By RYAN KING
PORT AUX BASQUES — The Gateway Curling Club hosts curling at the Bruce II Sports Complex and features two dedicated curling sheets. The club is run by a team of volunteer and currently boasts around 60 adult members. The Curling Club usually starts playing in October and finishes near the end of March or around Easter. Dr. David Thomas has been the club’s President for several years and is very much looking forward to the new season.
“We have three different adult leagues a week. We have a Sunday league, a Tuesday evening, and our Thursday evening league. We have Juniors and we have Little Rocks. So Juniors is 8 and up, and Little Rocks is our introductory program, which actually uses little rocks, smaller rocks, and it is ages 5 to 7,” explained Thomas.
He said that the success of the club is due in large part to its volunteers who keep things running, from installing and managing the ice to running the bar. It’s not all work however; the sport offers up a chance for people to connect to their community.
“We got people as young as five in our junior curling club program. We got people as old, I think, as 78 currently in our curling program, and it’s a real nice sport that anybody can do at any level, as competitive or as non-competitive as they want to be. It’s a great social event. After curling there’s always time to socialize and have a drink after the game if that’s what you do, but at the same time, you can be competitive,” said Thomas. “So it’s a great sport for being involved as much as you want. I would love to see it grow in Port aux Basques.”
Being competitive at the club can certainty lead to some interesting moments, such as when Thomas was able to steal an end from the world-famous Team Gushue.
“My men’s team, yeah, so that’s our claim to fame. We did steal an end from Team Gushue and that’s really hard to do, and hasn’t been done very much in our province, but we did manage to steal the end. Now we lost the game miserably, but we did steal an end from them, so we were happy with that. They’re great sports and they were happy to beat us I’m sure, but that was a little trophy for us. I’ve actually played Gushue in the mixed doubles, so that’s one man and one lady. We played against, myself and Jenna Harvey here, played it against Gushue and his daughter in the mixed provincials, and beat them in the last end. We took three in the last end to beat Gushue and his daughter,” shared Thomas. “Brad’s a great sport, so it was a good game, a good tournament. Then me and Jenna, we won the mixed doubles when the tournament was here in Port aux Basques actually. So we were Provincial Mixed Doubles Champions two years ago and went off to Nationals in Fredericton.”
All skill levels, even those who have no experience whatsoever, can join the club and free lessons are offered. Thanks to a Jumpstart grant from Canadian Tire, kids who are interested can show up and equipment will already be there.
“It’s a nice, cheap sport. You just need clean indoor footwear and stretchy pants, and we have brooms available for kids. We have helmets available. We have the sliders available for anybody that doesn’t have a slider, so they can have a slippery foot so they can slide out. We offer free lessons. We’ll set people up. They don’t need to be experienced. They don’t even need to be good. It really doesn’t matter. If people can’t get down and slide, we have stick curling. So you can throw the rock with a stick,” said Thomas. “We really do try to be as inclusive and accommodating as possible.”
Staying safe during the pandemic has always been important to the club. Last year they were unable to offer Juniors due to restrictions.
“We are offering Juniors again. We are offering adults. We still require masks, of course, as we would. The vaccine passport now will be a part of what we have to do. So as with all indoor recreational activities, all our members now will have to be fully vaccinated to join. The kids, of course, can’t. Under 12 can’t be vaccinated. So masks, of course, will be required as per the guidelines with public health. We’re still doing the cleaning. We still have the hand sanitizer. We still make sure that social distancing happens, but we do have the ability to have a few more people in our club this time,” explained Thomas. “We just can’t wait to have a full season. This will be, hopefully, our first full season out of three, because we had to close up early last year and early the year before, so we’re looking forward to a full year this year.”
As with any sort of sport competition, there will also be prizes.
“In the formal provincial tournaments, you get your banner that the club gets, and you go off to nationals. Within our spiels and things, we have trophies for each league. We offer bonspiels throughout the year. There are usually four different bonspiels that we do throughout the year, and businesses will often donate prizes. There’s all kinds of stuff. I’ve won towels and sweaters, and hats and gas cards and Tim Horton’s cards – you name it. The businesses around here have been really supportive of us. Our spiels are always a good time, I must say, and there’s always lots of prizes to give away.”