Curling in Canada

Only warming up: Telluride local J.D. Wise, competing in Canada. (Courtesy photo)

Curling may be centuries old, but it’s relatively new to the U.S.

Telluride residents J.D. Wise and his wife, Megan, learned about it the way many Americans did: by watching the intriguing new sport, in which a 42-pound slab of inherently recalcitrant granite is coaxed across ice to a circular target, during the Winter Olympics.

They were living in sweltering Phoenix, Arizona at the time.

“We googled, ‘Can you learn to curl in Phoenix?’” Megan recalled. “It turned out, we could.”

It turned out that curling is extremely popular in the Valley of the Sun — “they play seven days a week,” Megan said — and she and J.D. became hooked. They continued curling, this time as members of the Broadmoor Curling Club, following a move to Colorado Springs. When they relocated to Telluride, no more curling! There was, however, ice aplenty at the Hanley Rink, so the Wises (who are both certified Level 1 Curling Instructors) founded the Telluride Curling Club.

Over the course of five seasons, they’ve offered over 200 students instruction; they’ve also received hundreds of communiques from the U.S. Curling Association. An email earlier this year offered a chance to play for the U.S. in the “inaugural CanAm Cup of Curling.” Just 20 spots were available; a key criteria was one’s “contributions to the sport.”

“Founding the Telluride Curling Club was considered a pretty big contribution,” Megan said, and J.D. was selected for a two-and-a-half week tour of Eastern Canada along with 19 other Americans. Their foray up north is intended to foster camaraderie between neighboring nations in this most, well, sporting of team sports (a key credo of curling, according to the World Curling Federation, is that “A player would rather lose than win unfairly”).

J.D. departed last Friday for Halifax, Nova Scotia, for a match the next day against the Curling Club of Halifax, followed by a banquet. Over the past week, the process has been similar: greet, compete, eat, repeat. There’s been feasting on seafood — “fish and chips, lobster, all sorts of stuff,” Megan said. Numerous songs have been sung, friendships forged, and curling brooms raised in jaunty salute, creating “tunnels” for visiting team members to pass beneath at each locale. “A city like Halifax has half-a-dozen venues devoted solely to curling,” Megan said. “It’s a great, friendship-building tour, modeled on the so-called Scots Tour” (curling was founded in Scotland). The hope is that in five years, the U.S. can return the favor, and host a visiting team of players from Canada (the Wises hope one of those stops will be Telluride).

Reached Thursday afternoon via WhatsApp, J.D. reported he was “behind glass,” taking in a match. “I have a bye today,” he explained. “I’ve got a beer in my hand,” a Nova Scotian brew, Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale. “It’s been an incredible trip so far,” he said. “We’re at the point where we’re playing two matches a day,” against two different clubs.

“The hospitality we’ve been shown as we’ve travelled around has been incredible,” he said between sips. “We’ve flown to Halifax, curled there, flew to Newfoundland and curled for a few days. Since then, we’ve worked our way to Prince Edward Island and to New Brunswick.”

He ticked off the locales with relish. “I’ve not been to any of these places before,” he said. “It’s been a treat to check out these new areas, and see some country I’ve never seen.”

The Americans have been playing hard, and no wonder. They’re competing in a country renowned for ice sport. “One of the teams they were competing against included a couple of Canadian Gold Medal winners,” Megan reported.

The Canadians and their U.S. counterparts have been keeping cumulative score, and at the end of the day Thursday, Megan relayed the latest tally to this reporter. Canada had been ahead all week.

Her text, in toto: “Canada 187. US 185!”

Go to canamcurling.com to follow along.