Rob Swan from Harvey Station, New Brunswick, visited southwest Saskatchewan on Jan. 17 to curl in Abbey, Hazlet and Swift Current.
He spent a two-week period in Saskatchewan from Jan. 11 to 23 to visit communities around the province as part of his goal to curl at 100 clubs across Canada during this curling season.
“Here in Saskatchewan the reception has been phenomenal,” he said after his third game of the day at the Swift Current Curling Club. “I could not ask for a better reception. CurlSask has been behind me 100 per cent. They’ve contacted clubs for me, they have publicized my schedule. So I couldn’t ask for better co-operation with CurlSask.”
He has already visited more than 60 clubs after his visit to southwest Saskatchewan and so far, he has curled in nine provinces.
“The only province I have left is Newfoundland, and that will come in March during the Brier,” he said.
His Curling Across the Nation tour started as an idea to raise money for renovations at the Harvey Curling Club.
“For me it started as a fundraiser for my hometown club, but it has slowly become trying to support and promote the sport wherever and whenever I can,” he said. “I think at a grassroots level it’s badly needed because there is no municipal and provincial support for this sport, and it is a sport. It’s not something that your mother and father do anymore. It’s a triple medal in the Olympics and the municipal and provincial governments have to treat it that way, and they don’t.”
He feels confident about the future of curling in Canada, but it requires the support of local authorities and education departments.
“This should be an option in every athletics department in every school, because in every school you have soccer, you have volleyball, all that stuff,” he said. “This is an Olympic sport. You should be promoting it to the youth of this country as an Olympic sport and they don’t, and that’s pitiful.”
He noted curling is a sport that can be played by everyone at any age, which can make a difference to keep people active throughout their lives.
“This is a sport you can start when you’re five years old,” he said. “I mean, look at some of the gentlemen here tonight. They’re in their sixties. What other sport can you do that? None. For provincial governments, you should be backing this sport to get people active and stay active for the rest of their life.”
His visits to curling rinks across the country is providing him with a new perspective on the game and an even greater appreciation for curling.
“In a lot of places the curling facility is the centre of the community,” he said. “I've been in places in Saskatchewan that the community revolves around that curling facility and the optimism for the sport in that community centre is unbelievable.”
He has been in some old-style curling rinks, for example in Saskatchewan he played on natural ice surfaces at the rinks in Duck Lake and St. Benedict.
“They’ve got no ice plant and they basically freeze the water on the dirt and build her up,” he said.
Regardless of how old or modern the curling rinks are, there is an enthusiasm for the game in all the clubs he has visited.
“Every curling facility that I’m going to the curlers have an enthusiasm for the sport that is unmatched with any other sport,” he said. “This is the only sport that you can go out and curl, you can get your butt kicked, and then still go upstairs to have a beverage with the team that just beat you. No other sport is like that.”
Swan works as a service electrician in remote camps in western and northern Canada, and during the winter he will use his spare time to curl.
“I work for two weeks and then I have two weeks off,” he said. “So usually, starting in October, I just go curl.”
He would go back to New Brunswick when he is not working, but this winter he has used those two-week periods to travel to curling clubs for a game. The last time he was back home was for Christmas. His family supports his goal to curl at 100 curling clubs across Canada.
“They know that the sport is a passion of mine,” he said. “They think it’s ludicrous that I pay for everything, but that’s OK.”
He funds the different trips to curling clubs across the country. Donations and funds raised through the sale of Curling Across the Nation curling gear and clothing will be going to the Harvey Curling Club renovation fund.
For more information about Rob Swan’s travels and his fundraising efforts, visit the Curling Across the Nation Facebook page or the website at http://www.curling acrossthenation.com/.