author: Jacob nelson | staff writer
About 90 per cent of you at least thrown one rock down the ice / Pixabay
How Saskatchewan fell in love with the sport
Canadians are drawn to ice. Whether we want it or not, icy and cold weather is always going to be a part in our lives. A lot of the ice we try to avoid, whether it be ice on the road or the front steps to your home, so isn’t it funny that one of the worst things about winter is also the most important aspect in a lot of the sports and entertainment we love?
Ice fishing is a staple for a lot of Canadian families. I know people that absolutely hate fishing, but still make a point every year of getting out on a small wooden shack so they can fish through a hole on an ice-covered lake. All the attributes of ice fishing should make someone not want to do it, whether it’s the high winds you usually experience on the open lake, or the freezing temperatures that have dominated our winter this year. However, people still love it. So, it would only make sense that we try to create an even more entertaining way to use ice. However, ice fishing is a slow and patient way to entertain yourself, so, naturally, many of us look for something faster. Hockey.
Ice hockey is a big sport throughout the globe and is played by thousands from hundreds of different countries. Hockey consumes the life of many Canadians, whether it’s a family watching the NHL on T.V., or that same family taking their kids to play their own games the next day. Yet, hockey is a very aggressive sport, and it takes a lot for families to enroll their kids in it every year. So now many of us must find another sport we can play throughout the year that doesn’t involve the same punishment hockey deals, but is still more active than ice fishing. And this brings us to curling.
Curling is a sport watched by millions every year and is a way of life for almost any small town throughout Canada. In Saskatchewan, you would be hard–pressed to find a small town that does not have roots in the sport. While the world does also take part in the sport, for most it’s really only the two weeks of Olympic curling that draws their attention, but not in Canada.
In 2013, TSN found that overall, over 13 million Canadians tuned in to watch curling during the year, which was more than half our population. TSN broadcasts many curling tournaments throughout the year including the Tim Hortons Brier and Scotties Tournament of Hearts, along with the Men’s and Women’s World Championships, Capital One Canada Cup, WFG Continental Cup, and M&M Canadian Juniors.
“Curling is a cornerstone of the TSN schedule and it consistently ranks as one of most-watched sports on TSN every year,” said Stewart Johnston, President of TSN in the same article.
“We are exceptionally proud of our curling coverage and are thrilled to have such a broad and dedicated audience turn to us time and time again – at all hours of the day – for the biggest events in curling.”
And that’s just professional curling. Like I said before, almost every small town has deep roots in curling and the majority of small-town folk usually take part in the sport themselves. They hold weekend–long tournaments known as bonspiels, where families and friends can pay a small entry fee to allow them to compete on the ice against family, friends, and even strangers from other towns.
Growing up in a small town, I also had the chance to play a lot of curling. Three years of my childhood were spent curling for my school. While I was also a part of other, much faster sports at the time like football and soccer, curling was also a relaxing way to show my competitive side. I didn’t have to worry about blowing out my knee or getting a concussion because the sport was relatively safe. The equipment was also minimal; it consisted of one slider for your foot and a broom to sweep the ice, which kept costs and maintenance low. So, it’s affordable, it’s broadcasted all over the country and it’s also a part of the winter Olympics, what’s not to like?
Of course, I’ve only played a few years of the sport and was never engaged in the university or professional levels of curling. So, I asked someone who was. Drew Springer, a student at the University of Regina and avid curler, was kind enough to answer a few questions.
I asked Drew why curling seems to be a lot more popular in rural towns, rather than large urban cities.
“I don’t think it is more popular in rural areas, but with smaller towns and fewer kids in schools, it’s easier to make a four-person curling team, as opposed to a hockey team.”
As such, the simplicity of organizing the sport makes it a lot easier for small towns to occupy themselves with curling more than larger team sports such as hockey.
I also asked him why he was more drawn to curling than other sports, why he continued to follow curling even after moving away from his home in Foam Lake and had access to almost any other sport in university. He noted that the commitment to curling as a full-time sport was becoming necessary for top–level curlers. As curling is getting more popular, the prizes are getting bigger. This motivates curlers to focus more of their attention to the sport than in past years where curlers would normally play the sport on a part-time basis.
“My family was the reason I curled over playing hockey. My grandfather, and father both curled, and I was basically born into it.”
“By the time I had come to university, I had found some success in curling and many opportunities arose as a result of that. Someone who has been playing a sport and improved in that sport for 15 years isn’t going to suddenly start all over with a new sport once they have access.”
As the world turns more of their attention to curling, we will see a lot more young curlers like Drew working their way up the ranks to represent not just their hometowns, but their provinces and countries as well.