When Tony Perreira moved out west, he was suddenly faced with an overwhelming sense that something was missing.
A native of Minnesota, he is used to long winters and gets his fill of hockey, a sport quickly growing in popularity here in the Treasure Valley. Boise is a town that has everything to offer, from myriad outdoor recreational opportunities to professional sports. What it lacked, at the time, was a sport that got its start over 500 years ago in Scotland.
"Curling was something people in Boise didn't really know much about," said Perreira, Boise Curling Club founder and president. "I've played my entire life and when I came to Boise, I realized it was something that I really missed."
Perreira, who now works for the City of Boise in the Public Works Department, grew up in a part of the country where curling is as common as baseball. Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin are the biggest hot spots for a sport that found its way from Northern Europe to Canada and then to the northern part of the United States.
"My second year here, I started drumming up some interest," said Perreira, who has been in Boise since about 2003. "They started a league up in McCall and I began driving up there every Sunday to participate in their league. Last year, the interest in Boise began to grow. Everyone remembered curling from the Olympics in Salt Lake in 2002. For some people, it was the first time they had ever seen such a thing. Now we are just finishing our second season."
Last year, the Boise Curling Club held several open houses and quickly formed a league in December. The season was 12 weeks long, with 27 members participating. This year, the numbers have dropped to 24 members who participated in a season lasting eight weeks.
Curling is a team sport played on ice and it was added as an Olympic sport in 2002 at the Winter Games in Salt lake City, Utah. The object of the game is for two teams of four players to slide 42-pound granite rocks down a sheet of ice 130 feet long and 15 feet wide.
The rocks are delivered toward the center of a target, which is 12 feet in diameter and has inner rings similar to an archery target. One target is located at each end of the ice and the game is played back and forth. In its basic form, the game itself is a combination of various attributes associated with bowling, shuffleboard, billiards and chess.
Unlike hockey ice, curling ice emphasizes extreme quality control. The surface is more level, has better temperature control, is cleaner and void of nics and grooves. Adding a degree of difficulty and delivery strategy are small, frozen droplets of water that are sprinkled on the surface before each game. As the game progresses, the pebbling effect wears down into "keen tracks," which are key in both strategy and shot selection.
Another important factor of curling is the use of the broom. In the old days, sweeping was a way to clear the stone's path of any debris on the ice. Today, brooms are used to slightly melt the ice, forming a frictionless barrier. The less friction, the further the stone travels and with less curl.
"The thing we fight here in Boise is ice time," Perreira said. "There are only two rinks and a big hockey program, and figure skating, too. The only two hours of ice time we could get this year was between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m on Sundays. Nobody likes that time, but we took it because it's the only time we have available to us."
Not only does the ice come at a premium in terms of availability, but also in terms of price. The cost for ice time is a hefty $350 per two-hour session, a cost Perreira is partly trying to defray with club membership fees and sponsorships. Even so, he has picked up most of the tab himself.
Perreira said he is toying with a summer league, if the interest is there. It all depends on how many members are interested in a summer league, a time when scheduling ice is much easier than it is during the winter. A youth program is another branch of the club he's been considering.
Most of the people involved in the league are from Boise and became involved due to curiosity piqued by the sport's exposure during the 2002 Winter Olympics.
"My husband and I saw the sport four years ago during the Olympics," said Boise Curling Club member Anita Daniel. "We just got a kick out of it. Last year we saw that Tony (Perreira) had a table out here at Ice World and we picked up some information. We couldn't believe someone was actually going to do this and we thought it would be something we would like to try. My husband Gary and I do this together and have lots of fun. It's nice that the club has all the equipment. All you have to do is show up and learn. Tony really is a great teacher and is very willing to teach the sport."
The United States Curling team is set to compete during this February's Winter Olympics. The United States Curling Association is headquartered in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. For more information on the Boise Curling Club, contact Tony Perreira at (208) 841-2842 or e-mail him at email@example.com. For more information on USA Curling, call (715) 344-1199, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or log onto www.usacurl.org.
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