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Curling, volunteering and a 20,000km Season

Volunteering and #Curlingfamily adds almost 20,000km to my truck in one season.
I have been accused of being a fearless (???) road warrior and I certainly proved it the season of 2022/23. My travelling partner and beloved passed in 2020 and there were places I still hadn’t seen, NWT being one of many. On advice of Fred Koe (he asked if I liked mosquitoes) I started planning the first stage of my adventure for early fall 2022. It took me from Leduc Alberta to the actual “end of the road” until freeze up, north of Yellowknife NT. Every Canadian needs to drive our amazing North of 60. Natural beauty of falls, massive lakes, wild rock, loose bison, manmade wonder ( 1.045 km Deh Cho bridge over McKenzie River) and incredible kind people are my highlites.
One of those kind people was Shona Barbour, former curling team mate and now coach with Team Galusha. After a unique lunch date, I was invited to join her for day at her campsite, about 45 minutes north of town. She treated me to a canoe ride and I got to cast a fishing line with my ScottiesChicken fishing lure. No fish, but an amazing two hours of peace and pleasant conversation with Shona and her Mom, Pat. An authentic Nfld supper was created and served by Shona’s friends that shared her campsite. I felt like royalty. This feeling continued for whole trip. Next morning I met Linda Koe for breakfast at an interesting hotel, apparently a former hangout of very young adult Kevin and Jaime Koe. She ordered for me and I enjoyed the best fried balogne, eggs and hashbrowns in my life. It’s as much a staple there as where I grew up in north central Saskatchewan in 60’s/70’s. I was then given a thorough tour and history lesson of Yellowknife by Linda. I learned so much that rainy but lovely day.
Later in the week I was invited to a curling practice. Our curling community is a bit spoiled in Leduc, as ice is available almost all year. In Yellowknife, you have to get creative if you wish to practice in August as it’s not practical for the local curling club to be open yet. Shona went to a local indoor hockey arena, put in makeshift hack and pebbled cross wise on a hockey rink. Margot Flemming (Team Galusha third stone chucker) arrived and the two had an inventive hour long practice. Kerry was actually in Leduc as her daughter was participating in curling camp. Sarah Kolton (second) was already back at medical school and JoAnn Rizzo(fourth) lives in Ontario so this team has some unique challenges.
I wanted to accomplish this part of my over 20,000 km curling related adventure in memory of my beloved, but my 61 year old boldness likely would have failed without the kindness and suggestions of the above mentioned members of our truly wonderful lCanadian Curling Community.
That season, I attended as a fan or volunteer 11 major curling events. They were Pan Continental in Calgary, Mixed Canadians at Prince Albert SK, Club Curling Championship at West Edmonton Mall, GSOC in Camrose AB, AB women provincials in Wetaskiwin, AB mens provincials in Edmonton, Scotties in Kamloops BC, Canadian Wheelchair Championship in Moose Jaw Sk, World Mens in Ottawa ON, the U30 Best Of the West in Saskatoon Sk, and lastly, the final GSOC in Regina, SK mid May. Each of those events were my ‘favourite’, at least that is my take away. Something occurs that makes each more special than the last. I am allowed to give back , while meeting new/lifelong/in between friends, players, their family members, and very importantly, those folks that help make these events successful; our paid curling event staff, sponsors, volunteers and ice makers. I’m so grateful to be part of this community as it has truly saved my head and heart in recent years. If you wish to hear my favourite stories of rest of these adventures just look around your local rink or arena. You may just see this chicken hat and jersey wearing Old Gal sharing and giggling with another fan at your curling event. 🐓🫶🥌

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Kerry Galusha

In the heart of the Beaufort Delta, our family’s indigenous roots run deep. My father, Fred Koe, took his first steps onto the curling ice at just 8 years old, back when the rink was nothing more than a two-sheet wonder with lamps hanging from the ceiling and a cozy club room warmed by a potbelly stove. He’d melt snow…

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My Curling Story

My Curling Story by Luba Tasevski

How it all began:

One Saturday morning when I was about 8 or 9 years old, I wake up and made my way to the living room where my older brother was watching tv. I didn’t know what he was watching so I just jumped on the couch next him because I loved spending time with my big brother. Once the commercials where over curling comes on. Not wanting to watch curling at all because I thought curling was soooo boring, I started to get up and leave. My brother then grabbed and pulled me down back on the couch. As I struggled to get away, as I really didn’t want to watch curling, he says to me “give it 10 minutes, I will explain the rules and if you still don’t like it you can go”. I agreed to these terms. I don’t know if it was how he explained the rules, the fact that I was understanding them (lol) or if it was just bonding with my brother but I fell in love with curling.

For the next 20 or so years every year my brother and I would watch the Scotties and Brier together. We would talk strategy and talk about how teams were doing that year as we watch great match after match and great shot after great shot. Even when we no longer lived together in our childhood house, we would still call/text “hey did you see that shot”, “did you see the Canada vs Manitoba game”?

For years we watched great curlers like Colleen Jones, Jennifer Jones and Rachel Holeman lay the groundwork and change the landscape of woman’s curling.

A Tradition is Born:

In 2013 the Scottie were being held in Kingston Ontario and my brother, as a birthday gift, asked me if I wanted to go. With an enthusiastic YES the trip was planned and we attended opening weekend of our first Scotties. I remember going into the KRock for the first time, seeing the ice live and the players warming up and I was smiling ear to ear. I will never forget the first set of matches as the sheet right where we were seated was team Nova Scotia, Colleen Jones’s team. I was a huge Colleen Jones fan and loved how her team changed how woman’s curling was played, she was a true champion. Watching her win 5 of her 6 Scotties getting to see her team play live was a dream come true.

That weekend in Kingston was sooooo cold, negative 15 (negative 25 with the wind-chill) and I remember one match I was so cold that even being bundled up, toque, gloves, big winter jacket plus using my brothers jacket as a blanket and my brother bring me hot chocolate after hot chocolate trying to get warm and I just couldn’t. I will never forget that game as my brother laughed so much on how cold I was, plus watched great curing.

After such a wonderful weekend, that I wished could have lasted a little longer we were on the train headed home. Whilst we traveled, my bother working on his computer and me just starting out the window smiling as I reminisced on the great weekend we had, my bother stops, looks at me and asked me if I had fun. To which I responded Yes. He then asked me if I wanted to do this every year to which I screamed out YES!!! A tradition was born.

An Unfortunate End:

After attending 6 Scotties and 1 Roar of the Rings (the Olympic Trials that year) we were set to go to our 7th Scotties. In 2019 my brother and I attended the Scotties in Sydney, Nova Scotia. During what ended up being almost 30 plus hours in travel to get there; we were on a shuttle from Halifax to Sydney and there was a woman who asked us what brought us to Sydney. I told her the story of how my brother got me into curling and that we go every year together. I told her how we would be doing this until we were old and gray. Not knowing that it would be our last.

2020 hits and COVID shuts down the world and sport have no attendance. 2021 still no one can watch live. Then finally after a few lost years its announced that the people can attend the Scotties again. Our hotel was book, the flight was book and tickets for Championship Weekend were purchased. We were both super excited to be going again. Then unfortunately about two months before we were to go my brother passed away suddenly and unexpectedly.

A New Tradition Begins:

When my brother passed away my heart broke and will most likely forever have a piece missing. I was not able to attend that year for obvious reasons. As I struggle to heal from this loss I think back to my brothers funeral and when I was introduced to some of his colleagues and the first thing they talked about when they found out I was his little sister was how much he talked about our brother and sister curling trips. They told me it was all he could talk about weeks leading up to and for weeks after the trip. They talked about how excited he was to go. Hearing those words made me both cry but also smile knowing how much my brother not only loved this tradition but also how much he loved me.

With the encouragement of family and friends telling me that he wouldn’t want me to stop doing something I loved so much I will once again be attending the (2024) Scotties . With my hubby by my side a new curling tradition will begin. I will never forget the thousands of memories over the year with my brother, I am looking forward to creating new ones with my partner, who happens to love curling just as much as I do.

This is my curling story.

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Four year old Enthusiast

Every year my family rents the hockey rink ice at Christmas and we have a large family getting about 25 skaters out. This year I rented the curling rink and we had 25 immediate family members curling.
It was a blast and we all curled.
We have always been mainly a hockey family but my 4 year old grandson is an enthusiastic curler and the cousins wanted to join the great game of curling!

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My curling nickname

A few years ago myself (Len) and 3 friends (Richard, Pat and Richard) were playing a game in the annual Manitoba Curling Association bonspiel. We were once-a-week average curlers. It was the 5th end, of an 8-end game, and we were down by 4. We had the hammer. When I went to throw the last rock the other team was counting one in the four ft./button area with their shot stone well guarded by mostly other of their stones. My vice-skip and I decided that we would likely make things worse if I tried any shot so we had better just throw my last away. When I went back down to throw the hammer our front end guys said “Len, we are already down 4. Even if we give up a single point the game is essentially over. You might as well try something”. So I went back down and we looked at trying to come off one of ours which was at about the 10 o’clock position outside the house. Surprisingly we made the shot to score 1. As we were pushing the stones away to start the next end my lead, Pat, says to me “well Len you realize you just earned yourself a new nickname… from now on we will call you “Jen” (re: Jennifer Jones’ infamous in-off for a Scotties win).

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Love of the game and how it helped me

I started into curling in my late teens first by watching and than volunteering with different events. When I was younger I didn’t have many friends in school and was very shy. I started curling of and on in my home community in parts of junior and high school in my home community of O’Leary eventually graduating and being home and always wanted to wtch events. Few years after grauduating moved to Summerside and didn’t curl first year but that first year I was around the club and the club had a couple national events that year and meant some great friends still today friends with. Next year starting curling and at one of the events was asked if I be interested in doing some livescoring for some events and this is where things started getting busy and loved doing it. From provincials to some national events cashspiels I would spend my free time going throughout province helping out even some outside PEI and still do it and loving and it’s brought to different events in the maritime and country with some help to watch. Sovereign meeting some many people I have been more confident and willing to help out wherever. Even though not curling more due to be busy with a job that many have helped me get took me awhile b3cause of some learning issues and being busy scoring and watching. Love the game and will continue to help out and go watch wherever. Thanks. Amanda Bulger Summerside, Prince Edward Island

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Curling is Love

Our story goes back to 2002.
I started my curling journey in 1998 at Sydenham Community Curling Club in Wallaceburg ON. I felt an immediate sense of community and instantly fell in love with the game. The club is well known for The Crazy Legs bonspiel. It has drawn attention for over 40 years and is one of the most popular bonspiels for men in Southwestern Ontario. It was there that I met my future husband. As fate would have it, he received a last-minute call asking if he wanted to fill in for someone who had to cancel. He had recently moved to London from the East Coast and had no idea where Wallaceburg was, but he agreed to go. Thank you fate. Thank you curling.
We are celebrating 20 years of marriage this summer. Curling took a backseat over the years while we raised our family. Three kids in competitive sports made for less time on the ice for us. While we couldn’t play as often (a bonspiel here and there), we enjoyed attending any and all events in our city of London ON including The Scotties, The Brier, The Continental Cup, and most recently the STOH-Tankard event in our neighboring community of Dorchester. Three years ago, we were finally able to get back to the sport that brought us together, now playing out of Highland Community Curling Club. I didn’t realize how much I missed it. Our competitive personalities were back, ignoring all of the aches and pains that come with age! Curling is known for its sense of community, belonging and camaraderie. A bad game still ends well as teams gather for beverages and conversation. Friendships are made, and if you are lucky, you may just find your person.
I have a shirt that simply says “curling” with a heart and a curling stone decal. It has two meanings for me: The love of the game, and a reminder of this great sport that brought my husband and I together.

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New Curler in the House

New curler in the house.

My parents were avid curlers. There wasn’t much else to do in Baie Comeau on the wintery north shore of the St. Lawrence in the 1960s. Copper bas-relief plaques of curlers delivering rocks decorated our house, evidence of their participation in regional bonspiels. Their occasional weekends away (we children were farmed out to non-curling parents) were a paradox to me. Much excitement preluded their road trips, signaling good times ahead, but their return was often subdued, whether they won or not. As an adult, I realized their quiet re-entry reflected good times socializing after the games rather than their standing in the bonspiels.

As a child, my memories of watching them on the ice were of boredom and the flappity flap of corn brooms while one adult yelled at the other adults. Their strange, heavy-knit sweaters with crossed brooms on the back only appeared on curling days. I didn’t see the game’s attraction and wondered what allure this practice of throwing rocks with handles on what could have been a perfectly good skating rink held.

My history in sports is limited. As a teenager, I was a strong swimmer (including across Lake Memphremagog one summer camp year) and had a brief interest in badminton. In my twenties, I spent a couple of years learning how to downhill ski at Alta, Utah, and much later, tried cross-country skiing in Canmore. Alberta. There, I had a glimpse of my future when a teenage employee at the Nordic Centre excitedly announced to everyone in the ticket purchase line that I now qualified for their senior rate! I didn’t feel the same joy when I slipped my ID back into my pocket. I had just turned fifty and was under the mistaken assumption I still had 15 years to go. While he processed my pass, I glimpsed my future: Thursdays at Shoppers Drug Mart, early bird specials, winter in Arizona or Florida, eating at 5 p.m., and adding aches and pains to the conversational mix.

Fast forward two more decades, and here I am, a novice curler in Ottawa who couldn’t be happier than when I’m on the ice.
My move back to Ontario after years of enjoying the beauty of Alberta reflected my new status as a grandparent. I continued my corporate career and was lucky to work remotely for several years before Covid made it a norm. I dabbled in orienteering, mainly to discover great places to enjoy nature but used my busy career and eventual switch to contract work as an excuse not to do much exercise except walking.
Things changed in 2022 when I became one of the five women in Canada diagnosed with breast cancer every year. Playing the lottery was never my interest, but here I was, a winner.

What the medical community doesn’t tell you outright is that breast cancer affects you for life. Even after successful treatment, the possibility of a recurrence or lingering cells metastasizing elsewhere is real. There is a profound psychological impact that’s almost impossible for anyone not in the same club to understand.

I focused on learning everything I could about this disease, especially as there was no family history. I attended a support group and met other women, two of whom were curlers. The three of us soon branched off and met weekly for a long walk when we could talk about all things cancer (family and friends soon get tired of this topic.) We felt energized and supported by each other. The conversation sometimes turned to curling, and I’d listen but could not picture myself with a bent knee, sliding gracefully down the ice as my parents did so many years ago.

When I mentioned my doubtful ability to slide from the hack, I learned about the magic of stick curling. One of my Bosom Buddies, as we call ourselves, described how it made the game accessible to those of us with doubtful knees or other challenges. Something deep inside me switched on, and with her encouragement, I joined the Learn to Curl program at the RA Curling Centre of Excellence in Ottawa. Concussion safety is a big focus, and I’m now the proud owner of a dull grey helmet in case I ever check out the ice from an unexpectedly prone position. My granddaughter decided it needed some bling, so it’s now decorated with Maximum 100kms and Slippery When Wet stickers from her collection. I feel protected.

I currently play twice weekly in the women’s daytime draw league and occasionally land a decent shot. My teammates and fellow curlers are kind, patient people who have welcomed me without reservation. Most don’t know I’ve had cancer, nor do I know what ailments they might be facing. Curling is like that – accepting people for who they are, in that moment.

Volunteering at the recent U18 Championship at the RA Centre showed me how curling builds community and connections. Players, coaches, and parents from across the country cheered and supported the competitors and were outstanding examples of fair play, good humour, comradery, and respect for each other. The opportunity to give back through volunteering, even in this early stage of my curling career, has cemented my love for this sport.

When we cleared my parents’ effects after their deaths, none of their curling mementos made the cut. I’m not one to rue the day, but secretly, I wish I had even one of those plaques now. I’d rub it on the way out the door for inspiration and good curling.

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Impossible Shots Contest

In the mid 1970’s, 3 club curlers asked me to skip their team in the Manitoba Curling Association Bonspiel. Although we curled well, we did not make the playoffs,

But, most memorably, in a game against one of the top-ranked curlers in the country at the time, I was called upon to make a circus shot that no-one else thought was possible.

We were trailing by 1 shot playing the final 2 shots of the final end. My opponent had a counter on the button, and decided to block direct contact with, or access to, rocks in the 4-foot circle. He accomplished that feat, but I had already visualized another shot which remained open to me. My teammates had given up on the game, but I described the shot I intended to try, (and hopefully make). I have to explain that difficult in-offs were rarely attempted, and even more rarely made, in those days. There was an opposing rock at about 4:30 just outside the 4-foot circle in a position from which I could hit 2/3 of the rock and glance onto (and remove) their counter.

|I said “What the heck! Let’s give it a whirl.” Our opponents literally laughed at the audacity of my proposed shot.

Needless to say, I shocked everyone, both on and off the ice, by executing the shot perfectly to score a couple and win the game.

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Curling as a social lifeline

A good friend and former skip of mine once told me, “You’ll always find good people at the curling club.” I never truly appreciated the meaning behind those words until I needed those ‘good people’ the most.
Three years ago, I relocated from Calgary to the Lower Mainland to start a new chapter in my life. The move was one of the biggest challenges and disruptions I had faced. Although I was attempting to redefine myself in a new city, I was completely alone. No friends, no family, no support. Realizing how much the relocation and loneliness was impacting my mental wellness, I turned to curling for solace.
Back in Calgary, I had curled with the same team for years at a variety of clubs across the city. Now I faced the challenge of finding a new club and a team that would accept someone new and unknown. After a bit of research, I discovered that the Port Moody Curling Club was relatively close to where I lived (since I didn’t have a car) and featured a league where they set the teams at the beginning of the season. That format was perfect for me: Sign up and the league would simply welcome me in. I joined and, slowly, I started to get to know my new teammates and the other curlers in that league. The experience was so rewarding I signed up to be a spare for another night despite not knowing anyone in that league.
After a season of travelling to the club once if not twice a week via transit, I decided to move into Port Moody to be part of that community, Being able to now walk to the club (in spite of the West Coast rain), I joined three leagues in my second season and discovered a whole club full of ‘good people’. I truly experienced firsthand how community is built into the fabric of the game. Here I am now, in my third season with the PMCC, playing in four leagues and volunteering on the board of directors. Clearly, I enjoy the sport, but more importantly, I found community and friends in the ‘good people’ at the Port Moody Curling Club.
Starting a new chapter in my life and relocating somewhere new was stressful and challenging. Thankfully, curling became a social lifeline that helped me thrive.

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