Rideau Curling Club celebrates 125 years in Ottawa

The Rideau Curling Club first launched in 1888, outdoors, with Sir Sandford Fleming as its first president and Lord Stanley as one of its early members. Now after 125 years, its being pushed by its new generation of curlers.

Lord Stanley, Sir Sandford Fleming and Anne Merklinger among well-known members

This curling rink of former governors general is captured here in their formal garb in 1908. (Photo courtesy of Rideau Curling Club)

A local curling club that has featured former governors general and other high-profile members is celebrating 125 years despite some rocky years.

The Rideau Curling Club sits in Ottawa’s Centretown neighbourhood at 715 Cooper St.

Anne Merklinger, seen at a curling competition in 2000, has been involved with the Own the Podium program for several years. (Chuck Stoody/Canadian Press)

Founded in 1888, its first president was Sir Sandford Fleming and its early members included Lord Stanley, when the club started outdoors.

It eventually moved indoors and shifted to various locations before settling at its current home in July 1949.

The club’s historian, Jackie Carberry, said the club has gone through its ups and downs over many different eras.

Much has changed in the way the game is played, she added.

“They’d literally melt down cannonballs and various things to form irons that were really difficult to throw,” Carberry said, analyzing a photo in the club’s glass showcase.

“We still have a few of them around here. Games were 21 ends. You had competitions that went on for days.”

Club almost closed in 1980s

The endurance needed in those early days of curling is symbolic of the curling club’s long, winding road. Carberry said the club almost shut down in the 1980s when hydro and mortgage rates skyrocketed.

She said the dedication of 120 members, out of about 200 total, helped it survive by donating money.

The club was also renovated recently to feature leather recliners and plasma televisions – a long way from the melted down cannonballs. The membership has also tripled in the past 30 years.

Joyce Potter, far left, and her rink from the Rideau Curling Club won the 2013 Canadian Masters Ladies Championship. (Photo courtesy of Rideau Curling Club)

“The old-timers bring their sense of dedication and belonging to the club,” said former club president, Bob Provick. “And I think the younger generation brings the view that we need to be new and fresh.”

The Rideau Curling Club will mark 125 years with an event Sunday night.

They will also host the 2014 Canadian Mixed Curling Championship starting this week and running from Nov. 14 to 23.

The club’s success continues, too, with Joyce Potter’s rink winning 2013 Canadian Masters Ladies Champions. Other past champions include Anne Merklinger’s rink, which won four different Ontario women’s championships in the 1990s.

Merklinger, also a former swimmer, is now retired and serves as the CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee’s Own the Podium program.

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