Nfld. & Labrador

Swept away: more young players joining Goose Bay Curling Club

The decor may be aging, but the club’s membership is getting younger. Like Mr. T said, curling is cool.

Call it the Brad Gushue effect: curling's catching on with young people in Labrador

Curling is sometimes considered a sport for retirees, but at the Goose Bay Curling Club's last "funspiel," many players were in their 20s and 30s. (Bailey White/CBC)

Walking into the Goose Bay Curling Club is like stepping back into the 1970s.

The walls, painted rich shades of orange and red, are lined with hand-painted signs reminding curlers of proper technique.

Curling posters and ads from bygone sponsors line the rink walls. (Bailey White/CBC)

There are ads up for a radio station and a phone company that no longer exist. And in the lounge, a small tube TV shows — what else — Olympic curling.

The time warp ends when a Drake song starts blaring over the PA system. After everyone pays the registration fee for tonight's "funspiel," the players take to the ice. 

Mark Urquhart says the club saw an influx of young members after the Brier came to St. John's last year. (Bailey White/CBC)

The decor may be aging, but the club's membership is getting younger. Like Mr. T said, curling is cool.  

Behind the bar, 26-year-old club president Jenn Mitchell takes drink orders.

"It's such a good crowd and such a good time," Mitchell said, "I just love the sport."

Lose the game, win the round

Three years ago, then-31-year-old Mark Urquhart started a team of "four fellers that had never stepped out on the ice."

The team lost every game they played — but winners buy the rounds, so it wasn't a bad year.

At the Goose Bay Curling Club, winners buy the drinks, but bottles stay in the lounge. (Bailey White/CBC)

"The club here is full of fantastic people and it's quite a culture," Urquhart said, "It's just a real fun atmosphere."

Urquhart says after the Brier came to St. John's in 2017, the club saw more new faces.

"There's been more and more younger people getting involved," he said, "These have been two very successful years for the club."

The endorsement from TV-star-slash-wrestler Mr. T didn't hurt either, Urquhart says. 

"I pity the fool who don't curl," he laughs, doing his best impression. 

All skill levels are welcome

Before the games get going, Ryan Wheaton gives a lesson to the newbies. He goes over how to slide, how to hold a broom — the basics.

With almost 18 years experience Wheaton is one of the most seasoned curlers at the event, but he's only 29.

The Goose Bay Curling Club is made up of seasoned vets and new members, some of whom never curled before joining. (Bailey White/CBC)

"It was at a friend's birthday party when I was only 11," Wheaton said of his first time curling, "then I just wanted to join and signed up in a junior's program."

Start 'em young

Members say recruiting young players is key to growing the club.

When Mitchell was in junior high, the club had a program for teenage curlers — that's how she got her start.  

The Goose Bay Curling Club hosts men's, women's and mixed leagues. They hope to add a junior league next season. (Bailey White/CBC)

For the past few seasons, there hasn't been a junior program in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Members say they're getting requests from families to get out on the ice, so they're planning to start the program back up.

"When you get into junior curling, that's the future of your club," Urquhart said. "Our goal is to get as many young people included as possible."

Curling: it rocks! Get it? (Bailey White/CBC)

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