Man attempts 100 curling matches at 100 clubs
|Report an Error|
Share via Email
The first words out of Rob Swan’s mouth are: “I’m tired.”
For good reason — in less than six days, the New Brunswick native has curled in 17 matches across the GTA.
It’s all part of the plan he dreamt up this summer, a “curling across the nation” quest that is pretty much what it sounds like: 100 games in 100 clubs. One man. One broom.
Or as the 48-year-old good-naturedly calls it: “My stupidity.”
He has no podium ambitions. He simply wants to save his hometown Harvey Station Curling Club so there is always home ice to play on.
“In our district, we’ve had three curling clubs that have closed over the past two years and we under no circumstances want ours to close, ” said Swan by phone as he eats pizza outside GTA stop number 17: Scarborough’s Tam Heather Curling and Tennis Club. “Our curling club is 53 years old ... and it needs some renovation.”
With its white, paint-peeling clapboard exterior and wooden front porch, the Harvey Station club, some 50 kilometres southwest of Fredericton, has yet to undergo any major rebuild since it opened in 1961, Swan said. Among other needed maintenance jobs, the club’s members would like to re-insulate their aging ice house and pour concrete under the sheets to make it playable year round. If something breaks, Swan said, the club no longer has the funds to fix it.
Nearly 100 members back home, in an immediate community of less than 400 people, are fuelling Swan’s cause. They are seeking out sponsors for every game he plays. Swan’s travel costs are paid out of pocket, so every dollar donated goes back to the club.
“I love curling and I’m making them work for their money,” Swan says of the team back home on Candlelight Lane.
As of Sunday, he had raised $932 of their ambitious $50,000 goal, according to the fundraising page.
Swan, who already travels across country for work from Harvey Station, where he was born, to northern British Columbia as a service electrician for remote communities, thought the journey could do with some detours.
So he started calling up clubs in July, looking for spaces to play. Averaging three to four games per day, he’ll take any position the club can accommodate.
After starting with 16 games in Winnipeg this October, Swan has travel plans for Calgary, Halifax, Edmonton and elsewhere through to January. As he criss-crosses the country for work, he admits there’s no real logic to his schedule.
When he stepped on the ice in Manitoba, it was the first time the lifelong curler had played in six years. He’s never wanted to let the team down as he spends weeks at a time away for work.
Still, Swan expected to coast under the radar, get in his 100 matches and go home.
But the attention to his humble pilgrimage has already grown beyond his control.
“The reception across this country has been absolutely remarkable,” he said. He keeps thanking a reporter for calling. “This has taken legs of its own. I’m here curling and that’s way, way out in front of me.
“It shows the curling community really cares about the future of this sport.”
Though this journey started with saving his own club, it also serves as a portrait of this country’s many clubs who have agreed to help.
Outside Tam Heather, a community sign welcomed Swan to their house: “Tam supports Rob Swan at Curl Across the Nation,” the block letters read.
“What a greeting,” Swan posted online.
A Facebook page for Curling Across the Nation documents Swan’s progress — from Assiniboine Memorial Curling Club in Winnipeg, home to Canada’s 2014 wheelchair curling champions, to the rafted ceilings of Brampton Curling Club, where Swan was named an honorary member this week.
The recent Olympic success of Canada’s national curling teams has been great for the sport, Swan said, but curling is still not celebrated the way it deserves.
He said Toronto’s clubs are impressive, though some underutilized.
“The state of some of the clubs across this country really saddens me,” Swan said. “Hopefully with what I’m doing, it will shine light on the sport enough it will get people interested again.”
If anyone is counting back home, this curling disciple has already won 29 out of 34 games.