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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Two, Four, Six - maybe Three but never Eight

The Detroit Curling Club is alive and well.  We have a strong active membership and four sheets of great ice.  Ice that is busy every day and nearly full for every draw throughout the season.

This was not always the case.

Everyone knows that when we were located in West Bloomfield we had six sheets of ice.  But, for some of those years the membership activity could not support six sheets and we often felt that a four sheet club would be better.  Throughout history the number of sheets at The Club has varied.

From 1885 through 1888 The Club members curled on the grounds of the Detroit Athletic Club.  They had two covered rinks – this “building” had no side walls.

In October 1888, at Forest & Fourth in Detroit, we built an enclosure that could house a sheet of ice that was 165 feet by 85 feet.  Skating occupied 165 feet by 45 feet in the center leaving two curling sheets 20 feet wide on either side for curling.  Remember:  The Club was originally called The Detroit Skating and Curling Club.

By 1896 skating participation was on the decrease, so the club brought in hockey.  Two teams were formed and they played by Canadian rules at least twice a week.  Skating was only an occasional pastime of the center area.  Curling continued to be restricted to the two outside rinks.

In January 1897 The Club hosted the first International Bonspiel.  Many newspaper articles between 1897 and 1903 imply that there were only three sheets of ice.  Many of these articles discuss only three games being played concurrently.  Draw sheets show only six teams per time-slot.  No photographs can be found, but a few artist sketches seem to verify this fact.

In 1906 the building was upgraded and the two story clubhouse was added.  This is the point in time when The Detroit Skating and Curling Club could boast six sheets of curling ice.  This also marked the end of hockey because the arena contained pillars running down the center.

Arena ice can easily accommodate six sheets of curling ice with plenty of space to spare behind the hacks.  Most of you have seen this layout at arena curling clubs around the country.  When The Club moved to West Bloomfield we laid plywood over this excess area and we did not flood here.  In about 1995 someone thought to flood that area making a mini-sheet of curling ice horizontal to the main sheets.  This was used for lessons and tiny-tots.  Thus, The Detroit Curling, once upon a time, had seven sheets of ice.

Until next time - Good Curling, Angus MacTavish

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