Curling, like many other sports and social activities, took a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic with temporary shutdowns and related restrictions. This season has meant a return to normal for local curling clubs, with all of them are experiencing varying levels of recovery after three uncertain seasons.
About 86 people have been members of the Vankleek Hill Curling Club this season, according to President Don MacNaughton. There were about 125 members at the club before COVID, but some older curlers did not return. Leagues are on Vankleek Hill’s two sheets of ice each Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday during the day and evenings.
A series of bonspiels have been held this season in Vankleek Hill. The next one is the Town and Country Bonspiel on the evening of Tuesday, March 7. The biggest bonspiel of the year in Vankleek Hill is the fundraiser for the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, which took place on February 11.
MacNaughton said the past three years have been a struggle for all curling clubs, but he is hopeful for the future of the club in Vankleek Hill.
“We’re starting to bounce back,” he said.
“It’s going good this year,” added MacNaughton.
The Vankleek Hill Curling club turned 100 years old in 2020. However, COVID-19 put a stop on any plans to celebrate the centennial. Curlers are not usually ones to give up an excuse for a party though, so the club will celebrate 100 years with a catered dinner on April 15.
At the Alexandria Curling Club, there are 206 members, an increase from the 150 to 160 members the club had during the height of the pandemic, according to President Duncan Ferguson.
“Unlike some other clubs in the region, we opted to remain open during the pandemic, in as far as was permitted by the various restrictions enacted by the government throughout the period,” Ferguson said.
He believes the club did better financially by doing its best to stay open, even though it operated at a loss for two years. The club fortunately had a contingency fund it made use of and received some assistance from CurlON—the Ontario Curling Association. However, the club was not eligible for other government support programs.
In Alexandria, there is league curling every evening of the week and daytime curling on Tuesdays and Wednesdays on four sheets of ice.
“We are optimistic for the future and have a very strong adult learn to curl program that has been feeding us new members year after year. We will continue to rely on that program to introduce new members to the sport of curling and show them just how fun (and affordable) this winter activity can be,” Ferguson said.
He added that the Alexandria Curling Club has had bonspiels scheduled for every weekend of the season.
Maxville is home to the Glengarry Curling Club. According to Secretary Morgan MacQueen, the club weathered the pandemic fairly well and has maintained about 118 members throughout. There are also 25 junior players at the club. Leagues are on the three sheets of ice every weeknight and twice during the daytime.
“This year we have 14 bonspiels/gatherings scheduled and in the 2019-2020 year before COVID we had 17 so we are pretty close in numbers there as well,” MacQueen said.
Brownsburg and Lachute
The Brownsburg Curling Club has about 100 members, according to President René Thibault. Games are played every evening and weekends are reserved for rentals and training.
The club was closed completely during the height of COVID-19 restrictions. Thibault said membership dropped during that time and has not rebounded. He said for the club to remain financially healthy, there should be about 50 members per each of the clubs three sheets of ice.
“I just want to make enough money to keep the club healthy,” said Thibault.
No bonspiels were scheduled in Brownsburg this season.
“That’s something we have to get back into,” Thibault said.
However, the long-standing rivalry with the Club de Curling Lachute continues. Teams from the two clubs play each other a series of times during the season, with the winner being awarded the Argenteuil Cup.
The Review contacted the Club de Curling Lachute, but did not receive a response. According to the club’s website, there are leagues playing throughout the week during both daytime and evenings.
The Lachute club also offers training opportunities for curlers. A Curl ‘n Dine bonspiel is also taking place at the Club de Curling Lachute on March 3.