Hips and knees seem to be common talking points when stick curlers get together for bonspiels and championships.
Etta Reid, who teamed up with fellow Cornwall stick curler Elaine Hughes last week in Alberton to win their second provincial women’s stick curling title in five years, says she’s just back in competition after taking last year off following hip replacement.
They edged perennial women’s champions Gloria Clarke and Ruth Stavert, also from Cornwall, 5-4 in the championship final
Interestingly the only other time since 2010 that Stavert and Clarke didn’t win the provincial title was in 2014 when Reid and Hughes claimed the championship, in Reid’s first year of competition
Despite Clarke going through chemotherapy and Stavert hobbling on a new hip, the pair competed in 2014 and finished third. Stavert’s husband made her a special crutch so she could compete. A month later they rebounded to win the Maritime championship.
At 79 years of age, Sterling Stratton has just won his fifth stick curling title in the Open Division. The Cornwall curler had given up the traditional four-person sport at age 50 because of arthritic knees.
He was 60 when, at the urging of Ernie Stavert, he got back into curling. Stavert had just pioneered stick curling on P.E.I., in 1998, using a length of plumbing pipe with a 45-degree elbow fastened to the end of it as a delivery device.
Stratton’s first two provincial titles were with Stavert as his partner. His last three have been with Barry Craswell.
Stavert, the coordinator for this year’s stick provincials, is thrilled with the growth of the sport. ”It’s a very congenial game,” he said.
“It keeps people in curling who mightn’t otherwise be in it,” he said.
He admits the curlers people see on television make the sliding out from the hack look easy, but he insists it’s not so simple for people with hip or knee problems or those taking up curling later in life.
“I would guess most out here are over 60,” he said of the curlers entered in this year’s provincials. There were 12 two-person teams in the open division and four in the women’s division.
Stavert estimates there are now at least 125 curlers in the province, either in stick doubles or still playing the traditional four-person game, who rely on a delivery stick.
Most of those curlers, he said, are from the five rural clubs, but he noted efforts are underway to get the stick curling sport going in Summerside.
One of Summerside’s new stick pioneers, Spike Martin, took in his first stick provincial in Alberton. He estimates there are around a half-dozen curlers in Summerside who use the stick. He has been using one in Summerside for regular curling since taking up the sport two years ago. The two-person game is still new to him. “Some are very good,” he assessed the skill level at provincials.
“It’s a significant contributor to curling club memberships,” Stavert acknowledged. “If they didn’t have people using sticks, their clubs would be in much different financial situation than what they are.”
There’s still room in the traditional game for stick curlers, Stavert said.
“If you are a skilled curler and aren’t able to go up and down the ice sweeping, you can skip all the time. That works.”
Clarke is thrilled with the stick game’s growth. “Stick curling is a great sport because you’re always involved in the game. You have to skip an end (call the game) and you have to throw an end, so you’re never idle and you’re always involved,” she explained. “It’s short. It’s an hour, so you don’t freeze to death. It’s great for people like us who are getting older and we have a bad knee or we have a hip replacement. It allows us to continue curling.”