Curling, while popular in Canada and around the world, is harder to find in the states, Michigan included. The Detroit Curling Club, located at 1615 E. Lewiston Ave. in Ferndale, is the oldest curling club in Michigan, and the only curling organization in metro Detroit. The Midland Curling Club in Midland is more than 100 miles from the city.
Curling is a sport in which competitors push stones weighing about 42 pounds apiece that often curve, or “curl,” as they slide down the ice. The players use besoms or brooms to clear snow and debris from the path of the stones, also known as rocks. The object of the game is to position the stone closer to the center of the target circle than your opponent.
The game originated in Scotland, and its earliest appearance in Michigan started with the Orchard Lake Curling Club, organized in 1831 in Orchard Lake, Mich. The Detroit Curling Club started in 1885. Since moving to Ferndale in 2002, it has seen its membership grow from 90 to more than 250.
Mike Grudzinski, a Utica resident, who sits on the board of directors and is a past president, believes these numbers can be attributed to growing interest in the sport. Past members have included the Dodge Brothers, Horace and John (of Dodge automobile fame), and others.
“There must have been some pent-up demand because once we opened here, we’ve just had a huge influx,” Grudzinski said. “We curl every night of the week, (with) two leagues that start at 6 and 8 (p.m.). Then Sunday night we have a league and on Thursdays we have three leagues at 5, 7 and 9 (p.m.).”
Grudzinski has been curling for eight years. His first exposure to it came from television. A family trip to Canada reinforced his interest.
“I ended up curling five times a week on three different nights. We have two leagues every night, so I’d curl back-to-back leagues. I’ve played in a couple of national events,” he said.
Most recently, his team placed third in a competition held in Fairbanks, Alaska. The appeal of curling, from his perspective, is twofold: It has both the individual and the team element.
“Every member of the team is involved in it, whether they’re watching (the rock) travel down to determine whether they need to sweep, or skip down at the other end,” Grudzinski said.
With members of all ages, the Detroit Curling Club has something for those interested in the sport.
“We have people mostly from the metro Detroit area,” Grudzinski said. “We do have members that come from Ann Arbor, Lansing and Downriver because we’re the only club (in Detroit). The next closest club outside of Canada is actually in Bowling Green, Ohio. There are three teams here from Canada and three teams from Cleveland, Ohio.”
Becky Hermann, a Westland resident, has been a member of the Detroit Curling Club for two years. She, too, went to Canada to curl, believing there wasn’t anywhere in Detroit to play the game.
“My friends and I used to go to Canada all the time,” Hermann said. “It’s one of those things we always wanted to do. We needed to find some things around here. I did an Internet search and up came the Detroit Curling Club. Who knew it was in Ferndale? A lot of people don’t actually know it’s here.”
Hermann enjoys the camaraderie of being a member of the Detroit Curling Club almost as much as the game itself.
“The people here are awesome; they really make the sport that much more fun,” Hermann said. “I’ve done sports all my life. I’ve done basketball, softball and track. It’s a different kind of game. The strategy behind it is unlike any other sport I’ve ever played.”
The club has a warm atmosphere where visitors can watch the games from the lounge and viewing area. From TV, to snacks, to spirits, the Detroit Curling Club is not only a place to compete; it also provides a meeting place and friendly atmosphere. Adorning the walls are framed pictures, most in black and white, and trophies encased in glass.
“It’s a lot of fun out there with the competition, but when you get to this side of the glass it’s even more fun sitting down having a (drink) with your teammates and your competitors,” said Mike Rogala of Canton, a four-year member. “This time of the year we get people coming here all the time watching the game.”
“It’s the ultimate team game,” said Jeff Deneea, a six-year member. Like Rogala, he drives from Canton to Ferndale to curl. “Everybody contributes on every shot, every end.”
“I have to agree with Mike,” said Deb Freelander of Southfield. She’s been curling for four years. “It’s like a family. Everybody looks out for everybody. As much fun as you have on the ice, you meet people from out of town. It’s a great way to enjoy the game with others that you may not meet otherwise.”
Irene Unterborn, a member of the Rochester Curling Club in Rochester, N.Y., agrees that curling is a unique sport. Like Detroit, Rochester is adjacent to Canada, and curling clubs are as ubiquitous there as bowling alleys in the states, noted Unterborn.
“It’s a real gentleman’s sport,” she said. “Honesty and character play a large part. For me it’s pretty exciting to see it as an active Olympic sport. Twenty years ago people would think you’re curling hair or curling weights. I’m just really excited about the new interest in the game.”
For more information on the Detroit Curling Club, visit http://www.detroitcurlingclub.com.