Rock in hand, rook­ies find curl­ing is harder than it looks

The Buffalo News - - LOCAL NEWS - By Anne Neville

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.’ “

James P. McCoy/Buf­falo News

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.

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