Those that know me know I am a member of the Royal City Curling Club, the best curling club in the Lower Mainland and a hidden gem of New Westminster. Most of you, however, have probably never been inside the club on East 6th. I can’t tell you the number of people who have lived in New West for years, even frequent the Canada Games Pool, and have probably driven or walked by the club dozens of times, but tell me they just didn’t notice the big brown building with all the shouting inside.
This weekend, I am going to be inside the club a lot, so I figured I would blog it out, from inside. Take you into the world of a curling club that is just like any of hundreds of similar clubs across Canada, on a bonspiel weekend. I can’t tell you everything, as every bonspiel is a little like Vegas – there are things that happen in a Curling Club during a ‘spiel that stay at the ‘spiel.
This weekend is the Dogwood Bonspiel. This is an annual Men’s bonspiel. It is open to members of the club and non-members, males of any age. It is generally a social ‘spiel as opposed to a more competitive “cash spiel” or the competitive spiels used to determine who represents the region at Provincials, or BC at the Brier. The Dogwood is more about the good times, friendly competition, and the liberal application of beer to any problems that may crop up.
I should note, as a Scot, that the Scottish have invented three sports: Curling, Golf, and Darts. All three have bars attached.
The Dogwood is a guaranteed three-game affair. There are three events, and all 32 teams start in the ‘A’ event. Lose your first game, you are down to the ‘B’; lose your second game, you are down to the ‘C’; every game after that is an elimination game. This, along with dinner drinks and dancing on Saturday night, is all you need to know about the bonspiel.
Tonight we play Jared Wannamaker from the Gibsons Club. He is probably the best player on the Sunshine Coast. I’m playing with two brothers who I have played with for years (actually, I played with them last time I played Wannamaker, at the Pacific Club Challenge about a decade ago…), and a guy who volunteers on the RCCC board with me. We are in it for the beer, but might win a game or two.
Game is a tipsy-turvy affair. We steal two points in the first (“stealing” means they had last rock advantage, but we scored) and they blanked the second (“blank is when they have a chance to score one, but choose to instead score zero, to hold onto last rock advantage for the next end). It didn’t do them much good, as we stole two more in the third, and one more in the fourth. 5-0, game is pretty much over. Then they score two, make a miracle shot to steal third, and we are tied again. The curling gods giveth, they taketh away. My last shot of the last end is a team effort: Third calls the line perfectly, two sweepers read the weight perfectly, and they have to throw a miracle shot to win… But they already used up their miracle this game. We are still in the ‘A’.
Then we drank some beers. Oh, and I had to get a picture of me with Dale Hockley. This is one of the magic parts of curling. Dale was an RCMP officer in Castlegar when I was growing up, and he was far and away the best curler in the club. It helps he was also a hell of a good cop – the kind of RCMP officer that a troublemaking teenager like me can talk to and respect. Hell of a nice guy, great curler, good cop – a perfect gentleman. Of course, I dont live in Castlegar anymore, nor does Dale. But 25 years later, we can meet at a cruling rink, have a social beer, and I can get a picture to show my Parents (who have forsaken curling for more tropical retirement pursuits) that Dale is doing well, still curling, and still a perfect gentleman.
OK, next game tomorrow at noon, and it’s my round.