After trying to get my wife to watch Curling with me during the winter Olympics too many times, she purchased a Groupon for a Learn to Curl session at Chicago Curling Club. That was three years ago. In that time I’ve gotten the chance to do so much all because of curling. This next month will wrap up my third season and will also close one chapter in my club’s history. It’s been quite a ride overall but this year has been exceptional.
With our membership numbers shrinking due to not having a true club to call our home, I was asked to step-up and be a skip (Curling speak for captain). Not only was I going to be skipping, but I also was going to be bringing a few new members into the club. My mom, Linda; her good friend, Lori; and my brother, Christopher. To cap it off, they were also going to be my team. That at least took the edge off things; if we sucked I was only really disappointing new curers who wouldn’t really know the difference.
Leading a team on the ice is something I had never done. At any other club someone with as little experience as me would never get that chance. But that’s the magic of Windy City Curling. We’re a scrappy little club that does everything it can just to get our hands on any ice time, and look to all of its members to help out in any way possible. Ever since the USA took gold in the 2018 Olympics our tiny little club has been overrun with requests for Learn to Curl’s, corporate events, and rookie leagues. It’s been really tough to balance the growth of the club through these events while trying to keep our own members happy. Remember we want to curl too, not just teach!
While the first two leagues this season were self-formed teams, our “Championship League” is a draft. Again I was picked to be a skip so I drafted my team: one of my friends from the club, along with two new members. Unfortunately, I was going to miss a few of these games due to work, travel, and other bonspiels that I had planned. But at the end of regular round robin play, we were in second place despite only really playing a total of two games together as a full team. The team in first place was only ahead of us by one win, but they included one player that never thought she would get there: my mom. She just started curling this year, and even though she uses a delivery stick, she has turned herself into one of the best leads in the whole club.
Going into the final game for the championship (which had to be postponed by a week due to a broken zamboni :facepalm:), I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. We had just played the same team two weeks ago and got blown out. I really didn’t want that to happen again - not just for me but for my team and the club. What good is a championship game when it’s totally lopsided? Well, I got my wish. I’ll spare you the total play-by-play, but let me set the scene because it was something out of a movie.
Tied up in the last end, my opponent’s last rock was sitting two inches into the 4-foot, sitting shot. I have an relatively open hit to knock him out and win the game. We debate a bit as to how the last shot should be thrown and now it’s all in my hands. I throw, but the aim is slightly off… and that’s it. Instead of getting into the house, my last rock wrecks on the pile of guards up front and my season is over. I’m crushed.
Two seconds after that, I look up and see the other skip, my friend Eric, and his entire team celebrating. Including my mom. In an instant I go from lowest low to highest high. Am I pissed that I lost that game, of course. But how happy am I for my friends who just won? Ecstatic. I’ve always been told that curling is a social activity as much as it is a sport. I enjoy having a beer with my friends and competitors when I get off the ice. But it wasn’t until that game that I truly understood the bond that we have, not just as curlers but as a club.
With our club’s championship league completed, I turn myself to the next challenge: U.S. Arena Nationals. I was lucky enough to be asked to be part of the team that gets to represent our club at a national level event against 19 other teams from around the country. It’s going to be the final time that we as Windy City Curling get to compete in this event as we’re finally moving to our own facility this spring/summer. I’ll be excited, nervous, and just about every other emotion you can think of until we hit the ice for that first game. But when I do, then it’s just time to compete.