from the sidelines
ON THE ICE, SHAKEN NOT STIRRED by Natalie Axton
ONE OF THE MOST important rules of curling is that the winners console the losers by buying them a round of drinks. Tonight, still winded after my first match at the Ardsley Curling Club, I see how important this rule really is. My team lost, and I’m not sure how or by how many points. I’ve spent the past two hours running up and down a sheet of ice with a broom trying not to fall. Despite my best attempts at getting acclimated to the space – a kind of cold white bowling alley – my eyes are still whiteblinded and my feet are still sliding. Once we stopped “playing” I realized I was starved. Dutifully, gentlemanly, my equivalent on the opposing team, George, asks me what I want to drink. I have no idea. “I’ll take a beer, any beer,” I mumble. I started curling this year on a whim and I didn’t know what to expect. Curling isn’t as high profile in the United States as it is in Canada and references to it draw
blank stares or worse. “You’re doing what?” my mother asked me after I told her I had decided to try it. A coworker said nothing, just looked at me askance and then confessed she and her friends made fun of the curlers during the Winter Olym- pics. She wasn’t alone. Curling gets the most exposure in the United States during the Olympics. It’s been an event in the Winter Olym- pic Games since 1998. And so every four years viewers and journalists “discover” curling. Isn’t it funny? Doesn’t it look strange? Who are these silly people who call themselves athletes? Curling, however, has a long history in the United States and much of that history is centered around New York. The game is a Scottish import that first came to Detroit, then spread to and flourished in New York City. (In philosophy, curling is very much like that other Scottish sporting in- vention, golf.) Early clubs included the St. Andrew’s, the New York Curl- ing Club, the Yonkers, the Thistles, and the Caledonians, and many of them met on the frozen ponds of Central Park for matches or ‘bonspiels.’
LEFT: GREAT CURLING MATCH ON THE CENTRAL PARK POND
BETWEEN THE ST. ANDREWS AND CALEDONIAN CLUBS.
FRANK LESLIE’S ILLUSTRATED NEWSPAPER, FEBRUARY 17,
1872 COURTESY OF THE NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
According to the New York Historical Society, there was a large enough body of curlers in the United States by 1867 to establish a Grand Na- tional Curling Club of America with headquarters in New York City. In 1869 a founding member of the St. Andrew Curling Club created a gold medal to be awarded to the best curling club in the nation. Still played today, the Gordon Grand National Bonspiel is one of the oldest sporting events in the country. (It’s preceded by the America’s Cup yacht race and a summer bonspiel called the Bell Quoit Silver Medal.) The Ardsley Curling Club, (ACC), located on the grounds of the Ard- sley Country Club, is a legacy of this early curling history. The club was founded by a member of the St. Andrews Club in 1932. The clubhouse at the Ardsley Country Club opened in 1967. The New York Caledo- nians relocated to Westchester in order to share space with ACC. The other original clubs are gone. George has gone into the warm room, the club’s cozy living room that
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