Organizers with the Stettler Curling Club have opted to not begin a regular season this year, but there are hopes that local curling can begin first thing in the New Year.
Last month, the board of directors decided not to open the Curling Rink this fall.
“The SCC Board had to seriously consider operational costs, declining membership and implementation of Alberta Health Services and Curling Alberta COVID-19 return-to-play guidelines,” noted a release.
In the meantime, members are reaching out to both current and former curlers with the Club as well as encouraging new curlers to sign up for early 2021.
Those interested in curling come January are therefore asked to contact the Club before Nov. 23rd. On that day, a meeting is also planned at the Stettler Curling Club upstairs, and that is when a decision will be made as to whether or not to launch curling in January.
“During this time of restricted travel and limited activities, curing would be an ideal option to stay active, while reducing the transmission of COVID-19 as well as supporting the Stettler Curling Club’s viability.
Meanwhile, the Stettler Curling Club started up in 1906, said Board Member Peggy Hearonemus. “At one time, curling was – especially in rural areas – a key activity. And it was a family thing, too.”
Maureen Mailer, also a member of the board, agreed that curling has been enormously popular over the years in communities across the region and beyond.
“I think that one of the things that is neat about curling is that it’s a sport that can by done by all ages,” she explained. “Currently, we do have a junior program, and that’s for Grade four and up. Last year, we had about 30 (junior) curlers and this year we have about 25,” she said. “They are some really good curlers coming up through the ranks!
There is also an afternoon league – and everyone is welcome. “It’s the biggest league we have,” said Hearonemus, adding that it normally runs Monday and Wednesday afternoons.
“All six sheets of ice are full. It has been a great opportunity for people to get out during the day, and we have different formats, too,” she said. There is a ladies’ league as well, plus there is an open evening each week as well during a ‘regular’ kind of season.
Of course, 2020 has been a different kind of year with the pandemic.
“We had to make a decision,” said Mailer, pointing to a drop in numbers plus the pressures of dealing with COVID-19 restrictions and rising operational costs.
However, dealing with those restrictions is certainly ‘doable’, she pointed out.
“I think when you look at sports overall, curling is one sport that we can do the social distancing with a few tweaks to the game. It’s not a contact sport, either.”
She added that ultimately, and on a brighter note, this is a year for folks to really think about taking up curling.
“We have a lot of snowbirds that haven’t gotten away this year,” said Hearonemus. “And they are used to being active. So this is an opportunity,” she said, referring to a potential start-up in January.
“We would also like to encourage people to come out and try it – we would be more than willing to help them out; and show them – at no cost – more about it,” she said. “We want for people to see what it’s all about.”
And this is where community engagement comes in. Normally, a season begins in November and runs through to the end of March.
“So where we are at right now is yes, we are not opening this fall for a variety of reasons. However, if we get sufficient numbers to register we will certainly look at a January opening,” said Mailer. “But we need those numbers – we need some solid commitment that they want to do this.”
Hearonemus agreed, adding that if businesses and organizations would also like to sponsor a team, that would be terrific.
In the meantime, both women have long been passionate about the sport.
“I’ve been curling since I was a young teenager,” recalled Mailer. “I always enjoyed it – the strategy, and competitiveness of it. It’s a lot of fun to go to bonspiels and there is also the socialization of it. I’ve met lots of people from different communities,” she said.
Hearonemus said she grew up in curling clubs as her folks were avid curlers, too. “It was a curling family,” she said with a smile. “I am absolutely passionate about it – I also watch it on TV, and I’m also an official,” she added. “It’s a good social sport, too.”
Mailer added that some of the local seniors who curl are into their 90s. “They love the game! They love to share their expertise and to just have fun with it.”
For those who might be considering it, Mailer said just come out and give it a shot. You very well could end up loving it as well.
“Just come out and try – you don’t know until you give it a try.”
For more information, call the Stettler Curling Club at 403-742-3111 or visit stettlercurlingclub.ca.