Curling fever taking hold in Saint John

The 2014 Ford World Women’s Curling Championship, presented by Booster Juice, is coming to Saint John, New Brunswick, March 15-23, when the brightest stars in the game will compete for gold in the Harbour Station sports and entertainment complex. It’s been nearly 15 years since the best in the men’s and women’s game converged in Saint John to fight for world curling supremacy. Team Canada, skipped by Jeff Stoughton, lost to Scotland’s Hammy McMillan in the 1999 championship final, and Sweden’s Elisabet Gustafson won the gold medal for the women; Canada’s Colleen Jones missed the playoffs. But, the legacy of that event lives on, and the community is eagerly awaiting the return of world-class curling next March.
The Carleton Curling Club (Photo  )

The Carleton Curling Club (Photo Dawn O’Dell )

Along with the opportunity for fans to take part in the unique experience of live championship curling, a number of intangibles accompany the city’s role as host of one of the most prestigious events in the sport. The excitement surrounding the upcoming Ford World Women’s Curling Championship filters down to the grass-roots level of the four local curling clubs providing the volunteer base, and those clubs will receive the benefits from the legacy to be left by the Women’s world championship. “We’re expecting a positive impact from the event,” said Michael Buckley, general manger of the Thistle-St. Andrew’s Curling Club, the city’s largest with 350 members.  “We saw a real surge in membership when the world men’s championship was here in 1999, and we’re hoping for the same outcome this time around. We have a number of members that have signed up as volunteers… if there’s something out there that’s going to help the game, they’ll be involved.” The eight-sheet Thistle-St. Andrew’s, an amalgamation of two clubs whose histories date back to the mid-1800s, also represents Atlantic Canada’s first covered curling rink. At the Carleton Curling Club, which was founded in 1895, the 160 members are equally excited by the return of championship curling, said president Cathy Stringer. “Everyone’s talking about it… they’re just super, super keen. There’s definitely a buzz around the club. We’re really excited and anticipating that it will help our drive to recruit new members. We’ll be hosting a big event in the local mall, in conjunction with Ford World Women’s volunteers, to promote the event and help our membership drive.”
Hampton Curling Club (Photo   )

Hampton Curling Club (Photo Dawn O’Dell)

The 3-sheet Hampton Curling Club is another of the city’s traditional clubs, with its origins dating back to 1890. Struggling to survive in recent years, it has stayed alive with the support of loyal volunteers. “It could mean the world to us,” said club president Harold Miner, with respect to the impact of the Ford World Women’s Curling Championship. “We’ve been holding flea markets every weekend to raise funds just to keep the club operating. There could be some financial benefits from its success, and the publicity and promotion of the sport is definitely going to help us in terms of recruiting new members.” The newcomer to the local curling fraternity is the Riverside Country Club. The golf course has been open for play on the present site since the mid-1930s, and the 5-sheet curling club was established in 1966, turning Riverside into a year-round facility. “The world women’s championship will be great for our club,” said curling director Adib Samaan. “It will raise the awareness of the game in our community and generate tremendous interest in the sport, especially among the younger age group. We’ve been working hard to increase the membership in our club and this event will give us a big boost.” “You Gotta Be There” for the 2014 Ford World Women’s Curling Championship, when the Saint John curling community welcomes the best in the game. Reserve your seats in Harbour Station today by clicking here.