Niagara Falls, both sides of the border!!

Unique? Oh we are unique that is for sure. What other club can state its membership includes a 5 time Women’s national champion, and yet has never won a Scotties? Did I forget to mention 1/10 of our club members are willing to cross international borders just to join our fun including 5 time US national Women’s Champion Patti Lank?

Sure we have a number of bonspiels (The Honeymoon, The Festival of Lights, etc.) and participate in friendly bonspiels that cross that border again (with Buffalo and Rochester). We have a vibrant Recreational League that has a number of theme nights including ‘Reindeer Games’, ‘Soup-er bowl’ night and a ‘Chili night’. 87 year old Pearl Maves is a 30 year member, and we have a 50 year member, Donna Walters! As well as competitive and semi-competitive leagues, our youth curling program is a growing and vibrant part of our club and is pleased to see 8 year old Evelyn Fish competing at the Brier this year!

When the time comes to celebrate our game, what is more Canadiana than combining curling and Niagara Falls. On February 22nd we will be taking street curling to Niagara Falls where members of our club will join visitors to our city and visitors to our country when the ‘Roaring Game’ meets the ‘Roar of the Falls’!

We will be setting up our curling experience right in front of the falls for a day full of fun and celebration! Not only will we have constant pebbling from the mist me might be able to coax out a rainbow! We will also introduce curling to visitors who are coming to see the falls and will be able to add curling to their day. How’s that for a unique Canadian experience!

***see attached photo for location of Curling at the Falls!

When we discussed submitting our story, we were met with any number of people who were more than willing to tell ‘their story’. Please find attached a small sampling of the wonderful stories that make up our club.

The Coull family has 3 generations of curlers that curl together. Lynne is a former Senior Women’s Canadian Champion, who has the opportunity to play with her son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter in our mixed doubles league.

A Sport for the Whole Family (Lynn Coull)

One of the great features of the wonderful sport of curling is that it cuts across many demographics, age, skill, and gender.

As a player for over 40 years, I was able to play in the Friday Night Mixed Doubles league with my son, daughter-in-law or granddaughter as my partner. My son can also play with his wife or daughter. We have a great mix and match available to us.

I am also going to enter a team in the Boys and Girls Club fundraising Bonspiel with my granddaughter and other friends. I will play skip and she will vice. We might even mix that up. Curling is a good sport that combines fun, fellowship and skill.

Patti Lank is 5 time US national Women’s Champion and US Senior Women’s Champion. She is also a former World Silver Medalist.

As a New York resident and a curler who has represented the United States I can’t tell you how privileged I feel to be able to practice and play at the Niagara Falls Curling Club. The ice staff has always gone above and beyond when my team has needed practice and ice time before a big event. The members are like family always following our teams endeavors and cheering us on even though we represent another country. I love being a part of Niagara Falls curling club! – Patti Lank

Sean Ford is long time member and coach at the curling club who clearly has had his life impacted by being a member of the Niagara Falls Curling Club. A Legacy of Success: Youth Curling At Niagara Falls Curling Club

In recent weeks I have had a chance to reflect on our curling club and its influence on not only my life, but those of my children and family members. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into a little over 10 years ago, when we brought our kids out to the club for Little Rocks.

The program was being run at the time by Mike and Paula Mann, longtime members at NFCC who had kids of their own in the program and had volunteered to run the program for years. The girls took to it right away, I’m sure in large part to the welcoming environment that Mike & Paula created on Sunday mornings.

As the skills started to develop, a competitive spark grew in the kids. Maybe a bonspiel outside the club to test ourselves…have a little fun..the hook was set. The girls were encouraged to to get out and experience the competitive side of curling from members and coaches alike. It was wonderful to see them out there on the ice enjoying the game. What made it even better was that my girls, Katie and Megan, were a team with their cousins; Mackenzie and Cassie, so it was great family bonding time.

About this time we hooked a gifted coach at the club (Murray Etherington) into having a look at them. He was busy with his Brock University teams but thought he could spare a few hours to work with them. Work with them he did, but what we hadn’t realized was that he was working on us as well. It started with little jobs; look at something, time some rocks, give me a hand on the ice. It wasn’t long before that turned into, “maybe you could take the coaching course that I’m delivering this week in Grimsby?”.

Curling had hooked our family curling team, and Murray had hooked me into coaching…all in a very subtle slow way. I must confess that I liked it, and I enjoyed spending time with my girls and their cousins. Curling events were excuses to pack the board games and card games (Dutch Blitz). We found time to have fun and get the curling job done at the same time, often playing the games in a common area of the hotel and invite other teams to join in, many of those teams, coaches, parents and players are fast friends to this day.

The girls found success on the ice through hard work and practice not only at OCA events but also with the high school. A.N.Myer has always had a curling program and some great teachers/coaches to support it. Back when I attended A.N. Myer, it was Dennis O’Connor and today it has continued with Patty Rodgers and newly retired Gwyn Jackson. They were always encouraged and supported by the community of the Niagara Falls Curling Club, with senior members often inquiring about tournaments and other happenings with the team.

Trips to Provincials often came with donations from the different sections of the clubs to the team to help offset expenses (without us approaching them). The leagues welcomed the team in, providing some great opportunities to test their curling skills and provided a great opportunity for the older members to see Junior curling at the club in action. All four were Ice Kids at the club; seen out on the sheets; pebbling, nipping, mopping, cleaning. The girls were popular on the spare list… I’m suspecting because they had great energy to sweep and could usually be counted on to make a shot or two.

The girls have all moved on now, with the exception of the youngest Megan to University where they continue to curl with their school teams. Murray’s last hook was to convince me to help coach at Brock University as he was looking to exit competitive coaching and drift into retirement.

Most people think curling is a one night a week.. perhaps two, from Thanksgiving to the second week in April. My experience is somewhat different as a competitive coach. It starts on the ice in August and goes to May. It is 4 nights a week with weekend events and when you’re off the ice from May to August….you’re planning, organizing workouts, and prepping.

Murray and I would joke that our wives, Kathy and Michelle, were curling widows from August through April, and as he moves into retirement, I’m sure he has a little grin on his face knowing that his experiment worked 😉

I don’t know what curling will hold for me in the future, or my girls and their cousins. Perhaps they will succumb to school/career for a few years and need to step away from the game for a while. I hope that they have found that lifelong love of the game that was started in the Niagara Falls Curling Club. Perhaps their accomplishments and banners will inspire other young curlers in the club to pursue competitive curling? Our club has seen some of its Junior members continue on to compete in: The Brier, Canadian & US Nationals Championships, Provincial Championships, Ontario Winter Games, Gore School Boy/Girl Provincial Championships, SOSSA/OFSAA, and USPORT. In March we have a young lady named Evelyn Fish who will represent NFCC at the Hit, Tap, and Draw competition in Kingston at the 2020 Brier. I can’t help but wonder what the curling future holds for her, but I know that the Community of the Niagara Falls Curling Club will be there to support and encourage her! -Sean Ford

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