The curl­ing co­nun­drum

The Compass - - SPORTS - Ni­cholas Mercer — Ni­cholas Mercer is a re­porter/pho­tog­ra­pher with The Compass. He lives in Bay Roberts and can be reached at nmercer@cb­n­com­

Grow­ing up in Har­bour Grace, the Curl­ing Club was just a build­ing at the top of the hill from my home at the United Church manse.

I spent barely any time in there and nei­ther did most of my friends. We were more con­cerned with act­ing out our hockey fan­tasies at the S.W. Moores Me­mo­rial Sta­dium at the time.

Not say­ing it wasn’t a popular place for tho sea bit more ad­vanced in age than we were, but curl­ing wasn’t a sport for us.

To be hon­est, we found it bor­ing and point­less. But, that’s what comes with not un­der­stand­ing some­thing.

You can’t re­ally get into it if you don’t know any­thing about it.

In the early 90s, curl­ing was some­thing you might see on tele­vi­sion two or three times a year. You might take a glimpse at curl­ing when the Scotties or the Brier were on TSN or if it was an Olympic year.

You cer­tainly didn’t jam your­self into a rink some­where to watch a group of men or women hurl stones down a sheet of ice and chase af­ter them with brooms.

The ex­po­sure just wasn’t there for it to make an im­pact within my cir­cle of friends. Again, I was prob­a­bly 10 at the time, and like most 10-year-olds, hockey was king.

Don’t get me wrong, there were a group of young peo­ple who de­cided to pick up a broom at the curl­ing club. Jamie Korab got into the sport be­tween 1993 and 1994.

We all know how that turned out.

In its hey­day, Har­bour Grace was hailed as one of the larger cen­tres for the sport out­side St. John’s. By all ac­counts, nu­mer­ous tour­na­ments were held there since it opened in 1979 and a cou­ple of cham­pi­onship rinks came from Har­bour Grace.

But for what­ever rea­son, lo­cal en­thu­si­asm for curl­ing started to drop off in the late 90s. Some­where along the line, peo­ple started to lose in­ter­est in a sport that is Canadian through and through.

The town took over con­trol of the club in the early 2000s, re­nam­ing it the Rec Plex. It was de­signed to be a recre­ational hub for the com­mu­nity, but it never got there. It lost money and the vol­un­teer base dried up. Fi­nally, the club closed in 2003. The sad­dest part of this is it could be a dif­fer­ent story to­day. With the amount of curl­ing on tele­vi­sion, there’s a chance lo­cal in­ter­est in the re­gion could have bounced back. Sports fan know the faces and the names that go along with them in the curl­ing world nowa­days.

Korab won his gold medal in Torino, Italy in 2006. Curl­ing ex­ploded in this prov­ince, but there was no place lo­cally to play. Imag­ine what could have been if the pow­ers that be had held on for three more years.

Of course, there was no way to pre­dict the boom that came with that.

There are still a cou­ple of cen­tres — namely Whit­bourne and Pla­cen­tia — that have curl­ing clubs, but there is noth­ing in Con­cep­tion Bay North. It’s a shame re­ally. Here’s hop­ing the new rink in Har­bour Grace can help fix that.

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