It has all happened because of curling, and we love it!
Of all the wonderful things I have discovered in the 50 years since I immigrated to Canada, the one which has given me the most pleasure, and one that has introduced us to new friends and destinations, is the game of curling. From the first time I saw the game played on the television at the 404 Wing Airforce Club in Waterloo, Ontario, back in 1971, I was amazed that one could stand up and run on the ice while sweeping!. The game seemed to be both friendly and fun. At the club, I was invited to play a game with friends and learned how darned difficult the game was! But, that one experience had me seriously hooked.
Sadly, it would be another 16 years before I had a chance to get on the ice, again. My wife and I decided that we needed a Winter activity and went to the Grimsby Curling Club’s Open House where we were given a free lesson and shown how much fun it is to play, and how friendly everyone was (clever…get ‘em on the ice and buy them a drink!). We joined the mixed curling league that Autumn, curled for over a decade until a fall on the ice, and concussion, ended my curling (balance and dizziness). Yet, we remain convinced that the game is so much more than what one sees on the TV!
Over the years, we ran, and played in, a club bonspiel each season. These fundraising events were a huge enjoyment, win or lose, and we made many friends along the way. Our first volunteering was for the 2011 Ontario Tankard when it came to Grimsby. This was the next step up for us and we had a ball which led us to volunteer for the 2017 Scotties Tournament of Hearts (in St Catharines, Ontario). We, next attended the Men’s World Championships in both Toronto and London Ontario. We know both of these cities well and going to the games was a mini holiday.
However, the most interesting and, in the end, most rewarding experience which curling provided us was during the 2014 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, held in Montreal in February. Montreal that February lived up to its reputation of COLD. In the middle of a three week long, Polar Vortex, cold snap it was more than bitter cold and getting to the Maurice Richard Arena on public transport was proof of our commitment to the game as the closest we could get was 5 blocks from the Arena in -21C weather and major wind!
The curling was terrific, as were the “Meet the Teams” events at the HeartStop Lounge. But, what made your time there was the introduction we had to downtown Montreal in Winter. We appreciate what family who live there say about the cold. We are experienced!
Very early on, we learned that it is far more convenient to travel by train from the Toronto area (we live in Niagara) to Montreal and had stayed in other hotels there, before. For this trip, we opted for a hotel affiliated with the event. “Hotel Square Philips” was chosen because of it being just a block from Central Station. Due to the frigid weather this proved a blessing as we were introduced a wonderful hotel and, as we were not ready to venture too far afield for dinner, to one of the city’s best pizza restaurants, “Il Foccoliao” (76 different Pizzas!!) just down the street. The hotel has turned into our Montreal destination. As well, we must have at least one meal at IL Foccolaio every time we go to the city. Owner Sergio (son of the founders) is the most hospitable person we have met in Montreal. Well, I have to add, save for his best server, Vito!
We have introduced friends from the U.S. to both the hotel and Sergio’s restaurant, and have had 2 Birthday get togethers there with my boys from the U.S.. Sadly, not this past year or, likely this.
None of these wonderful experiences would have happened had it not been for our involvement with, and enjoyment of, the game of Curling. Nor would we be able to look forward to returning, over and over, to a part of Montreal we discovered one frigid February 7 years ago because we wanted to go and see the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
Bud Hightower, Grimsby, Ontario
“Braving the -21C temperatures to pose with my favourite Hockey player, Maurice Richard in front of the arena named in his honour.”
Photo in the story:
“The first end…2014 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Montreal”