By Craig Lord –
Some call it tradition for Canadian kids to rise early and head out onto the ice for a game, and their parents typically watch from the stands with a cup of coffee. It’s no different at the Granite Club in Westboro, but if you’re picturing a hockey rink, think again.
Little Rocks has been raising curlers in Ottawa for decades. On February 21, the Granite Club will host a bonspiel for the kids, aged six to 12, to test their new skills. For director Gary Findley, the bonspiel represents important aspects of the program.
“It’s one of those big things for them, that at this age, they learn how to compete in a healthy way,” he says.
Organizers do keep score at the bonspiel. Findley says that while it’s not always about winning, kids should always know how they can improve.
“It’s a nice sport. I’m fairly good at it, as well,” says Luka Cule. He sounds sure of himself, and you wouldn’t doubt his confidence if you saw his form as a skip. Cule is in his final year of the Little Rocks program and will move to the bantam league next year. Although he is getting older, his attraction to curling isn’t changing.
“Apparently, once you get to high school, schedules get more bunched up. There’s much more stuff that you need to get done. But I hope I keep doing curling.”
For Jennifer Hanna, curling never stopped. Two Newswest articles hang in the Granite Club from 1978 and 1988, picturing Hanna with her Little Rocks team. Now a coach for the program with a daughter learning the game, she’s hoping to pass on a few lessons.
“I’ve attributed my ability to work in a team to curling. I’ve attributed my leadership skills to curling. There aren’t many sports you can play on teams that are small teams. You get the team dynamics, but it’s in a small space so it’s different,” she says.
Once a month, a celebrity curler will also come in to help inspire the curlers. Jean-Michel Ménard, the first Quebecois winner of the Tim Hortons Brier, visited the club this month. With a daughter of his own, he believes this is the time to give back to curling.
“It’s my time to promote the sport. There’s a lot of new curlers, and the older guys are going away. So programs like these are the perfect scenario to get people into the game,” says Ménard.
Hanna says that getting kids started in curling early can have lasting effects.
“It’s become, in my eyes, a sport that you can play right from this age to all the way up to when you’re 90 years old. You can play as competitive as you want and as recreationally as you want. I think that appeals to so many people.”
The Granite Club bonspiel will begin Saturday at 8:30 a.m. and it’s open to the public. Families interested in curling may want to stop by to see what the Little Rocks community has to offer. The Granite Club is located at 2026 Scott St. More information is available online at ottawagranite.com.