There is local legend in Baddeck that a set of curling stones lay buried beneath the museum pond. According to one account, the mud in the pond swallowed the stones one spring when the ice thawed early in the year. The locals had left the stones on the ice for the next game, but the next game would not come...
While I have never heard a date for that game, the story is backed up with stones being pulled out of the mud over the years. Curling was a common sport in Baddeck out on the ponds and lake, it was mentioned in the writings of Alexander Graham Bell that some of his employees had won a game.
Indoor curling officially started in the village in 1983 with the formation of the Victoria Highland Curling Club. Renting ice time from the local arena, the club's first executive built score boards, rented (later purchased) stones and convinced the arena to paint houses into their ice. They built benches to bring onto the ice for the edge of the sheet and grew their club and every Saturday night they flooded the ice to freeze the hacks in place for Sunday's games.
As the club grew, the members were curling every Sunday from November to March from 8am until midnight. It wasn't long before they started dreaming of having their own space, where they could curl every day of the week with favourable ice conditions. Where they could have their own bonspiels any weekend they wanted. Soon the dreams were shared and the ideas started flowing.
The Baddeck Curling Club's Dream Draw was started in 1993 as a fund-
raiser for a new curling rink and clubhouse. Held in the arena in September, it became an annual dinner and dance for the community which would last for 24 years. Tickets were purchased with the chance to win up to $25,000! Money was raised and the curling club was becoming a reality!
Victoria County gave the land behind the arena to the club for their new curling rink. The foundation began to be laid; the first board hammered put in place on June 22, 1999 at 1:45pm (which they recorded on that same piece of wood). Over the next few months, the building was laid out, filled with cement, roofed, gyproc'ed, crack filled, painted and eventually, the ice went on - all through the power of volunteers. The building committee would later report over 1000 volunteer hours went into the construction.
That winter the new Baddeck Curling Club opened its doors. The first rock on the new ice was thrown December 27, 1999 but curling in the new rink officially began in January 2000. Everyone was excited for the new clubhouse, as years of hard work were paying off. That curling season was a short one in Baddeck, running January to April, but as well as an official opening, they managed to fit in a number of bonspiels and organize leagues for men, ladies, mixed, commercial and competitive, most of which were running two draws a night.
In the winter of 2000/2001, bonspiels were established which would come to last for the next twenty years - the Blarney Stone Bonspiel, a ladies bonspiel which invited ladies from around the province to join us began that year, and while the Closing Bonspiel had always taken place, this was the year they decided to call it after former club president, the late Hal Norton. The 2000/2001 curling season may have been the second year of curling, but it was the year that many traditions began!
The clubhouse and curling rink of the Baddeck Curling Club has now been open for nearly twenty years! Our membership has had a slight drop, which has seen a number of changes, such as the disappearance of the competitive and ladies leagues, and the reduction to one draw every night, but Fridays, which continues to go strong as the Commercial League. Yet, despite the drop in membership (which appears to be partly due to the average age of our active members) there is one program that has grown immensely - the youth development program.
Youth have always had a role in the Baddeck Curling Club, but with the new clubhouse, more emphasis was put on growing this program. It began by offering development programs to those aged 10-18 with volunteer coaches teaching everything from in-turns and out-turns, to delivery and to strategy. Then in 2002 the club purchased a set of full sized junior stones, which are only partial weight to a regular curling stone. With this purchase, the development program could now be offered to a younger age group. This is when youth curling started growing and it hasn't stopped yet! We've had many junior teams represent our club over the years in regional and provincial competitions and have always returned proud of a job well done.
There are many more stories that could be added in to the history of our club (such as Bill Smith convincing the men to work in the kitchen during the ladies bonspiel as he didn't believe the women should have to cook for themselves!). But rather than bore you with details, I will leave off here with the knowledge that our club is doing well, but there is always room for improvements - and with our current average age, ALWAYS room for a younger crowd to join in! Come try curling for yourself! It is one of the most social games there is, and with only a small competitive feel in our club, no one is held responsible for any shot thrown! We believe it is more important to show up than to win - and even if you lose the game, you win a drink! Join us in writing the next twenty years of our story!
- written by