The first ever Canadian U18 Curling Championships is being held in Moncton this week, bringing in more than a dozen teams from across the country, and organizers are hoping the competition will have a long-lasting impact on the sport.
“We have been trying to get the schools out and we had two bus loads of kids come in this Thursday morning to cheer on New Brunswick against Quebec,” said Rick Perron from Curl Moncton, which is hosting the national competition.
Perron said the number of kids enrolled in curling has dropped right across the country in the last decade by as much as 20 per cent. He believes there has been too much focus on grooming the young high performance athletes to go on to compete at the nationals or the world’s and not enough is being done to promote the sport to kids who just want to curl for fun.
“We also have to focus on grassroots because that it where those podium players come from and if we ignore that then we are going to be in trouble at some point,” he said.
Susie Leger, a curler and a volunteer at the tournament, said the competition gives those participating a chance to represent their communities.
“You have a lot of great curlings who are 15, 16 and 17 years old and this U18 gives them the chance to represent their province or their territory and to get that experience,” she said.
Leger added that she hopes the young non-curlers watching the youth competitors will be inspired to take up the sport and that the national tournament will create a “buzz” in the city about curling.
The City of Moncton has put in a bit to host the Brier in 2019, which the city hasn’t done since 1985.
Perron said whether the city wins that bit depends very much on getting people excited enough about curling to buy their tickets in advance.
The tournament wraps up on Saturday and regardless of which team wins this weekend, organizers say the ultimate goal is to get young people pumped about the sport enough to try it out.