Ice curlers wanted: New club forming to play sport

February 24, 2019

VICTORY TWP. — You slide across the ice toward the target area drawn at the other end — the “house” — as you grip a smooth, heavy stone in one hand and a broom in the other. You let go of the stone, and it continues to glide down the ice. Your team members follow beside the stone, brooming the ice in front of it to keep up the momentum and help it come to rest on top of the bull’s-eye — the “button” — or help it collide and knock the opposing team’s stones out of the scoring zone.

This is the sport of ice curling, and if all goes according to plan, it’s coming to West Shore Community Ice Arena.

“One of the reasons I’m in love with this sport is it’s chess on ice. People will say it’s shuffleboard on ice, but no — it’s chess on ice. Every shot matters. It’s all about strategy,” said Dan Hinderer, who is in the process of starting a nonprofit group called the Ludington Area Curling Club.

Hinderer has been doing test runs of his curling equipment at West Shore Community Ice Arena. He has enough gear for two teams to play a full game — 16 of the weighty, granite curling stones, a few brooms and some special shoes for sliding on the ice.

What Hinderer doesn’t have yet is enough players to complete two four-person teams.

He’s talked to some community members who have expressed interest in the sport, but he needs more people in order to play games and fulfill his goal of creating a curling league in Mason County.

“It’s a real cool sport, and I’d love to see it grow,” Hinderer said.

Once the hockey season starts to slow down in March or April, Hinderer plans to host events at West Shore Community Ice Arena, where people can simply try sliding some curling stones and learn about the sport, he said. In the fall, he wants to host full instructional classes on curling, which can hopefully lead to forming a league.

Hinderer also wants to get more equipment, so that he can have multiple games going at once, but that will take some time. A full set of curling stones costs $4,000 to $6,000, and he’s still paying off a portion of the stones he currently possesses, which were provided to him by a friend in Indianapolis.

Curling clubs exist in Detroit, Lansing, Midland, Kalamazoo and Traverse City, but they don’t have as much of a presence in closer West Michigan cities, like Muskegon and Grand Rapids.

Hinderer said that since he, his wife, Jen, and their 3-year-old son, Jacob, moved to Ludington in 2017, they’ve enjoyed becoming members of the community, but they’ve also missed curling, and want to bring the sport to the area.

He and Jen first got involved in curling during an instructional event hosted by the Chicago Curling Club in 2005. They joined curling leagues and played in tournaments, and through the sport made many strong friendships, and met people from across the United States, Canada and beyond, including some Olympic curlers.

Hinderer said that since the curling community in the United States numbers only in the thousands, it’s easy to get to know everybody. Curling has a strong social aspect, and opposing teams will traditionally meet up after games for an evening of “broomstacking,” which means sharing a few drinks and some good conversation, he explained.

“I got into it for the social aspect,” he said. “It’s being able to meet people ... to know them as a competitor on the ice, but also be able to chat with people and know them off the ice. It was a great way to pass the winter.”

The sport requires players to keep their balance while sliding stones, and stamina to broom the ice, so it definitely requires skill, but people of a wide age range can play it, Hinderer said, adding that he’s known 90-year-olds that curl.

Like with hockey, the younger that kids start learning the sport, the better, Hinderer said, so he also wants to get youth curling leagues started in the area.

Hinderer said West Shore Community Ice Arena will be a good location to start curling leagues because it’s close to Ludington, Manistee and other communities. The college has been receptive to the idea and has facilitated his efforts, he said.

“They’ve been very helpful and very supportive,” Hinderer said. “West Shore has been so gracious, so welcoming.”

Michael Moore, WSCC director of recreational services, who manages the ice arena, said he is excited about the possibility of having a curling club, league games and hopefully someday curling tournaments at the facility.

The ice arena tries to provide programs that will appeal to many different members of the community, Moore explained. He said curling would be an activity that could bring more than just hockey players and figure skaters to use the ice.

“We always are looking at adding more programs,” Moore said. “(Curling) could appeal to anybody. You could get a lot of people involved across all skill sets, interests and ages ... It’s pretty exciting to have something new in the facility like this.”

Dates for curling events have not yet been scheduled, Hinderer said.

For more information, visit the Ludington Area Curling Club Facebook page or email Hinderer at hindu329@yahoo.com. The club’s website, curlludington.com, is still under construction.