Wow! I've been so busy with school that I forgot it was winter. It's cool here in the south, but it definitely wasn't a white Christmas like I'm used to in Montana.
Good news though... It is winter in Montana and the winter sports are in full swing. Including a new curling club in Missoula! That's right... They've taken a little time to get off the ground, but the Missoula Curling Club is now official and open for business.
It's fall again and the cool days always get me in the mood for curling! Apparently it gets other curlers in the mood as well because I have been receiving lots of emails lately asking for help starting clubs.
Whitefish is of course going strong into it's second season and the folks up North are still lending great support for us stone-less down south. For those of you who don't know, I'll be even further south this winter, hopefully getting in a throw or two at the Coyote Curling Club in Scottsdale, Arizona while going to school in Prescott.
But have no fear! I may be in the Southwest, but I have not forgotten Montana's Southwest. Missoula has the ice ready for the Missoula Curling Club, but they need help! Members, sponsors, donors... If interested in more information or in helping in any way, send an email to email@example.com or become a fan on Facebook! http://www.facebook.com/missoulacurlingclub
For those of you in Bozeman and other stone-less cities, please keep up with the progress in Missoula, and to help keep the spirit of the Gallatin Valley Curling Club alive, please send me an email and I will get you in contact with some fine folks in Bozeman who want to make it happen.
And, of course, if curling is sweeping you off your feet, stay tuned for more blog posts throughout the winter!
How exciting it is to see all this news about curling in Montana! With the Olympic Games showing off the fascinations of curling I've been receiving emails almost every day asking about the Gallatin Valley Curling Club, and I am so happy to see the sport being promoted in Montana.
The latest news... The Montana Kaimin, UM's Independent Campus Newspaper, Since 1898
Curling slides into Western Montana
by Justin Franz | February 24, 2010 | Montana Kaimin
You have likely seen it on TV during the past few weeks with the coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics. It’s curling, and it’s growing in popularity, including here in western Montana, where the state’s first organized club has started in Whitefish.
The Whitefish Curling Club got its start early last fall. In a short time, it gathered more than 30 active members in the Whitefish-Kalispell area, who play as much as they can at the Stumptown Ice Den.
“We just try to squeeze as much curling in as we can,” said club secretary Will Hagin. “It’s a lot of people just getting together and having a good time, so it’s not really competitive.”
Hagin said the club has eight active teams, each made up of four players: one person pushing a heavy stone across the ice and three others trying to control its speed by sweeping. The stone is aimed at the middle of a large target on the ice to score points. The team with the stone closest to the middle gets a point. The sport, which was introduced to the Winter Olympics in 1998, is often likened to chess on ice.
Since its appearance in the Olympics, more people have noticed the quirky game.
Mike Oehlerich noticed and joined the new club soon after seeing a story in the local newspaper.
Oehlerich was no stranger to the game, however, and his wife, who is Canadian, played when she was in high school. The first time Oehlerich played was in the mid-1990s while visiting a cousin in Calgary who played on a local team. The day Oehlerich showed up, the team was short a player, so he was invited to join.
“I did, and I had a lot of fun,” Oehlerich said.
But it wasn’t until last year, when he and his wife joined the Whitefish club, that he again stepped out on to the ice, or “sheet” as the players call it.
Shortly after that, Oehlerich and some other members headed north to Alberta for a day of curling and instruction from members of one of the oldest curling clubs in the Canadian west — The Lethbridge Curling Club, established in 1887.
Oehlerich said many of the members from Whitefish are new to the sport, mainly because of its lack of visibility in the United States. But with the help of the Canadian club, they were able to enjoy a full day of training and playing, although the team could have fared better against the Canadians.
“We got slaughtered, “ he said. “But it was all in good fun.”
That “all in good fun” seems to be the marching order for most people who play the game, Hagin said, adding that two curlers from North Dakota and Idaho came over for a weekend last fall to teach people the game and get things set up. A club from Bismarck, N.D., loaned the Whitefish club a set of curling stones, which was a big help because even used stones can coast upwards of $500, while the new ones seen in the Olympic games cost almost $1000. Not to mention the fact that a game requires 16 stones.
“It’s an inexpensive sport, except for all of those stones,” said club president John Hoepfer.
But, Hoepfer said, it’s a sport based around a very generous community.
“All the people we have been involved with have been so generous and helpful, and it’s been so astounding to me,” Oehlerich said.
And that generosity hasn’t ended with other curling enthusiasts. Hoepfer said the donations from local business and area citizens have helped the club acquire two sets of second-hand stones from a club in Canada.
Hoepfer said the club plans on extending that generosity in the coming months, achieving its goal of spreading the word.
“It’s our hope to grow interest in the sport in the state,” Hoepfer said.
One of the ways to do that will be hosting a Learn to Curl event in Missoula in late April at the Glacier Ice Rink. Hoepfer said the event is still in the works, but the club plans on bringing all of their equipment to help out for the weekend, and it is possible that, by this time next year, Missoula will have a club.
“We’re very excited about the chance of expanding into Missoula,” Hoepfer said.
For now, Hoepfer is focused on the club in Whitefish, which has a lot of promise.
“There is some serious competition, besides just having fun,” Hoepfer said.
Hoepfer’s club comes under the umbrella of U.S.A. Curling, which oversees all of the sport’s clubs as well as the Olympic team. Every year, regional and national competitions are held, and even though most of the players in Whitefish are new to the sport, Hoepfer believes that they have players with the potential of going beyond the ice in Whitefish.
“We could put a (contending) team together now,” Hoepfer said. “We’re ready.”
On a quest for fun, knowledge, and curling, my life has taken twists and turns through many US states, a couple foreign countries, and a few US states I thought were foreign countries. Follow the Gallatin Valley Curling Club for all the updates on the birth of curling in Montana, or check out The Unsetting Sun for stories of my daily adventures in Arizona and abroad.
Stay tuned for updates on the quest for curling in Montana and efforts to continue the Gallatin Valley Curling Club. If you have any questions or comments, please email me, Sunshine at firstname.lastname@example.org