Leaside Curling Club this fall has gone through 50 years of boom and decline,and come out of it stronger than ever.
Its members, 900 of them, the most ever, ages 6 to over 90, helped the club, one of the largest and most active in Toronto, celebrate its anniversary Oct. 20.
“Demographics explain part of the story,” says Gail Walker, current club president, “Every week we’ll get Leasiders who curled here 20 years ago and now are coming back from outside the neighbourhood because their kids have grown up.”
She also adds that improved television coverage is a factor because today’s commentators make it much easier for viewers to learn about and follow the game.
The club has also adapted over the years to bring in a much wider range of skills and age groups as well as women, kids and families.
In addition to offering leagues for ages ranging from Little Rocks, 6 and 7, to bantam, youth and adults, there are mixed sections of all kinds: day, evening, weekends, beginners, advanced, even a Sunday pizza league.
A few years ago the club had a wheelchair league that competed at the provincial finals, and it continues to offer a league for stick curlers, a relatively new sport in Canada. Designed for those of an advanced age, or with a disability such as recovering from an injury or operation, it allows you to use a stick as support while you play.
“Being able to stick curl enhances your rehabilitation,” notes one long time member, “It’s just another way the club adapts.”
The club’s large membership makes it possible to offer that wide range of skill levels. A number of their competitive curlers have won their curling “zone,” competed in competitions at the Toronto Curling Association, and proceeded to regionals.
“It means that if you’re a competitive curler, you are matched in a league that suits your skill level,” adds Walker. “That makes the club attractive to many as well.”
But the main draw remains its community feel, “with members around the corner,” as well as former Leasiders who return to play with old friends, and more and more these days, family members.