If you think that “hog line” has something to do with pigs, that “house” is a program on television and that an “eight-ender” doesn’t even bear discussion, then you are obviously not a curler.
People who understand the intricacies of this very popular winter sport have called curling “chess on ice.” And, there’s good news for those of us who are aging, because, unlike other sports that rely on virtues such as speed, strength and endurance, curlers rely on skill, accuracy, strategy and experience to be successful.
In Manitoba there are three levels of competition in ladies’ curling, sanctioned by the Manitoba Curling Association. The “Scotties” level includes all players under the age of 50. The “Seniors” is for players aged 50-plus and the “Masters” level is for competitors over 60 years old. (It should also be noted that there is a “Juniors” category for girls).
However, many years ago an independent organization for ladies over 60 sprouted up in Brandon and now the Golden Gals Competition is province-wide. One zone, which is very large, extending from the Parkland almost to Portage la Prairie, is represented by Cheryl Orr from Minnedosa and Evelyn Clegg, Marianne Mochnacz and Linda Stinchcombe all of Onanole.
It costs only $20 to play within your zone and nothing at all to compete provincially. In 2008 the provincials were held in Stonewall and in 2009 they were held in Dauphin. This year the competition took place from February 8 to 11 in Killarney, where 16 teams from all over Manitoba battled it out for the championship. A social evening on February 7 kicked things off.
The competitive flights are organized into “A” Side and “B” Side, where winners play winners and losers play losers, with a “double knockout,” which means if you lose two games in a row, you are out of the competition. This level of curling is one step up from recreational curling, as the players are keenly competitive.
Way, way back when I participated in the game of curling, we used straw brooms for “sweeping” in front of the curling rocks. A stray straw could stop your rock dead on the spot, or send it spinning off in an unpredictable direction. The next generation of broom was called a “rat,” sort of a beavertail style that made an incredibly loud sound in the rinks as they pounded back and forth in front of the rocks. Nowadays, it’s called “brushing” not “sweeping” and the brooms have gone high tech, made of fibreglass or carbon fibre.
Why do members choose to participate in the Golden Gals? Skip, Evelyn Clegg says they just pack up the van with suitcases and brooms and head out to enjoy the sociality of the sport. “The play is challenging and you need to be physically fit to perform well,” she said.
Cheryl Orr said, “I am an avid curler who just loves the game,” and Marianne Mochnacz summed it up, “The competition is incredible and it’s lots of fun.”
These Golden Gals really rock. “You go gals!”
– Candy Irwin writes from
Lake Audy, Manitoba