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Why is curling such a big deal in Saskatchewan?

CBC podcast Good Question, Saskatchewan explores why people in Saskatchewan love curling so much. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)
CBC podcast Good Question, Saskatchewan explores why people in Saskatchewan love curling so much. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Stream Good Question, Saskatchewan on CBC Listen or wherever you get your podcasts. 

What came first? The province of Saskatchewan or the game of curling?

The answer, of course, is curling, but the people of Saskatchewan are so invested in the game that it feels like a pillar of the province's culture.

Curling Canada says Scottish miners brought the game to Canada, with the first Saskatchewan games taking place in 1879.

Sandy Forbes of Maple Creek, Sask., has photos dating back to 1902.

This picture, dated 1902, shows the champions of the first bonspiel held in Maple Creek, Sask.
This picture, dated 1902, shows the champions of the first bonspiel held in Maple Creek, Sask.

This picture, dated 1902, shows the champions of the first bonspiel held in Maple Creek, Sask. (Submitted by Sandy Forbes)

Her community celebrated the 120th anniversary of its rink in January 2024.

"Curling started in 1900 just on a lake outside of Maple Creek," she said, adding that a few years later the community built a curling rink.

Forbes said the game has been a huge part of her life and seeing multiple generations on the ice participating in a bonspiel is special.

People mostly come out for the love of the game, she said, but there are also prizes, ranging from money to fresh baked pies.

"We actually want to have a generational turkey shoot similar to the piespiel, but instead of winning a pie you win a turkey," she said.

A picture from the grand opening event for a new curling rink in Maple Creek, Sask., in 1978.
A picture from the grand opening event for a new curling rink in Maple Creek, Sask., in 1978.

A picture from the grand opening event for a new curling rink in Maple Creek, Sask., in 1978. (Submitted by Sandy Forbes)

Saskatchewan communities are known for hosting unique curling events. There's the barefoot bonspiel, funspiels and glow curling, where everyone wears neon.

CBC's Devin Heroux, a sports reporter covering Canadian athletics around the world, was quick to admit that curling has his heart.

"There's something really, really beautiful about an empty curling rink, Sort of the serenity that washes over you when you walk in there. And then the unmistakable sound of a piece of granite sliding over pebbled ice," said Heroux.

"There's just this overwhelming sense of community."

LISTEN| Why is curling so important to Saskatchewan people?:

Michael Leier, founder of Saskatoon's Queer Curling League and CurlSask board member, said it's an easy sport to pick up and most curling clubs have equipment you can use.

"Just show up wearing what I would term comfortable clothes and clean shoes," said Leier.

Leier said making everyone feel like they can be part of the curling community is key to ensuring the sport thrives in Saskatchewan for years to come.

"I think it's important to make sure that it's a welcoming atmosphere."

The Saskatoon Blind Curling league formed in late 2023. Eight members travelled to Edmonton on March 20 to represent Saskatchewan in the 50th annual Western Bonspiel Tournament.

Meanwhile, Moose Jaw is hosting the 2024 Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championship, which began March 24.

"It's a place for community," said Heroux. "That's what this sport has always been for me."

LISTEN| A group of curlers are finishing up their first year in a new blind curling league:

Your burning questions about Saskatchewan, answered weekly. Nothing too big, too small, or too weird. What are you wondering? Email goodquestionsask@cbc.ca or fill in the form below.