For a 50th year, fresh ice has been installed at Delta Thistle Curling Club for the season ahead.
The frozen, pebbled sheets have drawn curlers to North Delta Recreation Centre since 1972, and the facility hasn’t changed much since then.
“We have a lot of the original decor up in the lounge,” club manager Lynda Roemer said with a laugh. “We’re talking about doing a face-lift,” she added, “and what I’d like to do is put more artwork on the walls, including digital photos of all our club presidents that we’ll also put on our website.
“We have a long history worth celebrating.”
Laverne Theis began curling at the club more than 30 years ago, and was the club manager for close to a quarter-century, until 2015. This fall she’ll be inducted into the Delta Sports Hall of Fame, along with several other local athletes who’ll be named soon.
“I was from Saskatchewan and taught figure skating there, then moved to Delta,” Theis recalled. “Once both of my kids were in school, I walked over here and saw what was going on, and wanted to learn how to curl. I loved it.”
Theis said she was drawn to the game for its social nature, but got competitive soon after she played it for the first time.
“That’s just my vein of personality, and the people are wonderful,” she added.
The club’s current president is Jim Cessford, former Delta Police chief.
Back in 1972, the curling club started with four sheets of ice, then quickly grew by two to offer six, the current configuration – “some the best curling ice in the Lower Mainland,” according to a post on the club website (deltathistle.ca).
Some free, hour-long “intro” curling sessions are happening at Delta Thistle this week (Sept. 19-25). To get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 604-594-2323.
The club is home to men’s, ladies’, mixed, open and novice adult leagues six nights a week, and plays host to a number of daytime senior leagues. There’s also a growing Saturday-morning junior curling program, another for Special Olympians and one large wheelchair curling league, as club management aims to grow the game in North Delta and surrounding areas.
”Last year we started a Little Rockers program, for ages four to around nine, and they can graduate into our junior program,” Roemer explained. “It started out with only 16 participants, then we opened it up to 32, with two sessions. It’s organized chaos, but it’s great, and we are getting more inquiries from parents about getting their kids into the sport. Now I’m trying to get our older teens into our evening leagues.
“My dad got me into curling, and then marriage kept me in curling,” Roemer continued. “My brother used to curl with my dad, so there were family connections like that. Our evenings don’t really have that right now, so we’re trying to make that happen.”
Some famous people have stepped through the curling club doors, including royalty – the only daughter of Queen Elizabeth II.
“Princess Anne came to this club in 2010, during the Winter Olympics, when we hosted a game between the U.K. and one of our competitive teams,” Theis recalled. “She came with an entourage, her security guards, and that was a very special day. She didn’t curl, she watched from upstairs.”
Last year, Canada’s Paralympic curling team practiced at Delta Thistle.
“They had their training camp here, before they went to Beijing,” Roemer remembered. “That was special as well. Because of COVID protocol they couldn’t mingle with anyone, so they were in and out. It was a tense 14 days for me because if one of them caught COVID, the whole team didn’t get to go to the Olympics. It was very strict here with the rules of getting in and out, and masks.”
It’s no secret that demographics in North Delta have changed over the past 50 years, in step with the waning popularity of curling.
“In those days we had a lot of people moving here from the prairie provinces, and curling is really big there in the winter,” Roemer noted. “There was a lot more demand (for curling ice) back then. Now with our climate being so mild, we have so many other things to do indoors and also outdoors, including golf all year around, pretty much, and now it’s tougher to bring families into curling.
“Youth will always be the future, but we’ve kind of lost our mid group, people in their mid-30s to early 50s,” she revealed. “That group, they’re not really part of the club anymore, so there’s a huge disparity between the people just starting to curl and then we have the elite curlers. Bridging that gulf is something we’re working to do now, get more curlers into the game.”