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From chucking rocks on a frozen pond to pressure-packed play before thousands of fans in large sports arenas, there’s no denying that curling has come a long way.
Indeed, it can be argued that the game has become a core component of Canada’s collective sports consciousness.
But, while big-name bonspiels like the Brier and the Scotties may get all the attention, it’s club-level curling that remains the heart and soul of the on-ice pastime. While the sport may be both recreational and sociable, it is also competitive by its very nature of trying to outperform your opponent.
Just ask Kurt Roach, a member of the venerable Sydney Curling Club.
The Sydney River resident, who has been curling since he was 13 years old, said that while he and his teammates are all competitive they don’t have the inclination, or time, to adequately commit to the practice and training needed to compete at the highest level.
And that is why they focus on the club championship path rather than entering the playdowns for the province’s Deloitte Tankard and the national Brier.
“It would be difficult to win — it’s hard coming from Sydney where there is not a whole lot of competitive curling because you need to play matches against other competitive teams to bring your game up to a level where it has to be to win something,” said Roach.
“If we were to play in the provincial Tankard and we did well then we would be ineligible to take part in the club championships for four years, so we don’t bother with that on the outside chance that we might do really well.”
But there is no debating the success the Sydney rink has enjoyed at the competition formally known as The Travelers Club Curling Championship. Roach skipped the team to provincial titles in 2016 and again in 2018 when the rink went on to finish runner-up at the national championship that was held in Mirimichi, N.B. It should be noted that provincial champions are ineligible to return to the competition the following year.
Despite being a two-time champion, Roach said the provincial bonspiel is not an easy tournament to win, noting they copped the 2018 title with a narrow 6-5 win in the title game over Mike Callaghan of the Mayflower Curling Club in Halifax.
“It’s pretty tough because there are a lot of really good teams that play in this,” he said.
“I would say there are seven or eight teams that have a reasonable chance to win it, so it’s probably going to come down to who is hot at the right time.”
Roach said the team has been getting out a bit more as of late in preparation for the 2020 Nova Scotia club curling championship, Feb. 27-March 2, that kicks of Thursday in Bridgewater.
Along with Roach, the squad features third Mark MacNamara, second Travis Stone and lead Robin Nathanson, the same lineup that won in 2018. All but Stone, who replaced Kevin Gouthro, played on the 2016 Nova Scotia club championship-winning team.
The winner of the triple-knockout Nova Scotia bonspiel will earn a berth in the Canadian national curling club championship tournament in November at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club.