Jeff Smith chats with Dr. Donald Piché, president of the Traverse City Curling Club.
In the United States, curling—42-pound polished rock gliding on ice toward target, two people sweeping a path as it goes—has long been relegated to weird-hours TV and derided by talk show hosts as proof of how peculiar Canadians are. But, following the last Olympics, curling has become a sport on the rise in America (Russian Women’s Curling Team calendar noted). Traverse City people are doing their part to fuel the curling surge, with a full league season scheduled this winter. We checked in with the president of the nascent Traverse City Curling, Dr. Donald Piché.
So, how did curling get started in Traverse City?
It actually began about eight years ago when I asked the head of Centre Ice about starting a curling league. He said that was a bad idea and that was it. Then four years ago I brought it up again, and he said, “It’s so expensive. A set of rocks alone is $10,000, and there’s other equipment, too.” And I thought, Good, at least he’s thinking about it. Then a couple years ago I asked him again and he said let’s see what we can make happen.
Tell us about that amazingly successful open house you had.
We invited people from the five curling clubs in Michigan to come to Traverse City one weekend and teach people how to curl. Fifty of them came to teach, and 500 people showed up on a Saturday to try it! Once that happened, we knew we had enough interest.
So you have already had one season of league play?
We had a mini-season, just three weeks last June.
But now a full season?
Right. It will run from early January until March 8. We have 20 teams and will play two nights a week, with 10 teams each night. So that means we will have 40 people on the ice, which is kind of crazy to see.
Do you have dedicated ice?
No. We share the ice with figure skaters and hockey teams. We are what’s called an arena club, meaning you use arena ice. In Lewiston the club has dedicated ice. That is a long range goal of ours, but in the meantime we are really blessed with the support that the Centre Ice board has given us. They bought five sets of rocks, which is a major investment. We will be paying them back over time.
What’s the curling vibe like?
It’s actually sort of a hip vibe. San Francisco is one of the fastest growing curling clubs in the country. A lot of younger people are curling, the 25 to 40 age group. It is paired with craft beer in a lot of clubs.
What do you like about curling?
It’s a very social game, way more social than what I was expecting. You spend a couple of hours with somebody playing a game and you get to know them, there’s time to communicate, time to talk. And it’s very much a thinking game, very strategic.
What kind of equipment would a person need to bring to play?
Just some clean tennis shoes.
Learn more about Traverse City Curling online.