Local club shares joy in Olympic gold

Photo by LORETTA JACKSON Celebrating an Olympic gold medal, won on Saturday, Feb. 24, by the United States men’s curling team are members of the Merrimack Valley Curling Club that include players, from left, Joe Lessard, club president, and others of the 86-member organization that hosted on the same afternoon as the Olympic victory an open house that drew more than 100 people from as far away as Maine and Boston to learn more about the sport of curling at the curling rink that is a part of the Nashua Country Club.

Yesterday was a day to remember at the Merrimack Valley Curling Club, for on the morning of the club’s open house the United States men’s curling team won Olympic Gold and an Olympic title against a team that was thought to be difficult to be defrocked – the team from Sweden.

The news was well jawed among members and more than 100 visitors to the MVCC open house, an event held at the Nashua Country Club’s curling arena. The day presented an opportunity for many of the club’s 86 members to introduce curling to newbies or to those with little experience in the sport. The participants came from Boston, Maine and other towns throughout New England.

Plates of cheese and stalks of celery, along with crackers and dip and other snacks went largely unattended, as folks preferred to hobnob in a large room with a glass wall that offered a view of a spacious curling rink. The elongated oval of ice is brightly lit and accommodates play among several teams in the same session.

The club rents the ice from the Nashua Country Club and holds its gatherings on Sunday nights at 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. and on Tuesday nights at 8:30 p.m. Members have plenty of chances to curl during these sessions, called “draws.”

Photo by LORETTA JACKSON Roberta Theodore, of Manchester, who attended the MVCC with other family members intent on learning the basics of the sport of curling, learns some techniques from Nate Church, an avid member of the MVCC who shared his knowledge with dozens of participants at the open house held on Saturday to share a look at the sport with people who may wish to continue playing until the season ends with warm weather when the curling rink at the Nashua Country Club closes for the summer.

The club’s leagues offer play for anyone over the age of 21 and the mission is to have fun and enjoy the sport of curling. Members are all volunteers known for their willingness to help newcomers learn what may become a passion.

Joe Lessard, president, said the “great thing” about curling is that it’s a sport accessible to adults of all ages. It also is a sport that is easy to learn, he said.

“Curling is a very fast-growing sport,” Lessard said. “You don’t have to be Olympic style to curl.”

Teresa Ash, club secretary, agreed. She said that one of the best things about curling is that it can be done by just about anyone.

“Curling can be done by anyone,” Lessard said. “They can be in college or in their 50s, as it’s a great sport to continue to any age.”

Photo by LORETTA JACKSON Ryan Church, 12, a sixth-grade student at James Mastricola Upper Elementary School in Merrimack, demonstrates the smooth glide required to launch the granite “stone” that weighs between 38 and 44 pounds and is propelled over the ice by a calculated push toward the “house,” a target area segmented into four concentric circles.

The basics are more easily understood if the lingo is explained. The game is reminiscent of shuffleboard, as players attempt to move their stones across the “curling sheet,” – the ice surface – toward four concentric circles called the “house,” located at the opposite side of the ice. There are four houses to enable better team play.

The stones, or “rocks” are propelled mostly by hand. A “broom” is used to brush the ice ahead of the moving stone in an effort to warm the ice and influence the stone’s path. Each player gets eight stones and hopes to maneuver them into the center of the house during rounds called “ends.” More is easily learned with a bit of investigation.

Roberta Theodore, of Manchester, and her husband, Sean, were among those attending the open house. She said she admires the thinking that goes into deciding how hard to push the stone and how to sweep it toward the house.

“We want to join the league,” she said. “That’s why we came, as my husband’s pretty good at billiards, so this might be good for us.”