Right now, Maine only has one curling club. And that might be fine, except when you live in Portland and the curling club is in Belfast.
Even the most devout curler would be hindered by the commute (nearly two hours each way), which means there have been few curling opportunities for stone-throwing Portlanders. They’ve been obliged to curl only in the ice arenas of their own imaginations.
Until now. Portland is getting a curling club.
At least, that’s Derek Campbell’s hope. Campbell is the founder and president of Pine Tree Curling Club, a just-forming club that will eventually have a home on Wednesday nights at Portland’s Ice Arena on Park Avenue.
Campbell – who’s a Portland native and works as a physical therapist at Mercy Hospital – was originally introduced to the sport while living with his wife in Seattle a few years ago. There was a curling club located near where his wife worked and she suggested they give it a try.
“I said, ‘Heck yea, we have to try this,'” said Campbell. “We got hooked.”
Campbell said he continued to curl after moving back to the east coast – this time with the club in Bridgewater, MA. Now he’s aiming to start a club right here.
“I feel like Portland is such a great city for curling,” said Campbell. “It’s such a social kind of sport. Even in the most competitive events that you can watch on TV or on the internet, you see teams laughing and joking with each other. That’s the spirit of curling.”
And thanks to curling’s official induction into the winter Olympics in 1998 (and some help from the Norwegian Olympic curling team’s amazing pants), the sport isn’t as obscure as it perhaps used to be.
“Everybody I talked to, when I say I’m starting a curling club, they at least know what I’m talking about,” said Campbell.
Curling is also a sport that’s open to a range of abilities and experience levels. “Everyone can get into it in terms of age or athletic ability or level of competitiveness,” said Campbell. “It’s as serious or as fun as you want it to be.”
To help build interest in the club, Pine Tree Curling will host four learn to curl sessions in March and April at Portland Ice Arena. The sessions will run from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. on March 21, March 28, April 4 and April 11. The cost is $35 per person (register at pinetreecurlingclub.com). These sessions are open to anyone who’s interested in learning about the sport – no experience is necessary. So if you don’t know what a hog line is, what the vice skip does, what exactly the broom is for, how points are scored or what bonspiel means, that’s just fine. You’ll learn. Experienced curlers from other clubs will join Campbell as instructors who’ll be more than happy to teach you.
Campbell hopes that the learn to curl sessions will help generate enough curling enthusiasm in Portland to start a full season in October (the curling season runs from October to March). Ideally, the club would consist of 32 to 40 members divided into 8 to 10 teams. The teams would compete against each other round-robin-style on Wednesday nights at Portland Ice Arena. There might be opportunities to participate in bonspiels – or curling tournaments – at other clubs in New England, too. But that would be optional, said Campbell. His main goal is simply to “get together and curl and have a good time.”
“You don’t have to have Olympic aspirations to join a curling club,” he said. “You just have to want to have fun and meet new people.”
And if you do have Olympic curling dreams? Well, there’s no better place to get started.
The four sessions will be held on March 21, March 28, April 4th and April 11 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Portland Ice Arena, 225 Park Ave., Portland. The sessions are geared towards newcomers to the sport and will include hands0on instruction, a practice game and all equipment necessary. Sessions are $35 per person and registration is requested.
FMI or to register: pinetreecurlingclub.com
Curling will be shown on NBCSports on Friday nights through the middle of March. On Feb. 6, join Campbell and other members of the club to watch the broadcast at Rivalries Pub and Grill, 10 Cotton St., Portland and learn more about the club and the sport. Broadcast starts at 11 p.m., but Campbell said they’re be there a little earlier.