Halifax has a long history of ice sport, so it seems appropriate to kick off the Can-Am Cup of Curling in this fine city. The indigenous Mi’kmaq people brought us the hockey stick, and after the British kicked out the French and took over, they eventually brought curling to “New Scotland.”
For those not familiar with the Maritime and Atlantic provinces of Canada, think of Maine, and go farther east. There’s a whole bunch of land hanging over the edge of the United States. It’s the bill of America’s Hat. The Atlantic time zone is an hour ahead of Eastern time, and when we pop off to Newfoundland, we add and extra half hour. Located in St. Margaret’s Bay, the area has been a strategic entry point for European colonizers and has seen an outsized amount of tragedy which belies the friendliness of the locals and the beauty of the region.
Before our matches, we had a chance to visit some sites in the area. We went to Seaport Farmers Market, the oldest continually operated farmers market, dating back over 250 years! Filled with a variety of hand crafted items, local produce, and an amazing variety of food. Asian, African, Latin American, and of course, modern fusion like breakfast pizza. Also, local booze. Beer and spirits and plenty of samples at 10 a.m.! Once Matt and Adam broke the booze seal, everyone else lined up to try Big Spruce beer (try the oatmeal stout!) and Steinhart Distillery spirits (coffee maple vodka, ftw).
We then set off to Peggy’s Cove. A picturesque seaside town with a very Instagrammable lighthouse, the most photographed lighthouse in Canada to be specific. When I asked our Canadian hosts about interesting facts about Peggy’s Cove, the first thing they mentioned was the tragic crash of a Swissair flight in 1998 in which over 200 people perished when an electrical fire broke out in the entertainment system and the pilot was unable to safely land at the airport. This story was later shared by our bus driver as well. As story that clearly rests heavy with locals. Folks also emphasized safety on the rocks and the numbers of people swept out to sea each year. Later we learned that there is a Titanic graveyard in the area that memorializes the people who perished during that disaster and washed up onshore. Halifax is also the site of the largest artificial explosion before the development of nuclear weapons when a French cargo ship collided with a Belgian vessel, killing 2,000 people. So when I say this area has seen more than its fair share of tragedy, this is what we’re talking about.
Standing out on the rocks, looking into the bay on a crystal clear day, it is easy to see how Nova Scotians maintain their positive demeanor and friendliness. We ate at the Sou’Wester in Peggy’s Cove, a town our bus driver says only has 38 regular inhabitants (not counting the Summer tourism influx). Lobster rolls, fish and chips, and chowder were spot on for lunch before we headed out to the Halifax Curling Club.
Established in 1824, it is the 3rd oldest club in North America. As such, their four sheets are 1, 8, 2, and 4, which caused us some confusion during practice. But as Roger pointed out, Milwaukee does something similar. A classic curling club that feels like St. Paul or Granite (Seattle), but with a brand new roof courtesy of a heavy snow three years ago.
The practice was the first time any of us have played together as our teams, so it was nice to actually throw some rocks together to figure each other out. We played four games the first draw, so one team had to sit out. The results were one three point win, a draw, and two losses which unfortunately left us in a 16 point hole to start the event. We anticipate things will improve as the teams gel and we get used to the travel schedule.
After the matches we enjoyed our first banquet put on by our hosts. Each team sat with their opponents for traditional broomstacking. A dinner of shrimp and lobster chowder, with fish sandwiches and cupcakes for desert. We had an introduction and words from Hugh Avery, GM of the Halifax club, as well as Ron Hutton and John Shea of Curl Canada. Of course, of the the two folks who begat this whole endeavor, Peter Inch, was there to kick things off.
As recounted, Peter and former USCA Chair Rich Lepping met in Las Vegas at the Continental Cup and concocted this idea. They also jointly donated the amazing trophy we’re fighting for. Though we had to cut the evening a bit short due to the tour bus schedule, we enjoyed our time with the great folks at the Halifax Club before jaunting off to Newfoundland and Labrador for two days in St. John’s. Stay tuned to hear about that leg of the trip.
After over a year of planning, today is the day the team finally convened for the trip to Canada. Team members from all over the country made their way to Boston, one by one gathering at Stephanie’s at Gate B25 of Logan airport. Some came the day before to take in some Boston flavor, while our Pacific Time folks had red eyes or virtual red eye flights. Over beers and burgers, teammates introduced themselves, cracked jokes, and let the excitement of what is to come over the next two weeks sink in.
Once all twenty players were accounted for, captain Steve McKee addressed the gang and laid out the plan for the next two weeks. This tour is about camaraderie, fellowship, sportsmanship, and being good ambassadors for the sport. We're going to curl, and hopefully win, but definitely have a good time and make some new friends. Steven O’Connor fired up folks by showing off the Chairmen’s Cup, which is really a beauty to see up close.
This tour isn’t just playing games to win a cup. It’s about sharing in the spirit of curling with our neighbors to the north. Part of the schedule involves nightly banquets and dinners, and maybe even a ceilidh or kitchen party if we’re lucky. Our entertainment chairs, Tom and Darryl have put together a program of the most exceptional curling jokes and songs to impress our hosts at each club. We know we’re on to something after our first practice number got an applause from a woman who took a break from her phone call at the bar. There may be kazoos and harmonicas involved.
After an hour delay in the coldest terminal ever (it was 33º outside and the terminal was under construction) we finally boarded our prop plane for the short jump to Halifax. Despite the bumpy landing, we arrived safely to find our Canadian counterparts waiting for us at the arrival gate in a swanky new bus. Our driver did an excellent job of Tetris getting all our bags in the back and then getting us safely through the snow to our hotel in Halifax for the next two nights.
Tomorrow will be a bit of sight seeing, some practice, and one draw featuring four teams at 5:30 pm EST. The draws and scores will be on Bonspieler.com but note that the times are estimates and could change.
Team Member Charlie Maring has put together a great intro tour book. You might have already seen much of it elsewhere on the site, but here is the whole book available for your viewing pleasure.
We'll be tracking the matches and scores online at bonspieler.com/canamcup.
If you're not familiar with Bonspieler, it's a bonspiel game tracking website developed by the tech folks in the San Francisco Bay Area Curling Club. If you're inclined, toss them a little tip to thank them for this service and help them open the first dedicated ice curling center in California!
This is the space to stay updated with the CanAm 2019 Tour Team. We'll post updates leading up to the event, as well as dispatches from Eastern Canada from Nov 8 through Nov 24.
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