This Friday, Jan. 27, 2023, the prestigious Strathcona Cup curling tour will make its first-ever stop in the city of Kingston, as the Royal Kingston Curling Club (RKCC) and the Cataraqui Golf & Country Club (G&CC) host teams from Scotland for an exciting day of on-ice competition and off-ice camaraderie.
Established in 1902, the Strathcona Cup is the oldest international bonspiel in curling. Now held every five years, the tournament alternates between Canada and Scotland, as men’s teams from the visiting nation make their way across the host country, playing teams from local clubs along the way.
This year’s tour sees 15 teams from Scotland making the journey to Canada, playing in a total of 350 games across every province from Newfoundland to British Columbia. For 2023, the competition has been split into three groups of five teams, each competing in a different region of Canada. This Friday, teams competing in Central Canada will make their way to Kingston for a pair of games at the RKCC and the Cataraqui G&CC.
According to Ken Thompson, one of the local organizers, the opportunity for Kingston to host a pair of games first came up during a phone conversation he had with John Shea, Chairman of the 2023 tour. “When they were putting the tour together, [John] figured, ‘well, why not get a hold of Ken and see if we can have a day in Kingston?’ I mean, it’s who you know… It’s very prestigious, and it’s good to get on the tour map,” said Thompson. Local event organizers hope Kingston’s portion of the tour is a success, and that the city will once again be chosen as a host when the Strathcona Cup returns to Canada in the future.
Friday’s two games will feature rinks from the RKCC and Cataraqui G&CC competing against teams from Scotland. “It’s good to let the curlers of Kingston know that such an event exists, and to let them know that they have the opportunity in another five years to be on Team Canada when the tour heads to Scotland in 2028,” Thompson noted.
The two clubs in Kingston will host games throughout Friday morning and afternoon, with action getting underway at RKCC at 9:30 a.m. “The Scots will arrive by bus at around 8:15… They’ll be piped into the building through an archway of crossed [curling brooms]. The curlers that are going to be competing against [Scotland] will be there to welcome them with that archway. Then at about 9:20, they’ll be led by a piper onto the curling ice, there will be a ceremonial first rock thrown, then the games will begin at 9:30.”
While the event features a number of ceremonial elements one would expect to find at any curling bonspiel, such as the piping-in of athletes and a ceremonial first rock, the Strathcona Cup also includes a unique tradition at the end of the first half of each game. “After four ends, they stack the brooms and they come to the home end and have a shot of whiskey and a toast to each other,” said Thompson.
Friday morning’s game is expected to wrap up around 12:00 p.m., after which the athletes will enjoy lunch at RKCC before the Scottish teams head over to the Cataraqui G&CC for the second game of the day, which is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Once the on-ice activities wrap up at the end of the day, participants will take part in a dinner at the Cataraqui Club, featuring an appearance by Town Crier Chris Wyman as well as remarks from Deputy Mayor Ryan Boehme.
In total, 40 Kingston curlers will have the opportunity to take part in the event, with 20 athletes from RKCC competing in the morning, and another 20 curlers from Cataraqui taking to the ice in the afternoon. According to Thompson, members from both clubs are excited about the opportunity to host such a unique event. “As it gets closer, I think they’ll get more excited and more nervous because… anytime the Scots play against Canadians, they want to beat [us]. So, the pressure’s on.”
After the games in Kingston this Friday, the Central Canada portion of the tour heads further east, with games scheduled in and around the Montreal area, before the competition comes to a close in Ottawa on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. The overall tournament winner will be determined based on the total score for each country across all 350 games. Canada is the defending winner of the competition, after the country took home the trophy in 2018, winning the event by a score of 1614 to 1292.
Members of the public are encouraged to visit the curling clubs on Friday and cheer on the 40 Kingston curlers who will be taking part in the competition. The Royal Kingston Curling Club is located at 130 Days Road, and the Cataraqui Golf and Country Club is at 32 Country Club Drive. Up-to-date tournament results can be found online.