Cross connections of the Coniston curling clan
by Randy Pascal
Though they may not quite yet have the Coniston Curling Club cachet of the Dumontelle clan, the Dubuc family is certainly making
in-roads at the four-sheet local facility.
Nowhere are the generational connections more evident than in the Tuesday and Friday night leagues, a pair of circuits that represent the progress the
folks at the C.C.C. have made in trying to keep their sport alive and active in their little neck of the woods, all at a time when the majority of rinks
from coast to coast are feeling the pressures of dwindling memberships.
“My three kids curl here, my husband curls here, my sons in law, daughters in law, brothers and sisters”, noted retired educator and long-time curler
Monique Picard-Dubuc. Unlike the Dumontelles, Ron Dubuc and his wife had no strong affiliation to Coniston, in general, prior to launching a
life-long partnership with the vibrant little club.
“We lived in Minnow Lake and my husband taught in Coniston, for a year, and got to know a teacher in Coniston (Larry Deschamps) who curled here.
“The rest is history.” A rich and storied history indeed, though Picard-Dubuc remains firmly committed to maintaining a healthy relative involvement in the
“I just enjoy the social aspect and the exercise part of it,” she noted. “I don’t like skipping, I like to sweep. The closest I came to competitive
curling is when we were trying out for Travellers (Club Championships) one year and my daughter had to be out of town, so I subbed.”
Curling every Tuesday, part of a six-women rotation, the bond of which dates back to their high school days at Macdonald-Cartier for the majority
of the sextet, Picard-Dubuc now garners as much satisfaction from witnessing a solid succession plan for the Coniston Club as the veterans of the scene
welcome aboard a new generation of curlers.
“Our kids introduced their friends and it just kind of snowballed from there,” she said, discussing the influx of relatively young adults to the sport
in Coniston. “It reminds me of when we were young. That was our night out.”
“These kids are still young and their kids are not as involved with the competitive sports yet. I think kids involvement in sports is important, but
it’s important for the parents to take time for themselves too.” To be honest, that is really at the root of the rationale that sees 36 year old Erin
Thibeault returning for her second year of curling.
“We were a group of four girls that were golfing together all summer,” she explained. “Most of us had young children at home, and that was our night
away, and when the summer was over, we weren’t willing to give up our night out. We have friends our age that curl here, and we live in Garson.”
For this particular quartet, it really was a matter of starting from scratch, with none of the four having curling experience to draw upon. “We took a
four week “Learn to Curl” course at the Idylwylde before the season started to learn the rules and make sure we weren’t getting in people’s way,”
Though the social aspect was everything it was cracked up to be, on-ice success was understandably limited, with not a single win or tie to show for
their efforts in year one. “It was a lot harder than what I thought it was going to be,” said Thibeault. “It was hard to get the weight down, and the line.
The pros make it look really easy on TV.”
Despite the challenges, half of the squad returned for year two. Now was the time to recruit. “We have two new team members, one of which has been
curling since she was young, and the other has been curling for a number of years. We’re much better this year.”
“At least we are giving teams a run for their money, so you feel like you are actually accomplishing something,” Thibeault continued. Not that in her
case, she needed any extra incentive to stay active on the ice.
“I am an advanced practice physio therapist and my job is to assess patients that need hip and knee replacement surgery,” she said. “I see a lot of
people that are retired, and the people who are functioning really well are the people who have stayed active. Curling is a great sport that people can do
as they age to stay healthy and strong.”
No need to convince Daniel Picard.
The 60 year-old original Sudburian, now retired, who lived at various outposts across Canada before returning home five years ago has very much enjoyed
his re-introduction to a sport that he first attempted in his early adulthood in northern Quebec.
“The advantage of the Friday night league is that although there are some good teams, there are a lot of beginners also,” said Picard. “What’s nice is
that a lot of the good curlers will take on a couple of newbies, so that you have a front-end of new people with a back-end of experienced people, as a way
of getting new people in the club.”
“In that way, it’s more forgiving.”
Even on Tuesdays, which is perhaps a touch more competitive, winning at all costs is certainly not the end goal for everyone involved. “There are some
very strong teams here, but you know what you’re up against,” he said. “It’s still fun. Nobody here is making a living off curling. Everyone is pretty
grounded and realizes that.”
“The banter on the ice is great.”
It’s a banter that most certainly gets carried over to Dubuc/Picard family holiday reunions, especially when things go really well on the ice. “No
matter who you are, every once in a while, you’re going to make a really good shot, and you’ll savour that moment.”