Curlers rang in the New Year the old fashioned way

Gerry Foster
By Gerry Foster
January 4th, 2012

A group of Grand Forks curlers welcomed in the new year by going way back in time. The first curling game in Canada, chronicles indicate, was in Montreal in 1807, and for many years the sport was played outdoors on frozen rivers and lakes. Guy Dubeault, president of the Grand Forks Curling Centre, decided he would like to return to those historic beginnings.   On Christmas Eve he began crafting a sheet of curling ice in his backyard, and by New Year’s Day the 115 foot sheet of natural ice was completed. This is about 30 feet shorter than the normal length for curling but understand, one’s backyard is only so large; however, the rings at each end were regulation size complete with blue paint.  To make up for the length, a set of junior-sized curling rocks was used which are smaller and lighter than the normal 42 pound granite rocks.  Now it should be pointed out that this sheet of ice didn’t emerge without careful thought and planning. There was some precise engineering work used for this project, namely a transit and level which resulted in the hacks (in which curlers place their foot) at either end being precisely on the same level. Admittedly there were a few bumps on the surface which made for some interesting moments; nonetheless the rocks slid down the ice with just a little more effort than normal.  Part way through the project some deer managed to find their way onto this masterpiece taking shape which, you can imagine, caused some anxious moments. For those who are concerned about the deer problem in our city they now have another reason to grumble!  This was not the only trial that Dubeault faced as the rising temperatures did their best to spoil the fun. Guy holds a Level 2 Ice Technician’s certificate but what he accomplished over the holidays was certainly not part of the course.  What a way to ring in the New Year! The Times Square revellers in New York had nothing on this bunch, as 40-50 curlers gathered to celebrate the arrival of 2012 at this ‘fifth sheet’ of curling ice in Grand Forks. Part way through this unique endeavour someone dubbed the gathering, the ‘First Annual Heineken Curling Classic,’ which may offer a hint of the atmosphere that developed while the rocks were travelling up and down the ice.  In all seriousness four certified Heineken Freeze-in logos were positioned in the ice, just as you would see at a televised curling event.

At the end of the day there were more laughs than shots made, some cold hands and feet, yet wonderful memories.  A two-end game was held to wind things up and the eight players involved in this mini-contest remain nameless; for the record the Red team defeated the Blue team 2-0.   

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