Winter alternative to skis and skates

Chris Willig and Chris Willig

The thought of winter, with its icy roads and slippery sidewalks, gives many Ohioans a sense of dread.

However, a select group of locals can’t wait to start slipping and sliding on the slick terrain inside the BG Ice Arena.

These rare people call themselves curlers, and when the ice comes this year, this group should be ready.

After all, they spend three hours a week running, sweeping and sliding across ice while laughing and chatting as if it is perfectly ordinary.

The Bowling Green Curling Club, which was started in 1968, has about 120 members and has three different leagues throughout the week at the Bowling Green Ice Arena.

Played entirely on ice, curling is a difficult sport to describe. The generally unknown sport resembles shuffleboard on ice, while the rink and the ice have the friendly and outgoing atmosphere of a 30 degree bowling alley.

“There is high drama in this game but most people watching don’t realize it,” one curler said jokingly as she slid down the ice. “We just look like a bunch of crazy people running around on ice, throwing stones at each other.”

The game, however, is not that simple. “It’s like chess on ice,” said Mary Glowacki, who has been curling for several years. “It is a very mental game and a very strategic game, too.”

The purpose of the game is to successfully slide stones into a target on the opposite side of the ice. These stones, which can weigh up to 44 pounds, are slid over 120 feet down the ice by each team towards a 12-foot bull’s-eye. While the stones are sliding down the ice at varying speeds, players sweep the ice with special brooms trying to change the speed accordingly. Chants of “Sweep it,” and “Up” are given by teams to help guide their stone to its original target, and a little extra body language is used for those stones that don’t seem be doing what the curler originally had intended.

Curling, although played indoors, is only played from November to March. However, in those five months the club tries to get in as much curling as possible. The club’s all men’s league meets on Mondays, and the rest of the league is dedicated to mixed leagues as well as beginner and instructional leagues. League members range from grade school students to retirees and senior citizens. With the lack of curling arenas in the area, the club also has members who drive from as far as Cleveland to compete each week.

However, for many it is the laid back environment of the frigid arena, not the competition, which makes curling so appealing to all ages and sexes.

“I like the social part of curling and meeting new people,” said Kathy Haswell, who curls every Thursday. “It’s a very friendly sport and very rarely will you run into a rude person on the ice.”

Curling, which can be played by virtually anyone, is an opportunity for any person who is interested in trying a new sport. “I like the sport because it has all social backgrounds, all ages and all genders,” Glowacki said. “You can have anyone from a student or factory worker to a doctor or a lawyer. It really has people from all walks of life.”

This idea of diversity in the sport was never more evident than on Thursday night, when BG student Matt Carey faced off against Martha Mazzarella on the ice. Carey, who was turned on to curling through a university class, went head to head with his opponent, who just happened to also be his sociology professor.

Other than being a university professor, Mazzarella is the current president of the curling club and is currently seeking new curlers. She is always looking for ways to attract new members and is hopeful that through youth leagues, university classes and instructional nights, more people will get involved in curling. She hopes others can get the chance to try the sport she enjoys so much.