country so much that it would become the greatest curling nation in the world.

That’s “greatest,” as in “the most curlers,” “the best curlers,” “the widest range of curlers,” “the most innovative curlers.” Use whatever objective yardstick you wish, Canada is by far the largest curling country in the world-more curlers than the other WCF member countries combined.

Canada is also the most successful curling country in the world, having won more world championships and trophies than any other country. That the second should flow from the first is no mystery; in a country that boasts over a million curlers, it is only natural that the best of the bunch should be world-class.

But while the World Curling Championships have consistently proved that Canada is “best in class,” it is a different story at the Olympics. Canadian curlers, both men and women, have been quite inconsistent at the Winter Games, whether competing in a medal event or a demonstration event.

Canada’s first Olympic curlers journeyed to the Lake Placid Games in 1932, when the world was still recovering from the great Wall Street crash of 1929. Many countries could not afford to send full teams of winter athletes, the main criteria for the inclusion of curling teams in Lake Placid was the willingness of players to pay their own way. Canada and the USA each had four curling teams. Canada was represented by foursomes from Manitoba, Ontario, Northern Ontario, and Quebec, while the USA sent teams from Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, and Michigan. Each Canadian team played each American team. Canada won 12 of the 16 games; the USA won four. The Manitoba team, the only one with a perfect 4-0 record, was recognized as the gold medal team. It was skipped by William Burns, and included lead Errick Willis (a later Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba), Robert Pow at second, and James Bowman at third. The games were played on outdoor ice and, in later years, Willis would recall that on a couple of occasions, they had to wait to practise until the darling of the day, figure skater Sonja Henie, had finished using the ice!

The next time curling surfaced as an Olympic (demonstration) sport was in 1988, in Calgary. Eight countries sent their best teams, the event was superbly organized, and tickets sold out early. The only problem was that the bulk of those early tickets had been snapped up by multinational corporations bent on using them as entertainment freebies for special customers. If they went unused, the companies didn’t much care, and so while there were curling fans outside the Max Bell Arena clamouring to get in, the box office had to tell them that there were no tickets available! That situation lasted for only a couple of days. High-level meetings were held, and it was agreed to sell rush tickets for any seats unoccupied after two ends of play.

The 1988 event was a seven-game, round-robin series followed by a three-team playoff. When the women’s event was over, Canada’s Linda Moore team, with Lindsay Sparkes, Debbie Jones-Walker, Penny Ryan, and Patti Vande, wore the women’s gold medals. Moore had finished the round-robin series in second place, and went on to defeat third-place Norway (Dordi Nordby) in the semi-final.

Then in the final Canada downed first place Sweden, led by Elisabeth Hogstrom. The gold in curling was one of just three gold medals overall for Canada, all in demonstration events (curling, freestyle skiing, and short track speed skating). In the official medal events, Canada came up empty-handed. When Calgary produced a profit from its Winter Games, much of the money was ploughed back into the Calgary Olympic Development Association (CODA) and has been used since to help develop Canada’s Olympic potential.

The men did not fare as well. There was no question that Canada’s best team was in place for 1988. Canada’s 1986 Brier and World championship team of Ed Lukowich, John Ferguson, Neil Houston, Brent Syme, and Wayne Hart finished the round-robin tied for the top (five wins, two losses) with Switzerland. But the Swiss team, led by Hansjurg Lips, was ranked number one, having beaten Canada in their preliminary game, and the Swiss thus gained a bye to the final.

In the semifinal, the Canadians lost to Eigil Ramsfjell of Norway, who had survived a two-game tie-breaking series with Sweden (Dan Ola Ericksson) and the USA (Bud Somerville). Norway went on to defeat Switzerland for the gold medal. The bronze medal was scant consolation for Lukowich and Canada. A month later, Ramsfjell completed an international sweep by defeating Canada’s Pat Ryan in the World Championship final in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Canada was looking for redemption in the Albertville Games of 1992, in the idyllic mountain setting of Pralognan la Vanoise. But that was all that was idyllic for the curlers. Two of the four sheets of ice were virtually unplayable, while the other two left much to be desired. In addition, there were organizational and administrative problems. The result was a nightmare for Canada. The newly minted Free Guard Zone, established in 1991, was used in international curling for the first time, and although a few of the Europeans had some experience with it, it was all new to the Canadians. Instead of playing a full, eight-team round-robin series, the countries were divided into two groups, with playoffs taking place between the top teams of each group. Canada was represented by its two 1991 national champions, Kevin Martin and Julie Sutton.

Although both Canadian teams made the playoffs, Martin lost his semifinal game, and the ensuing bronze medal game, and finished fourth, out of the medals, while Sutton dropped her semifinal game, but won bronze. The men’s gold medal went to Urs Dick of Switzerland; the women’s gold was won by Andrea Schoepp of Germany. There was general unhappiness, in 1992, over the curling. If one of the main benefits of an Olympic experience is the chance to play all the other teams present, then everybody got short-changed. It was agreed that things would have to change for the next Winter Games.

Those next games took place in 1998, in Nagano, Japan. The competition, for both men’s and women’s, still involved eight countries, who played a full round-robin series, followed this time by a four-team playoff. In Karuizawa, where the curling took place, Canada was represented by a relatively unknown team of men, skipped by Mike Harris of Toronto, while the women were led by three-time Canadian and World winner, Sandra Schmirler of Regina. And for the first time, with curling recognized as a full Olympic medal sport, they were playing for “real” gold.

Canadians from coast to coast to coast were thrilled as they watched the action. And watch they did. Even though the time difference between Japan and Canada meant they had to watch the games in the middle of the night, Canadian fans did so, some organizing midnight bonspiels to help them stay awake to watch their heroes.

Even the weather helped out! The fog that settled over the Nagano ski hills meant that most of the ski events had to be postponed, then rescheduled. But curling, always available for the cameras, received blanket television coverage. But if the weather helped the curling, the flu bug did not.

Influenza roared through the Olympic village, forcing some seriously affected competitors to be air-lifted to hospital. Sandra Schmirler’s team, Jan Betker, Joan McCusker, Marcia Gudereit, and alternate Atina Ford, suffered early in the week. When Betker was forced to withdraw, Ford moved in smoothly and efficiently. And when it came time for the playoffs, the Schmirler foursome, now fully recovered, were in top form. They edged Britain’s Kirsty Hay in the semis and then downed Denmark’s Helena Blach Lavrsen in the final for the gold medal. One gold medal was in safekeeping; the script now called for a last-day drive for a second gold.

Cue Mike Harris, who had finished the preliminary series in first place with his team of Richard Hart, Collin Mitchell, George Karrys, and alternate Paul Savage.

But the illness that the men had evaded throughout the week had other plans for the playoffs. In his semifinal, Skip Mike Harris ran a temperature of 101°F, but still curled magnificently, as Canada downed the USA’s Tim Somerville. That put Canada into the final against Switzerland’s Patrick Hurlimann, who had beaten Norway’s hero of a decade earlier, Eigil Ramsfjell, in the other semifinal.

On that final day Canada was faced with a no-win situation. Harris’s temperature by now had soared to 103°F, and there was deep concern in the Canadian camp. Should they shunt Harris aside and move Paul Savage into the driver’s seat? Savage, an experienced skip with impeccable credentials, had thrown only two stones in preliminary play, enough to qualify for a medal.

After working so hard and so long to reach this point, Harris desperately wanted to play. It wasn’t a hard decision for the team; Harris had earned his chance to shoot for the top. Privately, team officials were hoping he’d be able to come close to his 92 percent semifinal shooting mark.

In the best fictional tradition of the old Frank Merriwell sports sagas, or in the world of Hollywood, Harris would have emerged triumphant in the final end, and then collapsed into his fans’ waiting arms. But Karuizawa didn’t know Frank Merriwell from Frank Ne’er Do Well. While the rest of the team played magnificently, Harris collapsed (figuratively) early in the game and finished with a shocking 25 percent shooting mark, less than a quarter the size of his raging temperature. In racetrack terms, Hurlimann won, going away. Canada had to settle for silver.

Canada’s joy when the Sandra Schmirler team won the first official gold medal in curling’s Olympic history was short-lived. Within eighteenth months, Schmirler would succumb to cancer, leaving behind a husband, two young daughters, and a grieving nation. The memory of the three-time world winner and gold medal champion skip is perpetuated in the Sandra Schmirler Foundation, set up to assist Canadian families whose children face life-threatening diseases.

In 2002 at Salt Lake City, Kevin Martin won the silver medal following a last stone steal by Norway’s Pal Trulsen while Canada’s Kelley Law won a bronze medal.

Brad Gushue earned gold in 2006 in Torino and Shannon Kleibrink came home with a bronze medal.

In Canada’s 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Kevin Martin finally overcame his international record winning gold but Cheryl Bernard had gold taken away from her with a last stone miss in an extre end to two-time gold medal winners Sweden.

 

Finally
At one level there appears to be little in common between the curling that came to Canada in 1759 and today’s game. Then it was irons; now it is granites. Then it was outdoors on natural ice; now it is indoors on artificial ice. Luck played a major role, skill a lesser role in the final result then; skill is the major component of victory now, though luck is still a factor. It would appear to be two different games, then and now.

But look again and it’s obvious that the game that started in a small way in a new land bears a striking resemblance to the game that captivates so many Canadians today. It’s a game that beckons to Canadians of all ages and stages, in every province and territory. It was a slippery game then, and is so now. Laughter and camaraderie abound.

As William Weems put it so many years ago, “There’s no game like curling. It’s an honest sensible game. It’s an honest couthie game is curling.” To which each of us who love curling say “amen.”


A Time Line of Curling

In Scotland

1511 – Date carved on Stirling stone, earliest indication of the beginning of curling.

1541 – Challenge issued to “a tournament on ice,” between John Slater and Gavin Hamilton-first written indication of the game (and probably a more civilized dispute mechanism than a duel).

1620 – First known appearance of the word “curling” on a printed page.

1837 – Victoria ascends throne of Great Britain.

1838 – Formation of Grand Caledonian Curling Club (GCCC) in Scotland.

1842 – Earl of Mansfield, as president of GCCC, entertains Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and demonstrates curling on polished hardwood floor in the Long Hall of Scone Palace. He also presents Prince Albert with a pair of Ailsa Craig stones, with silver handles, and invites him to become first patron of the GCCC.

1843 – Queen Victoria gives permission to have name of GCCC changed to Royal Caledonian Curling Club. Eventually, RCCC becomes the “Mother Club” of curling throughout the world.

In Canada

1760 – Soldiers of the 78th Fraser Highlanders, serving under General Murray at the Battle of Ste. Foy in Quebec, create iron curling stones.

1807 – Montreal Curling Club formed, with limited membership of 20. It becomes first sporting club in all North America.

1819 – Scots soldiers of Royal Staff Corps ask permission to melt down old cannonballs to make curling “irons.” Blacksmith James Woods prepares mold, and sells cast iron stones for $3 each.

1820 – First curling club in Ontario formed, in Kingston.

1820 – Quebec City CC formed (membership reserved “for Scots only”).

1824 – First curling club in Nova Scotia formed in Halifax, due mainly to efforts of three gentlemen: Captain (later Admiral) Sir Houston Stewart, Colonel Greag and Dr. Grigor.

1828 – Earl of Dalhousie listed as member of Quebec City CC.

1829 – Coal discovered in New Glasgow (NS) and Scots miners, who have been brought to Canada, bring their curling stones with them.

1831 – First curling club in US formed, at Orchard Lake (Detroit).

1834 – Fergus CC (Ontario) formed.

1837 – First covered curling rink built by Montreal CC in suburb of St. Anne, near Lachine Canal.

1839 – Curling stones advertised for sale, in Toronto, by Peter MacArthur for $8 a pair.

1845 – First curling club formed in Newfoundland (Avalon).

1850 – Canada’s population is less than three and a half million: most are under 45.

1851 – All day, open-air match outside Truro between three teams from Halifax and three from Pictou (five players a side) draws 2,000 spectators.

1852 – Formation of Canadian Branch, RCCC, in Montreal.

1853 – Fredericton curling starts on frozen waters of Saint John River, followed shortly after by formation of clubs in Moncton, Saint John, and Newcastle.

1858 – First Grand Match “East vs West” held in Toronto. Canadian Branch RCCC (in Montreal) issues invitation to Scots to tour Canada. Invitation accepted, but departure delayed for 44 years!

1859 – First bonspiel on Toronto Bay.

1860 – Toronto CC builds first covered rink in Ontario.

1865 – First International curling Match, Canada vs USA, held at Buffalo, with 23 teams from each country participating. Canada wins 658-478. Abraham Lincoln assassinated.

1874 – Ontario curlers split from Canadian Branch, RCCC (in Montreal) and form Ontario Branch, RCCC. Main reason is inability of Toronto/ Ontario curlers to get to Montreal for meetings, plus difference of opinion over best kind of curling stones: irons or granites.

1875 – Toronto Granite Club formed. Sir John A. Macdonald listed as a member.

1876 – First curling club in Manitoba (formed in Winnipeg). First match (using irons) held December 11. Losers donate a barrel of oatmeal to the hospital.

1879 – Winnipeg game between City Fathers and Ordinary People, is won by latter. Aldermen have to pay forfeit of an oyster dinner.

1880 – First curling in Saskatchewan (Prince Albert, Rosthern, and Battleford) . Lord Dufferin institutes Governor General’s prize for curling.

1883 – First Montreal Winter Carnival held, and includes curling, sleigh races, horse races, tobogganing, and snowshoe races.

1884 – First competition for the Gordon International Medal (Canada vs Grand National Curling Club) is played in Montreal, Brookline, and Utica.

1885 – Curling started in Calgary.

1886 – NB Branch of RCCC formed, but dies in 1891 (“lack of interest” cited).

1887 – First curling club formed in PEl (Charlottetown).

1888 – Manitoba Branch of RCCC formed with seven clubs (two in Winnipeg) as initial members. Calgary Curling Club affiliates with Manitoba Branch, RCCC.

1889 – First Manitoba Bonspiel attracts 62 teams for three days of competition. First curling club formed in Regina. Number of ends, for important match, reduced from 24 to 20.

1894 – First women’s curling club organized in Montreal.

1895 – First curling club formed in B.C. (Kaslo).

1898 – Kootenay Curling Association organizes bonspiel involving 18 rinks from Kaslo, Rossland, Sandon, and Revelstoke.

1901 – Women’s curling clubs spring up in Lachine, Ottawa, Arnprior, Toronto, Kingston, and Revelstoke.

1903 – Major, later Colonel, Walker, North West Mounted Police, suggests formation of Western Curling Association, separate from the Manitoba and Northwest Territories Branch, RCCC. The attempt is defeated.

1904 – Major Walker tries again and this time is successful: Alberta Branch, RCCC formed.

1906 – B.C. Branch, RCCC, formed.

1907 – Alberta wins first interprovincial match with Saskatchewan.

1908 – Manitoba Branch, RCCC, becomes Manitoba Curling Association.

1909 – First Canadian touring team travels to Scotland and wins 23 of 26 matches.

1911 – Second touring Scottish team comes to Canada. Scots are beaten in four Strathcona Cup matches held in Maritimes, Quebec, Ontario, and Manitoba.

1913 – Ladies’ events added to Manitoba Bonspiel. Ontario Curling Association inaugurates Ladies’ Tankard, won by Belleville team.

1918 – Ninety-one rinks enter Alberta Curling Association bonspiel, making it the “biggest ever held west of Winnipeg.”

1921 – Canadian proposal to International Olympic Committee accepted; proposal states that future host cities could include a sport of their choice.

1924 – First Olympic Winter Festival held in Chamonix, France, with three countries (Sweden, Great Britain, and France) participating in curl¬ing competition. GBR wins gold.

1925 – IOC, retroactively, accepts 1924 Olympic Winter Festival as first offi¬cial Olympic Winter Games.

1927 – First Macdonald Brier held at Granite Club in Toronto. Game length is 14 ends.

1928 – Brier reduces length of game from 14 ends to 12.

1932 – Eight teams entered in Lake Placid Winter Olympics III, four from USA and four from Canada. Winnipeg team wins gold.

1934 – PEl Curling Association formed.

1935 – Dominion Curling Association formed in meetings at Toronto Granite Club.

1940 – First Brier held outside Toronto, at the Amphi-theatre in Winnipeg.

1943-5 – Brier play suspended during World War II.

1945 – Harold Covell, principal at Regina’s Lakeview School, introduces jam-can curling for younger children.

1947 – First carspiel held in Nipawin, Saskatchewan. Four Hudson sedans, valued at $2,200 each, put up as prizes. Over 500 curlers are attracted to the event, won by Howard “Pappy” Wood.

1949 – Ken Watson of Winnipeg becomes first skip to win three Brier titles.

1950 – Watson helps inaugurate Canadian School Curling Championship. First event is held in Quebec City.

1959 – First Scotch Cup matches held in Scotland. Ernie Richardson (Canada) plays Willie Young (Scotland) and wins. Invitational event is forerunner to World Curling Championship.

1960 – Unique East-West women’s playoff, in Oshawa, won by Joyce McKee rink from Saskatchewan. Canadian Ladies’ Curling Association is founded, and Dominion Stores accepted as sponsor of CLCA Championship.

1961 – Dominion Diamond D Ladies’ Championship held in Ottawa, with teams from every province represented. Joyce McKee rink (Saskatchewan) is winner.

1964 – First Canadian Mixed Championship (sponsored by O’Keefe Breweries) held in Toronto. Ernie Boushy rink (Manitoba) is winner.

1965 – First Canadian Senior Men’s Championship (over 55) held in Ft. William. Winner is Leo Johnson of Manitoba.

1966 – International Curling Federation established as committee of RCCC during Scotch Cup matches in Vancouver.

1967 – Last Dominion Diamond D Championship held in Town of Mt. Royal, Montreal. Winner is Betty Duguid rink from Manitoba. CLCA takes over running of event.

1968 – First CLCA championship held in Winnipeg (St. James Civic Centre). Title won by Hazel Jamieson team (Alberta). First Air Canada Silver Broom held in Pointe Claire (Quebec). Canada’s Ron Northcott is winner. Two teams set Guinness Book of Records mark for endurance by playing 26 hours, 15 minutes in
Yellowknife, NWT.

1971 – Canadian Junior Women’s Championship inaugurated in Vancouver. Only four western teams compete. Winner is Shelby MacKenzie of Alberta.

1972 – Macdonald Tobacco becomes sponsor of CLCA Championship. First “Lassie” is held in Saskatoon. Vera Pezer team (Saskatchewan) is winner.

1973 – First Canadian Senior Ladies’ Championship held in Ottawa. Winner is Ada Calles of British Columbia. Brier officials agree a team may concede victory to opponent.

1975 – Brier expanded to 12 teams with inclusion of team from Yukon / Northwest Territories.

1977 – Brier reduces length of game from 12 ends to 10.

1978 – New endurance record set when two B.C. rinks play 61 hours, 20 minutes.

1979 – Last Lassie Championship held in Town of Mt. Royal, Montreal. Lindsay Sparkes (BC) is winner. First Ladies’ World Curling Championship held in Perth, Scotland. Winner is Gaby Casanova of Switzerland.

1980 – CLCA assumes management of Canadian Ladies’ Championship, and continues for two years. NB Men’s and Ladies’ curling associations first to amalgamate in Canada.

1982 – First Scott Tournament of Hearts held in Regina. Winner is Colleen Jones of Nova Scotia. Guinness Book of Records shows marathon curling record set when eight junior curlers at the Capital Winter Club in Fredericton play for 73 hrs, 54 minutes.

1985 – Final Air Canada Silver Broom held in Glasgow. Winner is Al Hackner of Canada.

1986 – Hexagon International becomes sponsor of World Curling Championship, held in Toronto. First winner is Ed Lukowich of Canada.

1988 – Calgary hosts Winter Olympics, where curling is a demonstration event. Linda Moore wins gold for Canada in women’s event; Eigil Ramsfjell wins gold for Norway in men’s event. Ed Lukowich wins bronze. Final Hexagon WCC held in Lausanne. Winner is Eigil Ramsfjell.

1989 – World Men’s and Women’s Championships combined into single event in Milwaukee. Time clocks introduced to world play.

1991 – Moncton 100 Bonspiel introduces the Howard Rule, which is modified later to become Free Guard Zone rule. ICF changes name to World Curling Federation in order to avoid confusion with canoeing.

1992 – Curling, a demonstration sport at Albertville Winter Olympics, isvheld in Pralognan la Vanoise, and modified version of Howard Rule is introduced under name of Free Guard Zone rule. Urs Dick (Switzerland) wins gold in men’s event. Andrea Schopp (Germany) wins gold in women’s event. Julie Sutton (Canada) wins bronze. In July, IOC confirms curling as a medal sport for 2002 Winter Games, but indicates it could be negotiable as a medal sport in 1998. Nagano negotiates to have curling accepted as part of its 1998 Winter Olympics. World Curling Tour inaugurated, and World Curling Players’ Association formed (with Ed Lukowich as president).

1995 – Ford of Canada assumes sponsorship of World Curling Championships. First Ford Worlds held in Brandon. Kerry Burtnyk (Canada) wins men’s title. Elisabet Gustafson (Sweden) wins women’s.

1998 – First Winter Olympics with curling as a full-fledged medal sport. Sandra Schmirler wins gold medal for Canada in women’s event. Patrick Hurlimann wins gold medal for Switzerland in men’s event. Mike Harris (Canada) wins silver.

2001 – Grand Slam of Curling begun with $100,000 cashspiels in Wainwright, AB; Gander, NF; and Sault Ste. Marie, ON. Grand Slam completed with World Curling Tour Players’ Championship in Strathroy, ON.

2002 – Winter Olympic Games held in Ogden, Utah. Pal Trulsen (Norway) wins gold in men’s event. Rhona Martin (Great Britain) wins gold in women’s event. Canadian men (Kevin Martin) win silver medal. Canadian women (Kelley Law) win bronze. WCF accepts wheelchair curling as an. official sport. First World Wheelchair Curling Championship held in Sursee, Switzerland. Canada wins silver. WCF accepts World Seniors competition (men and women) as an official event. First World Seniors Championships held in Bismark (US) at same time as Ford Worlds event. USA (Larry Johnston) wins men’s event. Canada (Anne Dunn) wins women’s event. Continental Cup international curling series (North America vs Rest of World) begun in Regina, with six teams each side playing variety of events.

2003 – Scotland sends touring teams to Canada one hundred years after first visit by Scots. Canada Cup of Curling begun in Kamloops, BC.

2006 – Canada’s Brad Gushue wins gold at the Olympics in Torino. Shannon Kleibrink wins bronze

2008 – The Canadian Mixed is held in Iqaluit, Nunavut, the first-ever national event of any sport held in that territory.

2010 – Kevin Martin wins gold at Canada’s Olympics in Vancouver. Cheryl Bernard wins silver after extra end loss to Sweden.

 

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