The founders of a curling club in the western suburbs say the sport’s community atmosphere is one that’s unique to curling.
Matt Galas, cofounder of Windy City Curling Club, believes the sport allows players to compete and socialize in a rewarding way. The club, which plays every Thursday at Rocket Ice Arena in Bolingbrook, was established in 2012 but did not begin operations until April.
Already, it has about 65 members from the Chicago area, including many from the west suburbs, mostly gained through word of mouth.
“The curling community is a small world,” said club cofounder Chelsea Lamont.
Lamont played the sport, which involves pushing and sliding stones across ice toward a target, in high school in Wisconsin. While living in Naperville in 2008, she got involved with a curling club in Triumph, near Mendota; through it, she met brothers Matt and Jeff Galas, who were driving from Downers Grove, and others who would become cofounders of Windy City Curling Club.
“It was kind of like a merry band of misfits,” Lamont said.
When the group grew weary of carpooling to Triumph, the idea to establish a club closer to home was born.
They contacted state and national curling associations and various arena clubs to find out how to get started. The group struggled to find an ice arena that not only had ice time available, but also had an interest in hosting curling. They’re grateful to Rocket Ice Arena for investing time and interest in their club.
“Rocket Ice Arena has been a big part of the reason this got started,” Jeff Galas said.
Lamont called curling a thinking game that requires finesse and strategy.
“It is one of the most honest sports,” Lamont said, noting there are no referees or officials.
Teams play with mutual respect, don’t engage in showy celebrations and often enjoy a beer with their competitors after a match, no matter the outcome.
Though Matt Galas appreciates the social community within the sport, the club’s members enjoy competing, too. In mid-June, Matt Galas and three other club founders — Dave Jamros, Greg Stewart and Jeff Sampson — took fourth place out of 16 men’s teams in the U.S. Curling Arena National Championships in Lansing, Michigan.
In arena curling, games are played on traditional ice arena surfaces — as opposed to facilities dedicated to curling — that are shared by ice skaters and hockey players.
“We figured from the start that arena would be where we’d begin,” Lamont said.
Matt Galas said they often hear someone is interested in the sport but doesn’t have a chance to play it. The club offers “learn to curl” sessions to introduce people to the sport, as well as more advanced lessons to help curlers improve their technique.
He would like to see the club grow, and Lamont hopes the club is able to expand its female membership specifically because there are many more men than women who play.