Around the House: All in the family at the curling club

See the photo that accompanies this Around The House blog? It’s a partial shot of someone standing in the house, holding the broom. A typical curling scene.

Around the House by Jean Mills

But let me give you some background. That photo was taken during a closing bonspiel at the Fergus Curling Club a couple of years ago. The curler holding the broom is Dean Dunbar, the club president that season, and he was on a team playing with his three kids, Alana, Zoë and Morgan. In fact, Dean wasn’t the skip; his younger daughter, Zoë, was doing the honours in that game, and for the brief time I watched them, I can report they were doing very well. Curling is one of those sports that lends itself to full family participation, and the curling club is the catalyst. Ask Russ Howard, no slouch when it comes to curling families, how he was introduced to the game and he’ll tell you it began at the Penetanguishine Curling Club, running around with his brother (Glenn Howard – heard of him?) while their parents were on the ice.

Photo: Michael Burns Photography

And of course the next generation of curling Howards is following the path of their accomplished dads, as demonstrated by the presence of Russ’s son, Steven, on Team New Brunswick and Glenn’s son, Scott, acting as fifth man for his dad’s Team Ontario at this year’s Brier. Look at the 2011 Team U.S.A. which competed at the Women’s World Curling Championships in Denmark and you’ll see two Lanks on the roster: skip Patti and lead Mackenzie. Yup, that’s a mother-daughter combo. And these are just a few examples. Check out the line-up of teams that have played in past Canadian championships, and note the parents playing with kids (Glenn and Scott Howard), siblings with siblings (the Richardsons, the Parks, the Jones girls in Nova Scotia, to name a few), and even cousins, uncles, aunts – well, you get the picture. Of course there are also lots of parental coaches, too: dads and moms, guiding their kids to the highest level of competition. I recently worked on a story for the April issue of The Curling News about the Dominion Curling Club Championships, an event I blogged about earlier this season (you can read my earlier post here). Nova Scotia had just determined its Dominion champions, so I contacted the skip of the winning men’s team, Andrew Atherton of the Chester Curling Club, to ask him about the event. Winning was great, of course, but Andrew’s biggest excitement was for another reason. “My dad and I have always wanted to play in something together, but are both very busy coaching so we never made it happen,” Andrew explained.  “This year when we saw the Dominion provincials were coming to our home club we decided it was time to do it.” Yes, Andrew’s dad, Terry, plays lead on this winning team. Another father-son combo heading off to a national championship. This all-in-the-family approach to curling starts at the club. It starts with watching and listening to the game. Seeing the fun and competition out on the ice, and then seeing the handshakes and the post-game socializing. The special events, the family-oriented bonspiels, the junior leagues which are run – so often – by parent volunteers. That’s the world of recreational curling that launches so many youngsters down the same path as their curling parents. Like the Dunbars, the Howards, and the Athertons. “I have curled for a long time,” says Andrew Atherton. “I won my first provincial title in my second year: the 16 and Under Provincial Greenspiel.  It seemed at the time that there would be many more, but this is the next.  To think my Dad coached me that first time, and now I win again with him on the team.  Pretty neat.”