Rock in hand, rookies find curling is harder than it looks
Olympic curlers in their flashy pants make it look so easy, with their poised glides down the ice behind the polished granite rock and their energetic scrubbing that steers the rock toward the target.
But almost every novice’s first try Sunday at the Buffalo Curling Club’s event was noticeably different – awkward, with a few even sprawled out full-length on the ice.
Coached and encouraged by club members, everyone improved their form by their second or third try at “Rock’n the Neighborhood: A Taste of Our Community.” The event was held at the club’s headquarters in the former Buffalo China Factory off Bailey Avenue.
“A lot of people find that they enjoy watching curling on TV,” said Jeff Offhaus, vice president of the club, which has more than 350 members. “They are intrigued by it, it looks really easy, but they get out here and they are humbled by it.”
Chris and Lori Brosius of Barker were celebrating his birthday with their two adult children, Sean of Blasdell and Holly of Derby, and their son’s friend, Aaron Reslink of Blasdell. All of them quickly improved the semi-crouching stance needed to slide the heavy, polished granite rock.
Katie Gerard and Barry Morris of West Seneca showed up with their friends, Caitlin Biddle and Steve Cardarelli of Buffalo. “It takes a little bit of balance,” said Gerard as the group took turns steering the rock, studying the club members’ form for tips.
The original Buffalo Curling Club operated in Amherst from 1960 to 1982. Between 1982 and 2014, when the current all-volunteer, nonprofit club opened, curlers had to drive to Canada or Rochester to play.
Maria Stachura was one of those who endured the long drought between active clubs.
“The great thing about this sport is that anybody can do it, at any age, with any ability, with no prior experience,” she said. It can also be played by people from many income levels, she said, because the club has a supply of stones, brushes and gliding shoe pads.
Barb and Pierre Willot say they enjoy curling date nights with a sport that expresses their Canadian heritage.
“Some call it chess on ice, because there’s a lot of strategy,” said Offhaus. Players self-officiate, which promotes sportsmanship, he said. “You call your own fouls, you congratulate a good shot, it’s a nice camaraderie. For a lot of us, including myself, it’s social, but we also have competitors who want to get to the next level.”
Sunday’s event included tables with samples from nearby restaurants, including Ang’s Family Restaurant, Wiechec’s Lounge, Desi’s Pizzeria, Issa’s Pita Chips and James Desiderio produce. Flying Bison offered beer samples and Chateau Buffalo had wine. Bands the Brothers of Invention and Bryan V and Jenn kept the crowd entertained.
Besides the person who launches the stone, each team includes two sweepers and a skip, who is posted at the end of the rink and directs the team.
But on Sunday, the goal wasn’t to get the stone onto the target; it was to welcome new people out onto the ice.
“It’s just something different,” said Offhaus. “We thought, ‘Let’s try to tap into a more social community.’ “
Richard Orshal of Kenmore slips on the ice while learning curling technique during the Buffalo Curling Club’s community open house Sunday in the former Buffalo China Factory.