We rocked out at the curling tournament

Babes, rocks, high stakes & major Canadiana—the Tournament of Hearts is in Montreal this week.

Canada-Yukon (600x399)
Curling! Photos by Cindy Lopez
The Stanley Cup of women’s curling, the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, is currently going on in Montreal. It’s the first time our city has ever hosted the bonspiel (am I using my curling nomenclature right?), which started last Saturday and ends this Sunday, Feb. 9.

It’s all taking place at the rundown Maurice Richard Arena at Olympic Park, which may not be a great place to take in an event (like, say, an Arcade Fire concert circa Neon Bible), but its blockiness actually provides decent sightlines for a curling tournament. Watching pro curling in the flesh is quite a different experience than simply watching it on television.

Maurice Richard Arena
Maurice Richard Arena

I checked out a sleepy Monday afternoon draw, attended mostly by out-of-towners representing the teams. Each province has a team, plus one for the combined territories of Yukon and Northwest Territories, and the current reigning champs, who get to be called Team Canada.

There were four matches happening simultaneously, which made it extremely disorienting at first. Your inclination is to watch based on sound: like if a player starts screaming, or if you hear rocks colliding with each other, your eyes will be directed there. But by doing so, you end up missing out on strategic shots, and instead of following along intently to one game, you’re browsing four, and not getting a very in-depth experience.

Once you’ve figured out how to observe the action properly, and you’ve memorized important matters like who’s the skip and who has last rock, it all flows quite smoothly from the stands. It’s actually quite meditative, with only the hard sweeping, occasional shouts and murmuring teammates to break the echoing silence of the arena (there’s no Vic Rauter to guide you along, like on television). Perhaps the most enjoyable noise of the day came from the audience, when everyone let out a collective groan after the Nova Scotia skip sent a rock, destined for the button, right through the house and out of bounds.

It was also surprising to see how young and athletic the current crop of curlers were. The days of the quartet of over-competitive hockey moms rocking the rink are seemingly over. The Yukon/Territories team, especially, looked to be comprised of teens, and their skip bore a slight resemblance to pop star Lorde.

If you’ve ever been curious about seeing pro curling in person, I recommend you not let this opportunity pass. It’s possible to have a good time even if you’re not an expert on the sport, and you may just be taken aback by how Canadian the experience feels. ■



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