The Haliburton Curling Club is planning to carry on its season even with the pandemic taking its toll on how many people are willing to play.
The club is working with the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit (HKPR) to start its season in October with new safety precautions, according to president Kent Milford.
Milford said after putting a vote to members, 54 per cent said they were willing to curl even with the additional necessary restrictions. With just over 100 members confirmed, the club’s board decided they had enough to go forward.
“The board has really been put in a difficult position,” Milford said. “We’ll do whatever it takes. We want those people who feel they still wanted to curl to have an opportunity to curl, but not at the expense of safety.”
Across the province, curling will be different. Health units are advising limits on cross-club play, with the Haliburton club not allowing any of its members to play elsewhere this season. The pandemic will impact gameplay as well, with the Ontario Curling Association recommending only one sweeper on all delivered stones.
Milford said masks will be mandatory for the most part and curling equipment cannot be shared. Their lounge area will also require social distancing.
The club has an average age of 65, a more vulnerable population for the virus, Milford said. But despite the hurdles and risks, many members are willing to keep curling.
“People have told me ‘I have nothing else I can do this winter, I want to curl, I want to make sure you do it. I’m willing to live with the risk’,” Milford said.
But not everyone is comfortable with that. Minden Curling Club president Robert Peacock said they put out a similar vote and only 40 of their 205 members – about 20 per cent – were willing to curl. As such, they are delaying their season until at least Christmas.
“Just trying to be safe and not cause any problems,” Peacock said. “Average age of our curling club is 67, so I think they’re just being very cautious.”
Clubs are also facing financial losses, unable to run usual fundraisers or tournaments. Peacock said they expect to lose $20,000 in building expenses, though that would have run up to $50,000 if they ran the season without enough numbers.
Milford said his club is also facing a loss, but it should be small enough to manage.
“It’s difficult,” Milford said.
“Thankfully, the balance sheet of our curling club is in reasonable shape and saved for a rainy day.”
Milford said he is confident members will follow the health protocols needed to carry on playing.
“We’re going to have to rely on the community spirit of our curlers to make sure they abide by these protocols,” he said. “I believe all of our curlers will.”