Local stadium hosts weekly curling matches
A small number of motor vehicles sit idly outside the Trinity-Placentia Stadium in Whitbourne.
At first glance, it is a group of weekend warriors getting in one last game of shinny before the work week begins again on Monday. However, an hour or so after the ice skates leave arena on Sunday nights a different game takes over.
Some 16 men are throwing rocks, sweeping and calling out shots in a free-flowing game of curling. Featuring six teams and three simultaneous games, the players glide over the pebbled surface releasing the curling stones and attempting the best shot they can.
Waiting for the drifting rocks are a pair of sweepers. Acting like a harbour guide bringing a ship into port through treacherous water, they patiently glide along with the stone waiting for the right time to put their brooms in front of the oncoming rock and sweep it to its place.
“That one was a bit off,” curler Darryl George said with a laugh. His shot had just veered to the left of its destination and glanced off a guard rock.
Two games over, club president Roy Bennett is hollering the familiar curling rink chants ‘hurry’ and ‘hard.’
“It’s great fun,” Bennett told The Compass in between helping his teammates line up their shots. “Right here lads, put it right here.”
Really, it is more social club than sporting event. The players compete inside of the eight ends they plan on playing, but that is in between smiling and joking with each other.
It’s like that every Sunday night when they get together. Some from the group compete in bonspiels across the province. Whether it is the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association event or the Home Builder’s Association, they’ll take their skills they exhibit here and put them to the test.
“They do quite well at those things,” said Bennett.
The Trinity-Placentia Curling Club held its inaugural season in the winter of 1983. The sport proved to be a hit for organizers.
Starting that year, there was a men’s leagues, a women’s league and a mixed league.
It was something I always wanted try after watching on television growing up. – Brent Temple
“We had students coming up after school,” said Bill Clarke, who has been curling at the stadium since the club first opened.
Getting the ice ready
It takes roughly an hour-anda-half to make the conversion. Once general skating is over and the last of the ice skaters have left the ice, stadium workers like Lou Worthman start the arduous task of making it ready for curling.
First, workers flood the stadium with the ice resurfacer. Then they strap a canister to their back and being spraying small droplets of water across the playing surface.
It is a practice called ‘pebbling.’ These bumps help the stones glide across the ice. The pebbles melt every time a rock passes over them, creating a tiny amount of surface water that reduces the friction.
The stones – they’ve been here since the start of the club – are concave on the bottom, which also reduces the surface friction. If you tried to curl on hockey ice, the stones would move very little.
“It’s about a three hour process from getting the ice ready for curling to getting it ready for hockey,” said Clarke. Generating interest With half-a-dozen a team curling regularly, the group is pleased with the response this season. However, six teams is down from the nine taking part last year and eight two years ago.
The club would ideally like to have eight teams, which would allow the club to use the full curling area at the stadium. Some believe the club is not as widely known as it could be, although there are prospects for more teams next season.
“I could go to someone in Blaketown and ask if they wanted to curl,” said Bennett. “They might say I can’t go to St. John’s, and I’d tell them there is curling at the stadium and they’d be surprised.”
The hope is getting the word out could generate a bit of buzz about a sport that is especially popular in Canada. Last year, an official with the Canadian Curling Association estimated 90 per cent of all curlers gloabally are from this country. ‘It’s a great time’ George and Brent Temple are teachers in the area. George has been curling for several years, while this is only the second year playing the game for Temple.
“It was something I always wanted to try after watching on television growing up,” said Temple. “It’s a great time.”
Blaketown’s Scott Smith delivers a rock during play at the Trinity-Placentia Stadium in Whitbourne on Feb. 8.
Roy Bennett is the president of the Trinity Placentia Curling Club.