A his­tory of curl­ing in CBN

Mem­o­ries all that re­main of sport’s hey­day in Har­bour Grace

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER

The build­ing that once housed the Con­cep­tion Bay North Curl­ing Club in Har­bour Grace has a dif­fer­ent look th­ese days com­pared to when it first opened in the win­ter of 1980.

Now a Clarke’s Fur­ni­ture out­let, the for­mer Rec Plex houses beds, couches and re­clin­ers where four lanes of pris­tine curl­ing ice used to be. You’re more likely to see a fork­lift haul­ing a pal­let full of floor­ing out of the side en­trance rather than a cart full of curl­ing stones en­ter­ing the build­ing.

The area where the bar was sits un­used and the sign is blank. There is very lit­tle ev­i­dence a thriv­ing rink once ex­isted at the lo­ca­tion for more than two decades.

The Town of Har­bour Grace sold the build­ing in 2007, wash­ing its hands of a costly piece of in­fra­struc­ture and the sport of curl­ing in gen­eral.

Star­ing in the early 80s, curl­ing was a popular sport in the CBN area. Curl­ing was hap­pen­ing seven-days-a-week and tour­na­ments – or fun­spiels – were hap­pen­ing ev­ery week­end.

It was the lo­ca­tion for an an­nual RCMP fun­spiel, as well as the home of area play downs and fire­fight­ers tour­na­ments. It was even the start­ing point for an even­tual Olympic gold medal­list.

Lo­cal Jamie Korab got his start in the sport at the club in the early 1990s af­ter see­ing a sign on the door that read ‘free curl­ing.’

“I de­cided to give it a try and I had a knack for it,” he re­cently told The Compass.

Korab would be­come a mem­ber of Brad Gushue’s rink that cap­tured gold in the men’s com­pe­ti­tion at the 2006 Win­ter Olympic Games held in Torino, Italy.

“I loved it,” said Don Coombs, a for­mer pres­i­dent of the curl­ing as­so­ci­a­tion and past mayor of the town. “Curl­ing is a game for ev­ery­one.”

An avid curler, Coombs skipped a num­ber of lo­cal teams at na­tional com­pe­ti­tions and re­mem­bers a time when a dozen teams would vie for the right to rep­re­sent the area at the pro­vin­cial tankard.

“We hosted ju­nior cham­pi­onships and oth­ers,” said Coombs. “It was a good pro­gram. It was well-used and there was a lot of his­tory there.

“It was a great bunch of peo­ple.”

Us­age

In its day, the curl­ing club was used for more than just the sport it was named af­ter. There were dances, high school re­unions and mi­nor hockey ban­quets held at the site once the ice was re­moved.

It be­came a hub for the com­mu­nity year round.

Get­ting started

First opened in 1980, the curl­ing club was the cul­mi­na­tion of a five-year plan­ning pe­riod that started with the plan to con­struct an add-on to the S.W. Moores Me­mo­rial Sta­dium.

Clarence Stone, who served as the as­so­ci­a­tion’s first pres­i­dent, re­mem­bers how it got started. A group started meet­ing that was “look­ing to pro­vide recre­ation to the res­i­dents.”

They picked a curl­ing rink and got the process started. The first op­tion was the sta­dium ad­don, but that was squashed.

“The eco­nomics were just im­pos­si­ble,” said Stone. “We gave it up a cou­ple of times. It was a very chal­leng­ing pro­ce­dure.”

By then, the group de­cided to look out­side Har­bour Grace for ad­di­tional help. That’s when peo­ple like Vic Dawe came on­board and the fa­cil­ity took on a re­gional feel. The de­ci­sion was made to build a $400,000 fa­cil­ity on the Con­cep­tion Bay High­way just a stone’s throw from the pro­vin­cial court house.

Fi­nally, Vic Dawe set the first stone in mo­tion on Jan. 26, 1980 as mem­bers of the or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee, fed­eral and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment looked on.

“I loved curl­ing,” said Stone.

An early mis­take

Stone be­lieves the group made a “fa­tal mis­take” right from the get-go. It had a membership sys­tem in place.

That pro­duced a stigma that the club was an ex­clu­sive place meant only for the elite of the area. That wasn’t the case. The club peaked with 120 mem­bers at one time.

“It seemed like we didn’t in­clude ev­ery­one in the com­mu­nity,” said Stone. “Un­for­tu­nately, we went with it.”

It be­came such mem­bers of the com­mu­nity were not go­ing us­ing the build­ing’s bar be­cause they thought a membership was re­quired to ob­tain en­try.

The group got into the school’s shortly there­after, of­fer­ing an al­ter­na­tive to mi­nor hockey. This pro­duced some strong re­sults.

At its height, the youth curl­ing pro­gram had be­tween 50 and 70 par­tic­i­pants yearly and pro­duced curlers like Korab.

“We had great suc­cess with school chil­dren,” said Stone.

Terry Shea, a coach with the North­west Ter­ri­to­ries Brier team, got his start at the fa­cil­ity.

“I knew a lot of mem­bers from all around,” said Korab. “It was well-used year round.”

Wrong time

Per­haps, curl­ing came to Har­bour Grace at the wrong time. The ex­po­sure of the game was not what it is now.

Per­haps, if the club was still op­er­at­ing when Korab and crew cap­tured the gold medal, this story wouldn’t be hap­pen­ing.

“It was a new game and a lot of peo­ple did not know about it,” said Stone.

That cou­pled with the eco­nomic down­turn and a dwin­dling vol­un­teer base meant the club was forced to close. Har­bour Grace tried to bring it back af­ter tak­ing own­er­ship in the late 90s, but even that could not save it.

“It was heart­break­ing,” said Korab. “It was re­ally sad for me.”

“The sport would have been great for the kids,” lamented Coombs. “You have to have the kids.”

One op­tion would be to hold a night of curl­ing at the cur­rent sta­dium or the new sta­dium once it is built in Har­bour Grace. Such an ar­range­ment would be sim­i­lar to pro­grams at the Trinity-Pla­cen­tia Sta­dium in Whit­bourne and the Parc Unity Arena in Pla­cen­tia.

S.W. Moores Me­mo­rial Sta­dium manager Mike Adam, coin­ci­den­tally a team­mate of Korab’s at the 2006 Win­ter Olympics, said he has not heard any talk of hav­ing a curl­ing night at the sta­dium. He would how­ever be the first one to sup­port a pos­si­ble bon­spiel once mi­nor hockey has fin­ished for the sea­son.

“It wouldn’t take much to get me on board,” he said. “If the in­ter­est is there, I’d be very in­ter­ested.”

Photo by Ni­cholas Mercer/The Compass

Be­fore it served as the home of a Clarke’s Fur­ni­ture out­let, this build­ing was the site of the Har­bour Grace Curl­ing Club.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.