The sport of curling has been around a long time, originating in Scotland hundreds of years ago. But since the United States men's team took home the bronze medal in 2006, interest in the sport in the U.S. has surged. The Brainerd Lakes Curling Association was started shortly after those Olympics.
The BLCA started its 2010-2011 season on Halloween and will run on Sunday nights through March at the Gold Medal Arena in the Brainerd Area Civic Center.
Curling is a team sport in which players slide stones across a sheet of ice toward a target while other players, using brooms, sweep in front of the stone to alter its direction and speed. The team with the stone closest to the center of the target wins a point and, after a number of rounds, known as ends, the team with the most points wins.
Anyone can play - men and women of all ages are welcome. And although one can get a workout from participating, especially when doing a lot of sweeping, the sport is not so strenuous that one needs to be an accomplished athlete to participate. And it can be picked up later in life. Mike Hoff, chairman of the club, joked that it's "everybody's best chance to get in the Olympics."
In keeping with its accessible nature, there isn't a need to buy a lot of equipment - it's provided by the association when members join. All participants really need to bring are a clean pair of tennis shoes and, if wanted, a pair of mittens to keep their hands warm.
When asked why he joined this year, new curler Mike Moss responded "for something fun to do in the winter." And since Minnesota has a lot of winter, that is probably why the state has produced so many world-class curlers.
There are 14 teams in the BLCA, competing on a round-robin basis, and enrollment is still open. A full team can be gathered (four to a team plus subs) or an individual looking to join may still find openings on current teams. Hoff recommends that people join no later than Nov. 14 to get the most out of the season. For more information, go to www.brainerdcurling.org or contact Hoff at 851-9630.