Thanks to an alumnus, kids at Prince Edward School got a taste of curling from one of the sport’s elite on Jan. 24.
The Capital One Rocks & Rings program came to the East Kildonan school that day to help give kids an introduction to the sport through floor curling drills, as well as relays and team-building exercises. The program was led by Liz Fyfe, who plays second for provincial Scotties finalist Kerri Einarson and is the daughter of 1992 Brier champion Vic Peters.
Local resident Brad Childe, 56, was so enthusiastic about the program he covered the $175 cost of bringing it to the school for a day and purchased a set of floor-curling rocks for the school. A former Prince Edward student himself, Childe went on to compete alongside Dave Romano, the third from Orest Meleschuk’s 1972 world champion rink, at several provincial championships and at bonspiels across the province.
"Prince Edward was where I first learned to curl," he said. "Kids nowadays are more into a lot of electronic games, and I’m just trying to get kids more involved in sports and curling."
Prince Edward was where Childe first participated in jam can curling, a version of the sport where old jam cans (which a post on the Canadian Curling Association website describes as being like paint cans but with a two-litre capacity) were used to create rocks.
He said the students still curl each year, now using bantam-weight rocks, but the school was excited to boost its curling curriculum with the Rocks & Rings program.
"If I get one, then I’m repaying the school what they taught me," he said, noting he hopes to change curling’s perception as an "old man’s game", as it can be a sport enjoyed by young children to people into their 90s.
Prince Edward gym teacher Nigel Wilcox, who has been at the school for 18 years, said the sport is alive and well at the school. The school has enjoyed an outdoor curling rink for the past 15 years, and Wilcox noted approximately 70 students in Grade 4 to 6 participate in a school-operated league.
Wilcox, a British expat who has played in the MCA Bonspiel (now Manitoba Open) the past six years with members of his Taverners cricket team, likes that the sport is one students can play all their lives.
"It teaches teamwork, it teaches fair play. It’s wonderful that boys and girls of all ages can compete together," Wilcox said. "It’s not about the fastest or the strongest."
As part of the day, students signed a card that Childe was set to give to the Jennifer Jones rink before it was set to go over to Sochi, Russia, for next month’s Winter Olympics.