Centretown’s rival curling clubs are gearing up for their annual grudge match to win a year’s worth of bragging rights.
Brielle Morgan, Centretown News
Gregory Penz, a Rideau Curling Club board member, displays the historic trophy that his club will defend against the Ottawa Curling Club later this month.
This year, the Rideau Curling Club will play host to the Ottawa Curling Club on Dec. 27, the latest clash in a competition that goes back generations.
“The Ottawa and Rideau are the two oldest, most competitive clubs and the two most decorated in the city,” says Peter Murton, a spokesperson for the Rideau Curling Club.
Allan Gilmour, a rich Ottawa lumber baron, founded the first Centretown curling club in 1851, the Ottawa Curling Club.
The rivalry between the two clubs began in the late 19th century after Sir Sandford Fleming, a prominent member of the Ottawa Curling Club, left the club because it would not allow alcohol to be consumed after games. In his lifetime, Fleming had many successes, including the invention of standard time zones and the design of Canada’s first postage stamp, the Threepenny Beaver. He was recognized worldwide for his successes and knighted by the Queen in 1897. Fleming is also the founder of the Rideau Curling Club.
The rivalry between the “Gilmourians” and the “Flemingists” still exists.
Jon Wall, a member of the Ottawa Curling Club, says “there is a bit of joking around and giving each other a hard time . . . but you still feel it, especially when you’re on the ice because neither side wants to lose.”
Joe Pavia works in business development at the Ottawa Curling Club and is a curling blogger for the Ottawa Sun.
He says the club will have 40 players, divided into five rinks in the challenge this year. The Rideau club will also send 40 curlers onto the ice to try to retain the challenge trophy.
The host club always puts on a dinner before the match that is free for the visiting club. The challenge has become a social event where players can meet new members from their club and their rival club.
“It’s kind of fun because you get to play with members from the club that you don’t usually play with or even against,” Wall says.
The winner of the challenge takes home a trophy that dates back to 1909. The plaque on the trophy reads “Total Games: 20, Ottawa: 10, Rideau: 9, 1 tie.” This so-called “long-lost” trophy was “found” about 15 to 20 years ago and then put back into service at the challenge each year, Murton says.
Pavia says the Rideau Curling Club has won most of the games in the last decade including last year’s competition.
“It’s too bad that most of the historic results haven’t been preserved, but at the same time, maybe it’s appropriate in that it keeps the focus on having fun with our fellow curlers,” Murton says.