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Stick curling is much more than wins and losses for a decorated duo for Cornwall.
Ruth Stavert and Gloria Clarke have won eight of the 11 Maritime championships that have been played, but the sport’s impact on them goes much deeper. It has kept them active and having fun while building new relationships in retirement.
“We all like to win, don't get me wrong. None of us would ever go out on the ice and not try our best to win. But trying your best is different than always winning,” Clarke said. “Winning is great, but it’s kind of secondary.”
Clarke said the friendships stand out the most to her. She enjoys playing the sport with friends and taking trips to Maritime competitions to catch up with her peers.
“It’s just a wonderful fraternity of friends,” she said. “You only see them once a year, but you feel like you know them more than that.”
“There’s always a great hugging time when we meet one another,” Stavert added.
Seven Island teams competed in the recent Maritime Stick Curling Championships in Woodstock, N.B.
- The Cornwall Curling Club’s Ruth Stavert and Gloria Clarke won the women’s division.
- Victor Hogan and Alvin Hackett from the Western Community Curling Club in Alberton lost in the semifinal of the open division, where teams can be any combination of male and/or female.
- Three rinks – Gordon MacDonald and Floyd Stewart from Montague, Anne Barwise and Audrey Callaghan from Western and the Etta Reid and Elaine Hughes duo from Cornwall – made it to the quarter-finals.
- Walter Callaghan and Roger Gavin from Western and reigning Ferguson-Logan Montague Funeral Home P.E.I. Stick Curling Championship open division winners Sherrill Barwise and Bill Smith, also from the Alberton club, didn’t advance to the playoff round.
- The Maritime event concluded the P.E.I. stick curling season, as an event scheduled for Monday, March 23, at the Western club was cancelled.
The duo’s path to stick curling is different, but the love of sport and friendship that sport has provided them is very similar.
Stavert, a 70-year-old Cornwall resident, began curling in 1970 in the old Montague club.
She curled most of her life except for about a six-year stretch where she was busy taking her children to their sporting events.
In 2013, she had hip replacement surgery and during her six-week checkup asked her orthopedic surgeon if she could return to curling. The surgeon said she could try it.
A few days after receiving the green light to try it, she went to the club with her husband, Ernie, to test it. The results weren’t positive.
Disappointed, she returned home.
Once there Ernie started working on something downstairs. He later appeared with her push broom with an apparatus attached to the top that Ruth could use on the ice as a crutch.
They went back to the club to test it and the apparatus passed with flying colours.
Clarke, 69, grew up on P.E.I., met her husband, Adrian, and moved to Newfoundland and Labrador for years to teach.
She learned to curl in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, N.L., in 1972 at the club on the Canadian Forces Base.
“Until that time, I had never thrown a rock in my life,” she said. “I joined the ladies league with three other great friends and great curlers. We jumped in off the deep end, and nobody wants to skip, so guess what, ‘Gloria was the skip’. And we had a ball of fun.”
The couple moved to Churchill Falls, N.L., in 1978 and she curled at the community rink there until her knees made it impossible to continue.
Did you know?
Ernie Stavert was an early pioneer of stick curling in P.E.I.
Unable to continue curling due to a hip injury, Stavert heard about stick curling from Gordie Lank in 1998. Stavert reached out to the national association to learn more about the game.
He initially used a plumbing pipe with a 45-degree elbow fastened to the end of it as a delivery device and competed in the P.E.I. seniors’ championship.
In 2007, Stavert and Bob Leard established Stick Curl P.E.I.
The sport continues to grow each year and this year there were more than 100 people involved in the two-person stick curling game on the Island. More players also use the delivery stick
for traditional curling, extending many people’s careers.
Stavert was inducted as a builder into the Prince Edward Island Curling Hall of Fame and Museum in 2018.
The Clarkes returned to P.E.I. in 2009 after retiring.
Gloria had been away from the sport for about 20 years when she heard stick curling was an option in Cornwall.
Stavert asked Clarke if she was interested in curling together.
The sport was relatively new on P.E.I., so they played with men’s teams to gain experience. It took a while to catch on, Clarke said.
“The hardest thing for me was finding a draw weight with using the stick,” she said.
“It’s a wonderful sport,” Clarke added. “I don't think many people realize how good a game the actual two-person stick curling game is.
“You’re always on – you’re either throwing the rock or skipping.”
Each team throws six rocks per end with each team member handling skip responsibilities every second end. The games are six ends in duration, meaning a game can be played in an hour.
So, what makes Stavert and Clarke such a formidable team?
“We’re very compatible,” Stavert said, noting the importance of their perseverance. “We never give up.”
The squad has also won eight of the 11 provincial titles from 2010-20 and won the inaugural P.E.I. open invitational stick curling event, which includes women’s, men’s and mixed teams.
“We’re just not quitters,” Clarke said. “We just keep curling and we try to do our best.”
In 2012, Clarke was diagnosed with breast cancer. Eighteen months of treatment followed, but she wanted to play at the 2013 provincials, so they competed in Montague.
"I had lots of support from my partner Ruth," Clarke said.
They finished third, but were able to represent the province at the Maritimes when one of the top two teams decided not to participate. They won the regional competition.
"There were things that stick curling helped me get through in my life,” Clarke said.
A look at the teams who have won the Maritime women’s stick curling championship since it began in 2010.
- 2020 Ruth Stavert/Gloria Clarke, P.E.I.
- 2019 Ruth Stavert/Gloria Clarke, P.E.I.
- 2018 Uttera Deshpande/Pauline Bullerwell, Nova Scotia
- 2017 Ruth Stavert/Gloria Clarke, P.E.I.
- 2016 Etta Reid/Elaine Hughes, P.E.I.
- 2015 Ruth Stavert/Gloria Clarke, P.E.I.
- 2014 Ruth Stavert/Gloria Clarke, P.E.I.
- 2013 Ruth Stavert/Gloria Clarke, P.E.I.
- 2012 Ruth Stavert/Gloria Clarke, P.E.I.
- 2011 Shirley Lank/Audrey Callaghan, P.E.I.
- 2010 Ruth Stavert/Gloria Clarke, P.E.I.
Clarke said she is grateful to have stumbled across the sport and at such a fun, supportive club in Cornwall.
“Oh, my goodness,” she said. “When I came here, in retirement, I had no idea how I was going to fill my days and to keep happy and enjoying life.”
She enjoyed winter sports like skiing and snowmobiling and wasn’t a go-south person.
“I needed … to develop a group of friends I could count on and I have met some really exceptional people through curling and stick curling,” Clarke said. “It has just made my retirement really pleasurable and enjoyable.”