Curling rocks: Grand County teams get swept up in icy sport of strategy
On the frigid IceBox Ice Rink, classic rock played in the background as a bundled curler squatted, one hand gripping the handle of a round, polished stone.
With a push, the curler slid forward Tuesday night and released the rock. It glided forward as another player — the skip — shouted: “Sweep-sweep-sweep. Stop!”
Two teammates frantically brushed the path according to the skip’s commands, as the heavy curling stone glided across the ice, aimed at the center of the marked target known as the button.
It hit another stone with a satisfying clunk that echoed across the rink and brought cheers from the four-person team.
Curling has found a foothold in Grand County with a dozen teams making up this year’s league operated by the Fraser Valley Recreation District.
The Legion of Broom joined the league for the first time this season. While many on the team had watched curling before, mid-January was their first time actually playing it.
“We didn’t know what we were doing at all,” Geoff Hannan said. “We were clueless but in a good way. We had a lot of help from the other team too.”
The teammates likened curling to chess or battleship, which require strategy and skill, but with an atmosphere similar to an “extra large bar game,” according to Kelsey Young.
“It’s nice to do something competitive but fun,” teammate Kelley Guillen added. “Improving every week, that’s my favorite part.”
And improve they have. The young team lost their first two games but won the two most recent ones going into their fifth game on Tuesday.
The Legion of Broom is one of the younger teams in the league, but players of all ages enjoy the game. The Sweep Rockers are made up of couples in their 60s and 70s who have been curling at the IceBox since it was brought there.
Lori Orzech is credited by her team for helping to get the stones rolling in Grand County. It was the 2018 Winter Olympics, in which the US men’s curling team won gold, that piqued her interest.
“We were sitting at the pub watching the Olympics and thought, ‘This looks like fun, we should have a curling team up here,’” Orzech recalled.
She and her future teammates started looking into buying a curling set. Made of granite and weighing 44 pounds each, the 16 curling stones needed for one game were a bit too expensive to obtain privately.
However, Fraser Valley Rec was able to eventually obtain two sets of the stones, which is what the teams competed with Tuesday night. Lynn Hanna, who helps set up the 150-foot long curling sheet, was praised for growing the league into what it is today.
“They have really, really taken it seriously for us,” said Roger Odneal, another member of the Sweep Rockers. “Lynn has done a great job improving the quality of the ice every year … It’s really, really been great.”
The game is easy to pick up and participate in. It requires less exertion than many other sports with the most intense part being the sweeping, which helps the stones travel. Most of the game is skill.
“There’s a lot more finesse to it than you would really think,” Hannan said.
Playoffs for the curling league begin April 2 and continue all day April 3. The championship will be April 5, and spectators are welcome to stop by anytime.
Hanna hopes to add a third lane next season if enough teams are interested. Everyone at the games Tuesday night agreed the league has been a great way to socialize.
“It’s a great group of people,” Orzech said. “We’ve all had fun and met so many people.”
Part of that camaraderie might come from a unique rule for the league: The winners buy beer for the losing team.
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