York Urbanist

STRATHCONA CUP 2018

March 16th, 2018

Final Score, after 53 draws: Canada 1593 stones; Scotland 1268 stones

What is this Strathcona Cup? In 2016, upwards of 300 men applied to participate in The Tour, by sending a curling curriculum vitae with a letter of reference from a previous ‘Tourist’.   On January 9, 2018, forty selected members of Team Canada met for the first time, then left to compete for one of the oldest trophies, originated in 1902, in any sport. Read of the history from Hugh McCarrell, who was instrumental in the success of organizing this 27 day odyssey.  On February 2, 2018, Canada lifted (and drank from) the coveted cup.DSC_5018 DSC_4996

Strathcona Cup 2018 was an elaborate exercise in social dynamics and international curling relations.

This is less a tale of intense athletic achievements, but more about the extension of friendly relationships between two rival countries, both of whom claim ownership of curling dominance. We had some marvelous competition against such legends and world champions as Hammy MacMillan, Alan Smith, Billy Howat and David Reid. In and around the fifth day, it finally sunk in that a Strathcona Cup game was less about the win-loss, and more about how forty Canadian men, none of whom were previously acquainted, could pull together with some 400+ Scots to enhance international and curling relationships that would last.

The odyssey began in Glasgow and ended in Edinburgh.  ‘Couriers’ guided us through daily rituals of morning classes, curling competitions, meals and dress codes.  Each of the Team Canada members had a responsibility: captain; music director; historian; photographer; equipment manager; and more.  Together, we recorded an adventure of a curler’s lifetime where, for 27 days, we were celebrated, wined and dined, given parties and presents, but most of all, created cross-the-pond curling friendships to last.

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Bagpipes and arches of brooms received us at each venue. The response of the Scottish curling community overwhelmed the Tourists.  Tears on the final game day, at the final banquet, and then again when we left Edinburgh were typical, although not all the men would admit it.

It was the Scottish venues and curling programs, though, that relate to Club Corner.  Curling News Unlike in Canada, curling clubs are small groups of curlers who rent ice lane space at a facility. There may be 15 clubs in one facility.  And, those clubs may compete for ice time with the skating public.  Of the twelve rinks visited, three were curling dedicated. One, Stranraer, was attached to our hotel, similar to Montebello, Quebec. Yet another, Braehead, was built as an afterthought on InTu regional shopping plaza near Glasgow. It is only there because of the requirement to get approvals for the retail facility by the developer from the municipal government. The third dedicated rink, Greenacres, is run by owner, Richard Harding.  He has developed a program for juniors, runs many leagues, established a regional training centre for elite curlers, tests curling stones for Kay’s of Scotland and he is considering expansion.  He proved by his entrepreneurship that there is a market for curling in Scotland. This goes against the doom/gloom scenario expressed by many of the Scots who lament the aging demographics of Scotland. Does this sound familiar, my fellow Canadians?

The two countries have similar challenges about where the sport is headed. The spirit of Strathcona Cup helps to enlighten the positive values and the future of curling. And, Scotland and Canada need more Richard Harding’s.

One Response

  1. Robert MacLeod says:

    I found the curling community in Scotland to be very close-knit but fairly small in the scheme of things. When you approached ‘normal’ people in the street, the chance that they would even know about curling was small. The curler’s court is an interesting phenomena which is obviously meant to increase the individuals commitment to the sport. I’m finding more and more in my club that curling is becoming just one of many distractions and the thought of actually going out of your way to do something that will enhance the sport is left to fewer and fewer individuals.

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