This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Optimist Junior Interclub Curling League, an organization for young players in Lower Mainland communities like the Langleys, that aims to emulate the approach of other youth-league sports in developing talent.
“The kids [in curling] need a feeder system like minor baseball and hockey,” said league founder Al Kersey.
Kersey said there are only two other interclub leagues in B.C., one in the East Kootenay and the other in the North Okanagan.
As far as he knows, there are just “five or six” youth curling clubs like the Optimist league in all of Canada.
“That’s terrible,” Kersey said.
“My mission is to change that.”
At a minimum, Kersey would like to see a province-wide interclub league, “but that’s a long, slow process.”
On Sunday, 40 curlers on 10 U18 teams from nine Lower Mainland communities celebrated the anniversary of the league by playing in a one-day competition at the Langley Curling Centre in the George Preston rec centre.
Teams were divided into blocks of four playing two-game tournaments.
It was also the day of an awards banquet to crown the best overall team, based on points accumulated over a 12-game series.
That honour went to Team Kent from the Port Moody, Golden Ears and Richmond curling clubs, which took home the Optimist Junior Curling Division 1 banner championship as well as the grand aggregate championship.
Team Kent was also a winner in the Sunday competition, taking the “A” block playoffs.
Sunday’s event wasn’t part of the 12-game series,” Kersey explained.
“It’s an opportunity for the kids [to play],” he said.
Langley’s Team Mallett, skip Ashley Mallett, third Grace McCusker, second Roxanna Bott and lead Mackenzie Duffill finished third in the block “B” playoffs.
Coach Marla Mallett said the young players are very much interested in competing in adult leagues down the road.
“This is their way in the door,” Mallett said.
“It’s an excellent opportunity to develop.”
Team Mallett finished fourth of 10 teams in the 12-game points tally.