OK, since the weather has not been spring-like until recently, we surely can squeeze in one more cold weather sport story. Even though our curling ice has been out for close to six weeks, some of our local curling aficionados have headed two hours south to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and are spending the last weekend in April at a bonspiel. Ach, you might say, no big deal, because we live in a country where you either participated or watched the sport from an early age — in my case having the Bugs Bunny Show preempted by Mom and Dad and the Wide World of Sports or something along that line showing the Brier. In fact, only having two channels and having to watch curling over cartoons formed a deep-rooted resentment towards granite and ice. Fortunately, along with turnips and Brussels sprouts, I’ve come to a level of toleration, even approaching enjoyment at times.
So what makes this bonspiel unique is that five years ago, there apparently was no curling in Coeur d’Alene. The story has it that a group of friends was watching curling on TV and between them, felt they could do the same right in their hometown. So, after grabbing a spaghetti pot, some PVC pipe and a garage push broom, and heading out to a frozen lake, they found their enthusiasm slightly dampened when the apparatus didn’t behave quite the way it did on TV. Probably not unlike a flashback to my youth and paint cans on a frozen back alley. Undaunted and still enthusiastic, they eventually found their way up to the Creston Curling Centre and the curling tradition has grown in numbers for both men and women with our neighbours to the south.
Flash forward to present times with the group just forming a league and ending up with a respectable 12 teams. To give an idea of interest, much of it sparked by watching the sport in the Olympics. They offered a couple of free workshops and had about 300 show up, which is pretty decent in my books. So naturally, why not take it to the next level and host a bonspiel and see what happens? Subsequently, the inaugural Panhandle Bonspiel took place and included some of our folks from up here. At the time of writing this column, it looks like they have 20 teams lined up and the mix is interesting with six of those teams coming from Creston (hmmm, starting to shape up like the War of 1812, perhaps?), four from Spokane, eight from Coeur D’Alene, one from Nelson and, inexplicably, one from Red Deer, Alta.
Also obvious with the relative “newborn” status of curling in CDA, is the frivolity of team naming conventions, as you compare the staid solemnness of some of the Creston teams labeled as an example — McInnes, Wright, Storm, Peet and Thompson — to some of the U.S. teams branded as Lords of Scotland, Borat and his Minions, 4 Hacks and a Skip, Mind – Body – Pants, Rockstar, and Stop!… Hammertime. Perhaps after 200 years, they will come to realize the grave intensity we place on the institution of curling — certainly nothing to be trifled with. OK, maybe if you have ever been to the Valentine or Butterfly bonspiels here, you know that perhaps that is stretching things a bit, at least for a few teams, but I’ll bet our international representatives from Creston had a good time down south and portrayed us well.
Neil Ostafichuk is the recreation supervisor at the Creston and District Community Complex.