The 100 Mile Curling Club kicked off their season Tuesday.
More than 100 members will take to the ice this year – up slightly from 2019 despite COVID-19.
“It’s been a long road, the COVID rules have changed things a lot of about curling,” said longtime curler and 100 Mile Curling Club treasurer Maria Hamilton. “You need to do a lot of preparation to get to the point where you are curling and there are numerous curling clubs in Canada that are closed, Kamloops being one of them. We have a very dedicated group of volunteers who have devoted a lot of time to the curling protocols, so if we didn’t have the volunteers who were willing to do that we wouldn’t be curling, full stop.”
Hamilton takes her hat off to the volunteers who help the club operate each year, who organize the leagues and who lay the ice they curl upon, all for free. In addition to their regular preparation, they also had to adopt some new COVID-19 safety protocols and systems.
Only 14 people are allowed in the changing room at any one time this year, for instance, but if all three sheets are being used, they’ll have 24 players in the building. They will also stagger curling times so teams won’t all be there at the same time. The lounge, meanwhile, will also be limited to 14 people and everyone will have to stay two metres apart and wear masks in the locker area.
On the ice, Hamilton said each team will have to go out at a separate time. There will be only one active sweeper and skips won’t be able to sweep at all. Curlers not on the ice will have designated waiting spots and all strategy discussions will have to be conducted two metres apart.
In between ends, the rocks and equipment will be sanitized and lockers won’t be available to the players. The biggest new rule is an obvious one, Hamilton said, which is to not play if you’re sick.
“You can imagine that’s going to take some refinement to our game. When you’ve been curling for 35 years like me, I’m pretty sure I’m going to accidentally sweep the rock as a skip but I’m going to try hard to follow the rules,” Hamilton said, adding that it’s likely some aspects of the as of yet untested rules will change as time goes on.
Despite all these new rules, Hamilton said interest is up this year and the leagues include a lot of new people who recently moved to the area.
“I would say half our new people are new curlers and half have moved here recently,” Hamilton said. “It’s been a huge amount of work and it’s very rewarding when your numbers aren’t 20 percent of what they were in any other year. We’re over and makes me feel that all the hard work is paying off.”
Each league began their seasons this week with most taking place around 6 p.m. Hamilton said they’re still looking for team members for leagues on Sunday and that drop-in curling will still take place on Wednesday and Sunday providing they pre-register.
Overall, Hamilton said she’s just happy that the 100 Mile Curling Club will be able to curl and break even this year, something she feels not many clubs will be able to say.
On Tuesday night the club got off to a smooth start with staggered ice times and physical distancing rules. While some expressed frustration at the new rules of play, especially the lack of a second sweeper, spirits were still high as teams shook off the rust from the summer.
One of the teams playing was the family of Barry Vandergreft, who said he was happy to be back on the ice playing with his family and showed great enthusiasm on the ice. One of his opponents, Mel Dodge also said he was happy to curl this winter.