By Christie Melhorn, February 15 2018 —
Every spring when I was at Rosedale Elementary School, my class would trek down Crescent Heights hill to the Calgary Curling Club for two weeks of curling classes. I can still remember the pleasant chill of the rink, the satisfying clink of the rocks and how I thought my arms were going to fall off after every session. The focused nature of the game and the light-hearted atmosphere of our lessons was an awesome energy release. However, I haven’t curled since and there is not a lot of opportunity to, as there currently aren’t any post-secondary curling clubs or leagues in Calgary.
Amanda Ducheminsky, program coordinator at the Garrison Curling Club in the southwest, is determined to make curling more accessible to university students and expand the game’s presence in Calgary. To achieve this, she created Calgary’s first post-secondary intramural curling league.
Growing up in Strathmore, Ducheminsky curled regularly. She says that rural Albertan towns embrace the sport more than urban centres. After moving to Calgary to attend the public relations program at Mount Royal University, Ducheminsky was disheartened by the lack of opportunities to curl at a university level.
“[In small towns] the curling rink becomes your family. You feel accepted there. City high schools lack those leagues. It’s not as much of a traditional sport like hockey,” Ducheminsky said. “When I went to MRU, I thought there would be a university team but they canceled the program the year I went there. For about four years, I didn’t really curl.”
Ducheminsky says that curling’s profile as a social but challenging sport makes it a vauable staple of Canadian culture.
“It’s a very Canadian sport. It’s based on sportsmanship. It’s polite and people are understanding. But it’s competitive and takes hard work,” she said.
When she joined the Garrison Curling Club, Ducheminsky attempted to collaborate with Calgary post-secondary institutions to develop curling leagues. However, when she was met with minimal response and lack of interest, she began designing a city-wide post-secondary program herself.
“I asked about how students could create teams to compete at the university level,” Ducheminsky said. “I thought what would be most effective is a hybrid between giving competitive teams the opportunity to practise or get scouted and engaging people who want to curl and try new things. Exposing it to all schools would create a bigger community.”
Ducheminsky structured the league to include games on Sundays from 4:45–6:45 p.m. over six weeks during the fall and winter semesters. Teams of four can participate and receive equipment rentals for $31.50 per player. Ducheminsky emphasized that the league invites all experience and fitness levels.
“There is such a range of people who play. It’s one of those sports indifferent to height, speed, age and experience. [The curling community] wants to embrace you as a person. One of our players is in a wheelchair, showing that it’s for everyone,” she said. “A lot of people who don’t think they’re athletic will come and play and really enjoy it. And those who are athletic appreciate it because it’s hard.”
First-year University of Calgary education student Daylan Miller created a team for the league after seeing a flyer about it at the Garrison Curling Club.
“I just stated curling this year at a Monday-night league. I heard about [the university intramurals] and thought it was really reasonably priced so I reached out to my friends at school about playing with me,” Miller said. “So far, it’s been really good.”
Brittany Taylor, Cristin Hodson and Adam McGovern — fellow first-year education students and Miller’s teammates — agree that playing in the league has been very positive, especially as beginners.
“I curled for a couple years when I was younger but was reunited with it by [Miller],” McGovern said. “There are some experienced players who are really encouraging for beginners. They really give us a shot and help by giving advice.”
“It’s been so fun,” Hodson added. “I threw the wrong colour of rock in our first game. It was really funny and we all could just laugh about it.”
Though the season is midway through, it’s not too late to join, since the university league needs a few extra players. Students interested in checking it out can also participate in a bonspiel on April 8 from 12 p.m.–8 p.m. Teams of four — three members being post-secondary students — can register for $180 or individuals can sign up for $45, although team placement is not guaranteed. The Garrison Curling Club supplies all equipment but asks that participants wear clean indoor running shoes and warm, stretchy clothes to play in.