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Broom buddies descend on Ottawa

First-ever bonspiel for Ottawa Rainbow Rockers

HOT ROCKS. Kevin Nixon warms up for ice competition against teams from Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. The public is invited. Credit: Pat Croteau

Gay curlers from across Canada will be rocking Ottawa on the Mar 24 weekend as local ice enthusiasts hold the first annual Over The Rainbow Bonspiel.

Curlers from Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa will converge on the Ottawa Curling Club for the event.

“When the league, Ottawa Rainbow Rockers, started [in 2002] we always had an interest in providing a venue for out-of-town teams,” says Brian Gallant, chair of the bonspiel committee.

It’s a big event for local gay sports enthusiasts.

“We struggled for four years to find ice time because it’s a rare commodity in Ottawa and finally landed a weekend where we can actually host a full bonspiel event,” says Gallant.

Ottawa is the seventh city in Canada to host at least one lesbian and gay bonspiel, says Scott Girdler, a member of Toronto’s Riverdale league. “Our bonspiels have always been well attended by Ottawa teams so we want to be there for their inaugural one to support their efforts.”

Local organizers want out-of-town teams to leave with a good feeling.

“A lot of effort was put in to make sure the teams coming from out of town will be in for a good competition,” says Kevin Nixon, a member of the Rainbow Rockers league. “The food will be good and there will be lots of time for people to socialize between the games. It’s a great way to meet people from out of town.”

Nixon, a member of ORR since it first began, is one of the league’s most noteworthy players. But he downplays his own success, focussing instead on the legendary camaraderie of curling.

“It’s great fun and a great way to spend a Sunday evening,” says Nixon. “It’s challenging enough that you learn something new, but it’s fun enough that you get to spend time with the community. I’ve met a lot of new friends through it.”

Four-year member Robb Barnes feels the same way.

“It was nice to join a league that was for gay men and women,” says Barnes at a recent practice. He feels that the league has given him the opportunity to be himself. Barnes feels comfortable curling with community members, and joking and kissing openly is accepted at the Ottawa Curling Club. He is mostly looking forward to the social aspects that this bonspiel will provide.

Colin Crance is looking forward to a whole weekend of play. And, he laughs, “There’s a chance to win prizes.”

Even members who were too shy to go on record were shouting praises about their enthusiasm for the upcoming bonspiel.

Curling is a big thing in Canadian gay athletic circles, stresses Gallant.

“Our membership keeps growing. We just don’t seem to have enough ice time. The interest is there. It’s amazing.”

Ottawa’s not alone.

“There is a boom in curling,” says Louis Ricard, the Montreal organizer for Les Fous Du Rois league. “Bonspiels are everywhere. Ottawa’s seems well organized.

“What I like about curling is that you can start at any age and play until you die,” says Ricard.

Fellow LFDR team member Maxence Eli says the team is very excited about the Ottawa tourney. “For their first bonspiel [they’re] doing very well. They’re at full capacity — 24 teams. We’re not surprised because they are very well-liked. We also know them. We want to encourage the Ottawa Bonspiel and we want their league to flourish.”

The public is invited to watch the event and check out the parties.