BOZEMAN – Curling is a sport that dates back to the 16th century and with some modernization along the way, has become an Olympic sport that Canada has dominated for the last 20 years.
It's a unique sport; with one person calling the shots throwing a granite stone that can weigh anywhere between 38 and 44 pounds and people using specialized brooms to sweep in front of that stone as the rock makes its way across the ice surface inside the circles on the other side.
One captain, or skip as it’s called in curling, is Bruce Richards. “I started curling in Michigan in about 1980 and a good friend of mine said you should come out and try it so I did,” Richards said.
He was 30 years old when he first dabbled in the sport and as he described that first experience, “I just got addicted real quick. It’s a fascinating game.”
That addiction grew into a passion and pretty soon, he was climbing the ranks in the curling world. “I went to the nationals in 1995 and then again in 2006,” noted Richards.
Before he even stepped on the national ice, he tried out for the Olympic team in the 80s. “I didn’t get very far, but I tried,” he said.
But Richards’ performance during the Olympic trials didn’t faze him one bit. “When do you get a chance to try out for the Olympics when you’re just an average guy from Michigan?”
Just an average guy competing in a sport at such a high level after picking up the broom when most competitive athletes are thinking about ‘retiring.’ That idea of curling at any age is one of the aspects Richards’ loves most about the game.
“You can curl until you’re really old so it doesn’t matter,” he exclaimed.
The curling club in Bozeman works to promote the sport and teach anyone who wants to learn. “It’s just one of those sports that anyone can do and anyone can have fun at,” explained Bozeman Curling Club Secretary Nik Grout.
Grout picked up a broom three years ago and has loved every moment. “My first game everyone was over 80 years old and they were amazing,” he said with a chuckle.
Despite the frigid temperatures inside the foggy arena, more than 40 people showed up to play.
Fourteen teams competed in the ‘bozspiel’ tournament, which is known in the curling world as a bonspiel, from Havre, Billings, Bozeman, Missoula, even as far away as Utah. They all showed up because they love the game.
“It’s like a family of people. Once you’re a part of it, everyone is your friend,” Grout described.
“It’s really friendly. There are no referees, there are very few rules. When someone on another team makes a good shot, everyone tells them that. It’s highly competitive but it’s really friendly,” echoed Richards.
A friendly game that anyone can do at any age.
“We had one guy in our club in Michigan who was 90 years old,” Richards recalled. “As long as you can stand on the ice, you can really curl until you decide you don’t want to anymore. So if someone really wanted to, they could curl for 80 years.”
Curling on the Olympic stage or in your backyard; it’s a sport focused on fun and relationships.
The Bozeman Curling Club is hosting a ‘Curling Bonanza Extravaganza’ in hopes of getting more people involved in the sport. The event will be held at the Ressler Motors Ice Rink at the Ice Barn Feb. 25 from 3 p.m. until 5 p.m.
Everyone is invited to come and learn about curling and you can throw a stone or two for free!