Possibly for the first time in the St. Albert Curling Club’s 71-year history, registration is down. Curling has always been a St. Albert bedrock sport attracting large numbers, but surprisingly, the downturn has a positive outcome.
Up until COVID-19’s spread across Alberta in February, ice sheets were solidly packed with 40-plus leagues booking time. There was very little space to offer new programs.
With new spaces opening up due to a COVID-19 related membership drop, the club is operating a new Adult Learn to Curl League. The 16-week, non-contact sport designed for anyone 18 to 80 runs on Friday evenings.
“We didn’t have a lot of space to run programs like that before. But with lower registration, it’s given us the opportunity to start a class like that. And we’re quite excited to offer it,” said Taina Smiley, assistant manager.
Smiley speculates novice curlers enrolled in this league are interested in trying something new or simply are eager to meet people and socialize in a secure environment.
“For some it’s their mental health. Some people need to be active. This is a safe, non-contact sport. We stand two metres apart,” said Smiley who will be coaching Adult Learn to Curl and the junior STAJED leagues.
Curlers dedicated to the sport will do what it takes to play the game, including abide by the new Curling Alberta and Curling Canada return-to-play guidelines introduced during the pandemic.
New regulations state eight people are allowed on ice and curlers will only be permitted to touch their own rocks. Although this was done in the past, it will now be enforced.
Players will be required to stand two metres apart, and only one sweeper on a team is permitted to sweep. In past years, the skip would also sweep. However, new rules state the skip must remain at the hack, Smiley said.
Although hand sanitizers will be provided, curlers are not required to wear masks while physically exerting themselves on ice. However, once off ice curlers will be required to wear masks within club spaces.
Additionally, teams will play on slick refrigerated ice sheets made thanks to a newly installed cooling system that uses ammonia.
“It (cooling system) was initiated by the City of St. Albert to put us in line with the highest possible safety system.”
The rink was initially scheduled to open at an earlier date. However, due to COVID-19, there was a delay in receiving shipped parts and it will instead open this week.
Men's leagues are full. However, the club continues to take registration until Friday, Oct. 2, in the following leagues: ladies, junior, mixed, open, junior, 50-plus and fun leagues. For more information call 780-459-7007 or visit stalbertcurling.com.