Darnell Duff and the Online Community of Curlers
This is a story I should have shared for last year’s Curling Day in Canada; however, I did not submit the story in time.
To say that Curling Clubs are “an interesting establishment” does not quite cover the nuances of what to expect from a Curling Club. You see a variety of talent, a variety of personalities, and (in almost every case) you find a strong Community. There are thousands of stories we could use to help highlight this point.
With Covid-19 making its way through most Canadian Provinces and Territories, March 2020 ended that Curling Season for every Curler in the Country and a lockdown (or stay at home) expectation from Public Health. Everyone was in their homes looking for ways to pass the time (now that they could not curl), and a lot of Curlers found their way to a simple game website called FlyOrDie.com
In the beginning this was a way to alleviate some boredom for a large number of people. Soon people began to recognize each other, which led to conversations and games. Then people began brainstorming some ideas such as Online Replacements for their typical Year End Bonspiels, Paige Papley (and a few others) have organized Sandra Schmirler Donation Fundraising Bonspiels. Events like this were very popular in the first 60 days of the Covid Lockdowns.
What later developed for a couple dozen of us was a Virtual Community.
We met some wonderful people; although, I want to start by presenting what it looked like for a new person to join this Virtual Curling Community.
This Online Community opened the door to meeting people that the average Curler would never have met in person. You would join one of our events, and were being introduced to someone who may have lived in Ontario, Alberta, the Northwest Territories, or even Scotland or Italy. You might have seen a local familiar face, or met someone who lived internationally.
Events were themed and would sometimes mirror whatever event was going on in the world (Brier or Scotties themed, Worlds, Continental Cup). Traditionally it would be either Pool Play, or Double/Triple Knockout Format. Message Groups would be created based on the design of the Event, and then players would talk to each other and arrange their games.
Thanks to Gerry Geurts; a number of the Events were published to CurlingZone. Records, Linescores, Brackets, and even some of the games were Live Streamed via the CurlingZone Youtube site. When there was a large enough population in the Community, there were separate Leagues created to house all of the people who were interested in joining Darnell’s Curling Community.
Personally, I think that is an exciting opportunity for a person. Imagine that you are a recreational curler (or even someone who does not actually curl in a league), and you have the opportunity to play against anyone from around the world, possibly play in a live broadcast stream game AND have your name appear on CurlingZone. With the added bonus if you happen to beat a well known player (I happen to beat Jacques Gauthier. It may not have been on real curling ice, but I have a story to tell and CurlingZone says I beat him so insert silly laughter here).
Regardless of whether you were a good curler or not, you got to meet some wonderful people. The Virtual Community allowed us to talk with people who we will likely never be in the same room with at any point in our lives, and allowed us to make temporary or permanent bonds with other Curlers.
There are too many people to list. Some of the Curlers who would be known to a lot of Canadian Players are Josh Barry, Jason Ginter, Johnson Tao, Daniel Deng, Jamie Brennan, Alex Robichaud, Dan Sherrard, Ryan Jacques, Kyle Doering, Greg Smith, Chris Jeffrey, Mark Kean, and Reid Carruthers.
There are a lot of us in the Community who are not quite as well known as these Curlers; however, the overall message of my story is that Darnell created a Virtual Community when we could not be with our Local Curling Community. Like the Ice Techs and the Bonspiel Chairs who invest time into their local curling community, Darnell invested his time and helped build a community of curlers who were strangers to each other only a year or so ago. (Mark Kean also deserves an honourable mention for his Runback League of Curl Community).
I have met Brier and Scotties champions, Olympics Trial athletes, Europeans, and even a player from an Alabama Curling Club. Never would I have ever met these wonderful people in my life if it was not for the Virtual Curling Community. It is hard to convey how fantastic it has been.
Like the Ice Techs, Volunteers, Organizers, and several other behind the scenes Curling Figures – Darnell Duff has earned my respect.