David (Hank) Whalen, George Kennedy and Rob Lane prepare the lines on the ice for the 22nd Annual Save Our (Ice) Plant funspiel in Buchans, being held this weekend.
While there are still white mountains of snow everywhere, curlers in the annual Save Our (Ice) Plant curling funspiel at the Llewellyn Budden Memorial Curling Club in Buchans will be surrounded by green – of the Irish variety — when they arrive at the club this weekend.
The spiel has been held on the St. Patrick’s Day weekend every year and everyone gets into the spirit by green clothing, green hair, hats and glasses. The walls and doors display leprechauns, shamrocks are hanging from the ceiling and a flow of Irish and Newfoundland music greets you as you enter.
The spiel was started with the sole purpose of raising money to ensure that the ice plant which runs both the T. A. Soper Memorial Stadium and the curling club was able to be run earlier and longer for the season.
Initially the money raised was split between the curling club and the Minor Hockey but with neither of those currently having an official entity, the Town of Buchans took over paying the bills. The money generated from the speil now goes directly into the SOP Fund and is used when needed in any recreation facility. This year that ice plant has been acting up.
“We’re just getting the ice on the Curling Club now and that’s because our ice plant wasn’t working properly,” says Rob Lane, who has been a co-ordinator of the SOP since it began in 1993. “We do have it up and running now of course and hopefully we’ll get through the weekend. The weather is certainly going to help us out.
“As soon as we shut down our plant this year our compressor has to be serviced. So that’s our big thing . . . we’ve got to get that straightened out,” he says. “There’s so much maintenance that has got to be done each year but this is going to be a major rebuild of the compressor – whatever they’ve got to do to it, take it apart and refit it. There’s going to be some major work there and some of the old piping (has to be looked at). There’s always work to be done.”
Plans for the spiel, which runs from March 13-16, are well underway.
Lane says 18 teams have registered so far and they expect the number to go to a couple dozen by today’s deadline for registration.
There are people coming in from all over again. One regular player, Denis Cooper from British Columbia won’t be here this year because he went to Sochi to see the Winter Olympics. However, he will be donating some prizes as he usually does – just not in person. So there won’t be the ‘coast to coast’ representation that there sometimes is but those who do participate have a great time – including this year three teams from Grand Falls-Windsor and a number of teams from the St. John’s area.
A couple of Buchaneers who currently reside in Rutland, Vermont — Jason and Dianne Lyver — are making the trip back to Buchans. They made their travel plans to coincide with the SOP weekend. They both curl in their new hometown at the Rutland Rocks Curling Club.
“Yes, Jason and I and the kids are coming home,” Dianne said in an interview last week. “We’ve been counting sleeps since January. This is the first winter trip home with Avery, 6, and Evan, 4. We usually come in the summer but added an additional trip this year. I purposely made it for next week so I could curl SOP. It has been 12 years since my last SOP and I curled in many prior to that.”
Dianne currently curls in Vermont, with a local club that got started in 2007. The league curls two nights a week from November to February, she says, and she usually attends two or three bonspiels a year in the New England area.
“I usually skip or vice. I am skipping my SOP team this year and rounded up Monique Mulrooney, Heidi Munn and Jessica Squires. Jason is curling with Brian Fowlow and his team.”
Depending on the number of teams in the spiel, curling may begin Thursday evening for a couple of draws, then restart Friday evening with curling through the night and breaking for a pot luck supper Saturday evening.
Curling breaks then for the spiel dance around 10 p.m., resumes Sunday at 8 a.m. and runs until the championship game mid-afternoon. There are four divisions and the winners and runners-up in each division receive prizes, most of which are donated.
“The prizes are coming along but slow going,” Lane said lasgt Thursday, “We always end up with lots of prizes. We have people that are coming to curl bringing prizes.
“It’s amazing. I don’t know of any other spiel where that is happening! We always end up with lots of stuff to give out. It makes for good fun and shows that people are still supporting, even though they are not living here.
Lane is planning to use the weekend to put out feelers to see if any adults in Buchans would be interested in regular curling next season. There hasn’t been regular nightly or weekly curling for some years.
“One thing I’m going to try this year is that I’m going to put up a sheet and a pencil and ask people to sign up if they are interested in curling here and then what night they’d like to curl,” he explained, “Then you have something to work with to go to council and say ‘we’ve got to get the curling club up and running by January’. That’s what I’m going to try. You might get 10 people or you might get 50 – you don’t know.”