Pebbles to Boulders: Canada’s Largest Little Rock Bonspiel

Curling bonspiels are a great source of entertainment for many of us to get through the long, cold Canadian winter. During these events we improve our skills by playing multiple games at different clubs; get to know our team-mates a little better for we are hanging out with them longer; and have the opportunity to expand our circle of friends by playing a number of new teams and socializing after the game with them. The fine folks in Hamilton, Ontario, figure they have a winning formula for their self-proclaimed biggest little rock bonspiel in Canada.

Harry Clark Memorial Little Rock Bonspiel Trophy (Photo courtesy M. Cooper)

After numerous meetings held beginning in the fall of 2003, the first event was conducted in the spring of 2004. These meetings were amongst the representatives of the Hamilton and Area Curling Association (HACA) who completely supported the organization of a little rock spiel. Of course, HACA is one of the main sponsors of the event aimed at young curlers between the ages of 6 and 12. One challenge the event organizers had to overcome was that not all clubs have little rocks. Although some of the curlers are young and small size, in fairness to all, the decision was made that the spiel would operate with regular granite curling stones. Organizing this event is no easy task, since the draw of the spiel is based on a 32-team, 4-event format. “We are grateful for the ice time provided by our area clubs,” says Brian Langlotz from Burlington. “The event is run over four days, both the Saturday and Sunday of back-to-back weekends.” Each team plays one game a day, for the first three games, which then qualifies them for semi finals and finals. “We’ve considered changing the format, but in surveying the parents each year, they tell us this format works well for them by not tying up their whole day to attend a spiel,” notes Langlotz. “The families build other activities for the weekend around the spiel, which provides variety for the kids over the day.”

Harry Clark Winners team from Grimsby (Photo courtesy M. Cooper)

Brian says entry fees for the spiel had to be increased this year to a reasonable $60 per team. Clearly the support the event obtains from area sponsors and the hard work put forth by the volunteers helps to keep entry fees down. What a great deal for the kids. Each year the curlers receive an event pin, treats after each game and a participation gift which, over the years, has included items such as water bottles, hats and duffle bags. Event winners obtain specially designed medallions, and semi-finalists all get a coupon to visit Tim Hortons.  For the final, an extra treat is provided, as the curlers are all piped through the club lounge onto the ice, ready to play their championship game. Photos of the winners are supplied to the area newspaper. Teams are mostly from the Hamilton area, with entries from St. Catharines, Oakville and Welland in the past. Sometimes at little rock spiels it is difficult to determine who has more fun, the kids on the ice or the parents behind the glass. We all get to see those young curlers who fall and bounce back up, trying to make it look as though they hadn’t fallen at all. A parent from St. Catharines wrote: “The kids that won the 2nd event were completely thrilled, I swear the parents even more so. Even better was the 10-year-old that told me how much fun he was having – after a 9 to 2, third game loss. That’s what it’s really about.”

Harry Clark Family (Photo courtesy M. Cooper)

A family from Oakville were regular attendees to the spiel. One year they were lucky enough to have both brother and sister skip teams against one another in the final. Can you imagine the dinner table conversation that evening after the spiel? The Hamilton and Area Curling Association was created with funds resulting from the 1991 Brier held at Copps Coliseum. Harry Clark, long-time curling promoter from Burlington, was the founding President of HACA. After Harry passed away in January 2005, the spiel was renamed The Harry Clark Memorial Little Rock Bonspiel. Another fine curling gentleman and friend of Harry’s, Bob Martin, passed in 2007. The second event for the spiel is named in his memory. It is a wonderful testament to these gentlemen that both families have created memorial funds to support the bonspiel. Interest and entry information for the Harry Clark Memorial Little Rock Bonspiel can be directed to Brian Langlotz at 905-632-8197 or via email at [email protected].