Fort William Curling Club – 125 Years Strong
Bayview Magazine – Winter 2016/17
By: Diane Imrie, Executive Director, Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame
A lot of discussion has been taking
place about the celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary next year,
but there is another important anniversary taking place in our community this
year. According to facts contained in A History of the Fort William Curling Club,
it was 125 years ago, on September 18th, 1891, at a meeting held at
the Avenue Hotel, that the Fort William Curling Club was formally established. The first slate of officers elected included
J.T. Horne as Chair and A.H. Dickens as Secretary with Peter and John McKellar
included amongst the first members of the club. In fact, it was on property leased from the McKellar Brothers that the
club’s first reported curling rink was established in the area of Syndicate
Avenue and Brodie Street.
In a very short time stones were ordered from Scotland and work began on flooding the ice which was a real challenge given the limited access to running water, with early ice makers reportedly having to pour 70 barrels of water on to the frozen ground to produce those early sheets. That initial rink was replaced by another facility in 1892 which allowed for curling in the centre and ice skating around the perimeter. Just like many early structures at that time, that rink was destroyed by fire but the Fort William Curling Company, which built the rinks and leased the ice to the club, had another structure up and running in less than a month. With yet another rink meeting its fate by the flames in 1908, the curling club acquired land on Leith Street between Vickers and McKellar and set about establishing their own home which operated for many years.
When the Prince of Wales Arena was taken over in 1942 to be used as an armouries, discussion eventually began on where the best location would be for its replacement, which turned out to be near the curling club. The decision was made to incorporate the curling club into the new Fort William Gardens and the newly named Fort William Curling and Athletic Club was officially opened on March 10th, 1951, complete with artificial ice.
A lot has changed since those early days. Although we just have to show up today with our broom and shoes, curlers from earlier years had to bring along their own curling stones. Not only did early curlers have to provide their own rocks, they also had to play a lot more ends. In 1906 the Ontario Curling Association passed a rule limiting the length of a competitive game to 18 ends, with special competitions being allowed to go 22 ends. Eighteen gave way to sixteen and by the time the first Brier was held in 1927 that amount had been further reduced to fourteen. A year later twelve ends became the standard and it was not until 1977 that the 10 end game made its first Brier appearance.
Speaking of the Brier, the Fort William Curling Club has contributed to the history of this iconic event in a number of ways, from co-hosting the event at the Fort William Gardens in 1960, to producing Brier champions.
When you walk into the Fort William Curling Club today you are greeted by a beautiful photo mural which features the images and names of the many individuals who have been a part of the rich and storied history of the club. The mural itself is historic, having been created by 2-time Canadian and world curling champion, and graphic artist extraordinaire, Heather Houston.
And what a history it has been with curlers from the Fort William side of town establishing a number of firsts in our communities proud curling history, including the very first medal won for Canada in Olympic curling, which dates back to the 1932 Olympics in Lake Placid when it was a demonstration sport. At that time the Manitoba Curling Association, of which the club was a member, was invited to send a team to the Olympic Games. One of the prominent members of the club at the time was a curler by the name of Robert B. Pow, and he was selected to join the team which went on to emerge victorious. Not only was Pow an Olympian, he also went on to become a Mayor of Fort William.
national curling honours were claimed in 1958 by skip Tom Tod and his rink of
Neil McLeod, Patrick Moran and David Allin who won the Canadian Schoolboys
title. In 1975 another milestone was
reached when skip Bill Tetley along with Rick Lang, Bill Hodgson Jr. and Peter
Hnatiw brought home our communities first Brier title. Rick Lang made it into
the record books again in 1981 when he skipped his rink of Anne Provo, Bert
Provo and Lorraine (Edwards) Lang to our cities first national mixed curling
A History of Hosting Women’s Curling
Published in the Chronicle Journal – January 15, 2015
The Fort William Curling Club has been abuzz with activity this week as they prepare to host a historic event. Starting today and carrying on into the weekend, five teams will take to the ice to compete in the Tbaytel 2015 Northern Ontario Scotties Tournament of Hearts. This marks the first time that the women from our part of the province will have the chance to earn a spot in the national finals wearing the colours of Northern Ontario. In order to claim that honour they must first come out on top this weekend and then travel to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan to compete in the preliminary round of the Scotties and if they are successful there they will gain a spot in the national championship.
Pictured: June Shaw was the first skip from northern Ontario to win the Ontario ladies curling title and compete in a national women’s curling championship, leading her Kenora Curling Club rinks to the 1966, 1967 and 1969 provincial titles and claiming runner-up honours at the 1969 Canadian Ladies Curling Championship which were held at the Fort William Curling Club.
June Shaw was the first skip from northern Ontario to win the Ontario ladies curling title and compete in a national women’s curling championship, leading her Kenora Curling Club rinks to the 1966, 1967 and 1969 provincial titles and claiming runner-up honours at the 1969 Canadian Ladies Curling Championship which were held at the Fort William Curling Club.
Team Hackner Inducted into Hall of Fame
FWCC Prominent in Northern Ontario's Top 5 Moments
2. Team Houston Wins Back to Back Scott Titles (1988 & 89)
3. Al Hackner Rink Wins their first Brier title and World Championship (1982)
4. Heather Houston Team Wins 1989 World Championships
5. Morning Classes (1948)
The Fort William Curling Club - 100+ years and going strong
For many, the Fort William Curling Club is a symbol for curling in Thunder Bay.
Past PresidentsA listing of past presidents from 1923 to present. Read more
ChampionsA listing of our World and Canadian champions over the years. Read more
Honourary & Life Members
When a new logo was commissioned for the Fort William Curling Club in 2006, it was important to find an image that was inspired by the sport, the curlers, and our northern community.Read more