Pebbles to Boulders: Stroud and the Magic Man

There is small rural community in central Ontario just south of Barrie, called Stroud. This year, Stroud Curling Club is celebrating 100 years of tradition with the grand game. There is a name, Flegel, that is pretty much synonymous with the Stroud Curling Club these days. Behind that surname is a man called Randy, who has done almost everything at the club, including 21 years of Little Rocks. Soon after when you start to speak with Randy, you find a person who is very passionate about curling. I just love speaking with these types of people, for you hear about years of toil, tradition, dedication and joy that are the trademarks of curling at the grassroots. With no building of their own, the folks from Stroud started to curl in Cookstown. The juniors played after school on Tuesdays and Wednesdays; driven to Cookstown by Milt Webb in a school bus. Come 1976, a five sheet rink was built in Stroud. Junior curling thrived with leadership from moms like Sandra Weatherill, Donna Wice and Rita Webb. Little Rocks started at Stroud in 1989. Randy Flegel, a hockey player (true puck head) had caught the curling bug in 1983 with help from his father-in-law. Randy joined the Board of Directors in ’89 and saw the value in starting Little Rocks. His kids were amongst 24 others in the first year. This started a love affair with the kid’s that is still infectious within Randy today. “In the early days, we saw the importance of dedicated times for youth curling,” Randy notes. “So for twenty years I have scheduled the program to have between 15 and 17 Sundays. The Little Rockers have ice time from 10am to 12noon and juniors from 12:30pm to 4:30pm. The Club has been very supportive.” Randy has recruited key volunteers over the years. Joan, his wife has been along side since day one. Daughter, Lynne and Brendan Doherty, both former Little Rockers are big helpers on the ice. Paul Gilder, had been bitten by the curling bug too. Paul started helping with Little Rocks as his daughter came up the youth ranks. Paul now is the backbone of the successful junior program. Randy thinks quite highly of Paul and his great attitude, noting, “if the power were to got out at the club, just follow Paul and his bright smile that would light up a room.” It is these kind of people that find, paying forward is more important than paying back to the program they grew up in. Randy is quick to highlight that one of the keys to their programs success is to ‘keep it simple’ and ‘keep it moving’, when you are dealing with 7 to 12 year olds. The first half the year is spent teaching everything curling and then the second half is playing the game. The jitney format works best for the folks at Stroud where curlers play with different teammates, play all positions and have fun. Here is where the magic comes in. Curlers are special people. Stroud had a triple amputee with the Little Rocks for a couple of years. Sarah Patrick would throw her two rocks with help from a cushion placed on the ice and then go to the other end to hold the broom for her team. Then there was Kristina Kunej, a child with Downs Syndrome. She played for a few years, having a great time with the other kids who encouraged her participation. As Randy calls them, ‘then there are those diamonds in the rough”. Adam Hall insisted he was left-handed but would always lead with his left foot. It took about a month for Adam to find his coordination; he was truly left-handed. He then went on to be a fine young curler. Today Adam is accomplished Chef, entertaining people with fine dining. Derreck Veitch started curling at age 7 in Little Rocks. Derreck’s attention span was nil. “I really thought he was going to hurt himself falling on the ice. During games, he’d be singing to himself and dancing. I really had my doubts.” Derreck is much different today, a very bright individual, skipping one of the finest youth teams in Ontario at the recent provincial juniors. One of the most fun events hosted at Stroud is the One on One held at Christmas. “One curler against another curler, no skips or sweeping. It’s amazing to see how good the kids really do become. The event develops their slide, line of delivery, weight control, skills at scoring and luck”, says Randy with a proud smile. On February 26th, 2011, Stroud will mark its 100th year of curling. If Mother Nature cooperates, they plan to curl out of doors on natural ice. Ceremonies are to include the oldest curler at Stroud, 91 year old Harry Boyer; their first curler of the new era, John Smurthwaite; their youngest curler, Little Rocker Jordana Valentine; and young skip Derreck Veitch. Tradition, fine people and a magic man, make the Stroud Curling Club a great place to create long lasting memories.