Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Friday, March 7, 2014

On The Rocks

I am not a sports girl. which I have admitted to in this blog repeatedly. There is one sport, though, that for whatever mysterious reason I am quite good at. I can't throw a baseball or a football, my track and field skills include the ability to run both slowly and funny and always knock down the high jump pole and I can barely stand on skates let alone execute a salchow - but I can curl like a demon.

I don't even know how it happened, except that I think it might be genetic. I spent the first six years of my life in a very small town in Saskatchewan (and I mean VERY SMALL, a place called Reward, in fact, and if you know where that is you deserve an award - or you might be a relative). And the focal point of life in small towns all around us were two things - the church, and the curling rink.

One of the jokes I tell is about how in a small town in Saskatchewan one year the church and the curling rink burned down - and the first one rebuilt wasn't the church. It isn't really a joke, though, as in those small towns curling, and the social scene around it, was often a religion in and of itself. My parents in their younger days had been curlers too, and I still have the slides to prove it, having becoming the family archivist after their deaths. And somehow, even though I never curled with them and never curled when I was growing up I can throw a mean rock down a sheet of ice.

I suppose this is why an event coming up has me rather excited. Never mind the presence of Gold Medal winning Olympic athletes. Never mind the fact that it welcomes international guests who are at the top of their game. Never mind all of that - for me it's all about a sport that I actually understand.

The Grand Slam of Curling, National presented by Syncrude starts next week at the Suncor Community Leisure Centre. Some of you may have attended the Canadian Junior Curling Championships which were hosted in the same venue, like I did. And I was amazed then at how an arena could be transformed into curling sheets, and how dozens of athletes could come and play and celebrate their sport. Even now, as I watch from the inside as the transformation has occurred, I am amazed.

I have been part of bringing this event to life since the beginning, and I am growing increasingly excited about it. This is an opportunity for our community to watch world-class curlers as they compete in the sport where they excel. It is our opportunity to welcome several Olympic medalists, including 2014 Winter Olympics Gold Medalist Brad Jacobs. It is a chance to create new ambassadors for our region as these international and national curling superstars stay in our hotels, eat at our restaurants, and meet our residents. It is a chance to gather in the entertainment area, enjoy some drinks and socialize. It's funny, but the whole thing is evoking memories for me of those days long ago, in a very small town, in a very small but very important curling rink.

I suppose this is all about being Canadian to me. Curling is as Canadian as snow and winter and maple syrup and the maple leaf and Oh Canada. Curling is small town curling rinks dotted across this country, filled with curlers of all ages throwing ridiculously heavy rocks down the ice. Curling is part of heritage, our birthright, and, for some of us, maybe even part of our DNA.

Next week our not-so-little town will welcome world class athletes for a sporting event I not only understand but embrace. I suspect much of it will take me back about four decades and into a time when the curling rocks weighed more than I did. And the rest of it will just let me marvel once again at how fortunate we are in this community to enjoy events like this, a little celebration of sport and community and Canadiana served on the rocks in Fort McMurray.

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