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    Categories: Local Sports

Curlers slide into new season

Curling is rocking the ice again in St. Albert with more players than ever before.

“We’ve got a lot of new teams this year. A lot of them are younger teams and that’s what we were hoping for,” said Doug McLennan, past-president of the St. Albert Curling Club, while checking out the action in the season-opening draw in the Friday night mixed league.

McLennan pegged the increase in curlers from last winter at 12 per cent. The demand was so high, the club added some beginner leagues and a Thursday afternoon bantam/junior league for curlers 12 to 18 years old to their regular weekly lineup of men’s, ladies, mixed and 50-plus leagues.

“When you get a lot of younger people coming up that’s fabulous. That bodes very well for the future,” McLennan said.

Several leagues are full. Only a few openings remain in the 1 p.m. Tuesday ladies’ league and the men’s and beginners’ leagues on Monday nights.

There are also curlers looking to join a team.

For more information, contact manager Lynda Holden at 780-459-7007 or sacurl@shaw.ca.

“We’re very encouraged how everything is looking right now,” McLennan said.

The curling season didn’t start last winter until Nov. 15, as the $2.4-million renovations to the club’s front façade were slowly wrapping up.

“We did a lot of tweaking too through the offseason here and the work the volunteers did was outstanding, and it wasn’t just board members or the building committee but all curlers as well,” McLennan said. “Our members have got to be fairly satisfied to see the kind of commitment that people have put into this facility. There is a lot of club spirit and I really believe it shows with how many teams we have and all the leagues that we have going.”

It was a banner year for the club in 2011. The unveiling of the club’s wall of fame and the City of St. Albert’s presentation to Olympic gold medallist Marc Kennedy during the grand re-opening of the renovated facility on January 11 was a star-studded affair in the new 240-seat banquet room.

The next day was the opening ceremonies of the World Financial Group Continental Cup of Curling at Performance Arena. An army of volunteers from the club helped make it the sporting event of the year in St. Albert. Every draw was broadcast live on TSN, which gave the club and the City of St. Albert a major public relations boost.

And, at the 48th annual Tournament of Champions, the Jamie King rink — winners of six-straight President’s Cups in the St. Albert men’s club playoffs — captured their second Edmonton-area title in six years.

“It was a very good year for the club,” McLennan said. “The wall of fame night was outstanding. The Continental Cup brought a boatload of exposure to St. Albert in terms of curling. Marc winning the gold medal at the [2010] Olympics was huge as well for the club. And it was good to see Jamie and the boys do so well again at cities.

“It’s also great to see how the general public has come on board after the renovations were finished, especially the business community. We are completely sold out of all the spaces we had for sponsorship. All the ice is sold. Lynda did a fabulous job of doing that, but obviously people were very interested in being part of this barn. For a change, the building is trying to sell itself and that’s pretty cool.”

Next on the wish list is to finalize more grant money and find a title sponsor for the building.

HOG LINES: The big winner in Friday’s season opener was the Wilf Gunderson rink. The mixed club champions needed a last-rock measurement to count two in the last end to edge the Chmiliar foursome. The Friday night mixed league is considered to be the most competitive league at the club.

Jeff Hansen: Jeff Hansen joined the St. Albert Gazette in 1991. He writes about sports, athletes and teams from St. Albert and area.