The Bonspiel Diaries

We’ve added this page to let our newer members know there’s more curling available than just our weekly league. Many of our members go to bonspiels. Here are some of their more recent exploits.

Cherry Blossom Bonspeil – March 2013 – Potomac Curling Club

by Marie Rose
After driving around the block a few times, Steve Buffington, Jim Meyer and myself found Derek Satterfield’s house in Dormont (who knew he lived in a mansion – but off the GPS grid??) We headed to Laurel, MD with plenty of time for a relaxing evening before our AM match against skip Jim Fitzgerald and a strong team from Broomstones. Team Pittsburgh started out a little weak, behind after the first couple of ends (and OK – I’ll admit to a little over-sweeping). But we seemed to find our weight, line and sweeping and got a win after 7 ends.

Our next opponent, Team Edie from Potomac, pretty much taught us why there are brackets other than “A”, and although we did take a couple of ends, theirs were bigger and more numerous than ours.

This put us in line to play Team New Pond – and a whole bunch of Pittsburghers. We were doing pretty well and then, as so many teams do, started giving it all back! Properly placed guards had repeatedly been a challenge for us, and we were tied after 6. But a beautifully thrown tick and roll by Jim set us up for 2 in the 7th, and another similar shot by Derek in the 8th gave us the win!

Without much time to relax, we were back on the ice at dinner time to play a team from St. Catherines (Canadians – EEK!!!). They proved to be QUITE good, leaving us in the dust. Their reward? A 3rd match that day at 10:15P. Our reward? We took great solace in Brian’s new drink card while he played.

This is my 7th trip to Potomac’s Cherry Blossom – and it’s always a good time. Besides great ice, food and organization, the online streaming (and archived games) have REALLY been fun to watch, letting you rejoice in the victories, and shake your head as a game goes south.

Great time! Thanks everyone! Oh . . . and much as I hate to admit it . . . GOOD SWEEPING DEREK!

Beers of the World, Nov 30 – Dec 2, 2012,Columbus Curling Club

by Len Jarabek
Team Webb, consisting of Skip Ian Webb, Vice, Jim Meyer, Second, Daphne Roberts and Lead, Leonard Jarabek, ventured off into the wilds of Ohio to take on 35 other teams or so in Columbus Ohio. The Event kicked off on Friday afternoon. We arrived after a pleasant 3 hour drive to find the event staff deep frying chicken wings in the parking lot. (Attention Tropicurl food division…) Mmmmm Chikken wings… Our first game was got underway at 4:30pm and we had a enjoyable game which we managed to win. Actual details of this early tourney win are hazy because, following this and every game, the Columbus Curling Club provided several bottles of “Beers from Around the World” to the broomstacking tables for sampling.

On Saturday we geared up for game 2 where we were mauled by a local Columbus team. We believe that the team that clobbered us may ultimately have won the entire event, but once again details are hazy, this time because we were still in shock from watching them remove everything we put on the ice while improving their position with each stone. A complete strangulation, the game was over by the 3rd end. Once again we were reminded that perhaps the best strategy is to lose Game One to get as far away from the A bracket as possible.

Game 3 was a Saturday 9:15 PM match against a team from Mayfield. Late games are always welcome from our perspective, as our opponent collapsed in the 7th end as midnight drew nigh. This game was a one point war in which yours truly, cost team Webb a point by moving an opponent’s rock before a measurement could be taken. How exciting! It also featured an incredible biter bar measurement where a rock 3 inches behind the backline of the house was found to actually be still a scoring stone. I guess I should have moved that rock as well…

Sunday at 10am, in a semifinal match, we lost pretty handily to a club from Detroit so we ended up 2-2 and got to eat amazing grilled cheese sandwiches and watch the finals.
Columbus is a three sheet warehouse facility with dedicated ice. The sheets were in excellent condition for the duration of the event. Food and beverage selections were outstanding. The clubhouse was crowded with teams hanging out critiquing matches from behind the glass – all great fun.

The Columbus Curling Club offers home hosting for visiting teams, and there are also hotels within 1 exit of the facility. Team Webb chose to stay at the Fort Rapids Waterpark Resort along I 70 just outside of Columbus. While this fantastic indoor Waterpark is a 20 minute ride from the Columbus Curling club, we highly recommend it when you plan to stay in central Ohio. Nothing is more relaxing following a day of curling than a trip down the Black Out Pass water slide! From the top of the 40 foot tower, you slide out the side of the building over Interstate 70 and then back into the climate controlled building where you enter the Funnel and spin around and around until you are flushed out into the lazy river at the resort bottom! Fantastic fun for everyone! See you there next year!

Big Pumpkin Spiel Big Oct 26-28, 2012 Rochester Curling Club

by Dan Bliss
Beth Cubbison, Marie Rose, Steve Buffington, and I formed a team for the Big Pumpkin Bonspiel at the Rochester Curling Club. Did we win any games? No, but we had a great time and got to spend an entire weekend on real curling ice.

We had all traveled to Rochester for the yearly friendly a bunch of times, but Pittsburgh teams rarely make it there for bonspiels. We’re really missing out – everyone at the club is incredibly friendly, there is lots of good curling, the food was good (there were even vegetarian options), and there’s fun stuff to do near the club.

My only regret is not winning the pumpkin carving contest.

Big Pumpkin Spiel Big Oct 26-28, 2012 Rochester Curling Club

When Dan Bliss and Beth Cubbison asked us if we wanted to go to the Big Pumpkin, we were happy to not only curl with Beth and Dan, but also to support the Rochester Curling Club. For those of you who don’t know it, the Rochester Curling Club has generously hosted the Annual Rochester Friendly between our two clubs for the last 7 years. Pittsburghers have attended the Kayser and the Dykes in Rochester, but never the Big Pumpkin. So off we went to a familiar, comfortable club for a weekend of what we knew would be competitive curling.

Rochester limits this spiel to 16 teams, but unfortunately for them, they only got 14. And, unfortunately for us, they were all really good. Most drawmasters would tear their hair out over this, but Rochester adapted on the fly with some rounds being run as a point spiel, and some as a traditional win/lose draw. Because this isn’t a team-packed spiel, the draws aren’t super tight, and Saturday night is free to enjoy the food, entertainment and camaraderie – great if you want to hang out at the club and have fun or head out and explore the town.

We decided our lineup would be: Steve Buffington, skip, Dan Bliss, vice, Beth Cubbison 2nd, and myself as lead. We stuck with this lineup all weekend and it worked pretty well. Well . . . pretty well in the sense that we scored in every game, but sadly that we didn’t score more than the other teams. Pretty well in that we all started to adjust to the ice (which was wicked keen by the way), hit the broom more often than not, and sometimes threw the right weight, but sadly in that our opponents hit our rocks and stuck around the house to score. Dang.

Between draws we took the local tour with Rochester curler, Kevin Twitchel, to a new store – Beers of the World (not to be missed next year – that’s for sure). Kevin bought a pink Rogue Brewing specialty bottle – bacon maple – sure in the knowledge that it would either be unusually good or really as awful as it sounded. As for us, we filled our cart as any Pennsylvanian would – ie knowing we couldn’t possibly get this stuff in PA.

So we went three and out, but had a great time. The ice was fast and fantastic, the food was delicious, and of course the curlers were lots of fun. I HIGHLY recommend this spiel and the annual Rochester Friendly to any of our club members – you won’t be disappointed!!

Respectfully submitted – Marie Rose

Carolina Classic August 3-5, 2012. Triangle Curling Club, Wake Forest, NC

Carolina Classic 2012 - Hartman Event Pin

Mark Robinson and I teamed up with two people from Triangle, Chris Jaun and Amy Hobbie and had a great time. Team “Pitt-Angle”!!!! We lost our first game to a team from Potomac Curling Club which put us in the 2nd event (the Hartman Event). We won the rest of our games to take the event so we brought home hardware (Check the picture on the right. Nice pins!).

This was the first time I’ve been to the Classic. I’ve heard great things about it and I wasn’t disappointed. Great food, the ice was excellent, and all the teams came to have fun. The dinner and party on Saturday night was stupendous. We had Saturday afternoon off so we did the tourist thing a checked out the North Carolina Museum of Art. It’s an amazing gallery. Highly recommended.

The Carolina Classic is a well run spiel and I highly recommend it. Next year I may consider taking the week off for the Classic and the Grits ‘n’ Granite with the beach in between.

Brian Stuart

GNCC Arena Championships June 22-24, 2012. Woodstock Curling Club, Woodstock, VT

The Pittsburgh team of Brian Stuart, Nick Visnich, Beth Lehman and Alex Visnich traveled to Woodstock Vermont in June to defend their Arena Championship from 2011. Team Pittsburgh played really well, winning their first four games to get to the 1st Event Finals. In the finals, they faced a strong team from Bucks County (Philadelphia) and came up just short.

The 2012 tournament was the 3rd installment for the GNCC Arena Championships. This tournament is limited to curlers who curl the majority of their time on Arena Ice, and basically – Pittsburgh has owned this bonspiel. The 2010 edition, also hosted by the Woodstock Curling Club, was won by the Pittsburgh team of Rich Ashford, Nick Visnich, Al Tarkka and Alex Visnich. In 2011, the Championship moved to the Triangle Curling Club, Wake Forest, NC. This time the team of Stuart, Visnich, Lehman and Visnich were the winners. A second Pittsburgh team of Rich Ashford, Keith Scott, Ian Webb and Dan Tammarillo won the 4th event (basically the Bronze Medal).

You may have noticed that the Visnich brothers have made it to the finals all three years. Way to go Nick and Alex!!

But it’s not just the results that are important:

“Many people that I met in 2011 were there in 2012. It is amazing the bonds you can build through curling. I may see certain people only once or twice a year at different bonspiels, but it is like meeting up with old friends when you do see them. The curling community is like one big family with a goal of growing the sport of curling across the country.” Beth Lehman

I can’t wait to see what the 2013 Edition of this tournament brings.

Tropicurl – July 5th to 8th, 2012

In early July the Pittsburgh Curling Club hosts an annual bonspiel called Tropicurl. This is a very popular event with 48 teams attending from across the US and Canada. We have great ice and it’s always funs to renew our curling friendships.

For 2012 we had four full Pittsburgh teams and five partial teams for a total of 24 club members playing. And we had really good results with four teams making it to event finals on Sunday.

Team Webb (Ian Webb, Dan Tammariello, Derek Satterfield, Al Tarkka) went the farthest in the A Event with four wins and a loss. That put them in the G Event Finals where they lost to a strong team from Madison Wisconsin.

Team Rydholm (Andrew Rydholm & Fiona Shearer – former Pittsburghers who now curl for Richmond Hill Ontario with Paul and Amy Hannan) had three wins and a loss in the A event moving to the F event finals. In the finals, they faced a team from The Triangle Curling Club – Wake Forest, North Carolina, and won.

Next was team Visnich (Nick and Alex Visnich, with Rebecca Andrew and Mike Graziano from the Rochester Curling Cub). They won their first match, lost their second to the eventual overall winner, dropped into the D event and won two more to make the D event finals. In the finals, team Visnish lost to a strong combined team from the Columbus and Mayfield Curling Clubs in Ohio.

The other team playing on Sunday was team Robinson (Mark Robinson, Steve Buffington, Daphne Roberts and Len Jarabek) who lost their first two matches and then got their game on – winning 3 and losing their last game to finish as runner-ups in the C event. The C event was won by a team from the Potomac Curling Club in Maryland.

Overall, the Pittsburgh teams had a really good showing and enjoyed the chance to play on great curling ice.

Grits and Granite spiel, August 10th -12th 2012 Charlotte Curling Club Charlotte NC

submitted by Len Jarabek

Notes on the inaugural Grits and Granite spiel…

The facility and the hospitality was great all weekend. The locals from Charlotte curling club were friendly and helpful. The food was excellent and the Charlotte Curling Club provided FREE Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and soft drinks all weekend long. Additionally there was a full service bar with an excellent selection of beverages. Coca Cola was on tap despite the fact that we were in North Carolina, always a plus.

The Charlotte Curling Club curls at the Extreme Ice Center. The Arena Ice surface was conditioned with the aid of a laser leveling device which controls the pressure the Zamboni exerts on the surface. The sheets were in good condition all weekend allowing for competitive curling. Locker rooms were spacious, and the balcony provided an excellent view of all sheets.

All the teams we played were gracious and fun to play, the broom stacking was great fun and the lounge at the Extreme Ice Center was comfortable all weekend long.

Game Summary

Team Grittsburgh consisting of Skip, Steve Marchitelli, Vice, Daphne Roberts, Second, Amanda Marchitelli and lead Leonard Jarabek headed south to Charlotte to face off against 24 other clubs from the US and Canada.

Day one and Grittsburgh endured 2 immense beatdowns, the first inflicted by Julie Tsamoutale’s Chesapeake squad. Grittsburgh lost 13-2 shaking after 6 ends. The second savaging was perpetrated by a team from the Triangle (NC) curling club who claimed to be tired parents. They led 9-0 after 5 ends before they called off the dogs and coasted to a 9-4 win in 7 ends.

Following these losses, Grittsburgh regrouped. Team members bought magic Goldline shoes and pants from an Olympic champion. In an effort to bewilder and confuse our upcoming opponents, our team’s least accurate and worst takeout specialist was moved up from lead to second where he could fail more embarrassingly, and a new strategy of actually throwing rocks over the hog line and nearer to the house (sometimes into the house) was adopted. These magic items and changes paid dividends.

Sinking into the 4th event bracket, the team faced elimination against its only opponent on Saturday, an intrepid bunch from Palmetto Curling Club in South Carolina. When the dust settled Team Grittsburgh had somehow triumphed. We immediately returned to the hotel and rested in our portable hyperbaric chambers.

Team Grittsburgh awakened early on Sunday and ate a breakfast of nothing but solid gluten pellets. After consuming at least 3 liters of coffee apiece, the team was ready to face our opponent in the 8am match. Our foe was a Cleveland team who due to injuries was playing with a few replacement players. Steve called a cunning game taking advantage of our opponents unfamiliarity with one another and we managed to win another close contest, completely stunning our opponents who threw away their curling equipment before leaving North Carolina forever.

The win put us into the 4th event final and a rematch on the exact same sheet, against Julie Tsamoutale’s Chesapeake team which had smashed us on day one of the event. Once again injuries played a significant role in this game as Chesapeake had been weakened by the grueling curling action and free Pabst Blue Ribbon available all weekend long. Grittsburgh put the pedal down and pulled away from Chesapeak as the ends progressed, and triumphed, winning the game by a handy margin. Local reaction to Grittsburgh’s 4th event win bordered on disbelief.

On the way home the best car in the possession of any Grittsburgh team member burst into flames in the fast lane of I 77 north. This led to extra vacation days, following a 100 mile tow, in the lovely mecca of Wytheville VA. Team Grittsburgh recommends Papa John’s Pizza of Wytheville the next time you hunger while on vacation there.

Grits and Granite spiel, August 10th -12th 2012 Charlotte Curling Club Charlotte NC

submitted by Steve Marchitelli

Team “Grittsburgh”, consisting of S-Steve Marchitelli, V-Daphne Roberts, L/2-Len Jarabeck, and 2/L-Amanda Marchitelli traveled to North Carolina for the Charlotte Centre Curling Club’s first ever full scale bonspiel, “Grits ‘N Granite”. As the name would imply, food was a major component, especially traditional down home southern classics that were advertised to be “like Mama makes.” All of the food served, from the welcome meet ‘n greet Thursday night, to the banquet Saturday night, and all the Grits Bars in between, were outstanding. (More on the Grits Bar later)

On the ice, Grittsburgh got started Friday afternoon against Kiss My Grits, a Chesapeake team which was skipped by one of their longtime bonspiel friends and first time opponent Julie Tsamoutales. After a competitive first two ends that saw Grittsburgh open up a 2-1 lead, Kiss My Grits took 4 in the 3rd end to turn the tide, and never looked back.

Dropping to 0-1, Grittsburgh took on another team that lost its opening game, Team “Tired Parents” from Triangle Curling Club. This wasn’t your average 0-1 team though, as they had just finished winning the runner up event a week earlier at their home bonspiel (Carolina Classic) , while playing with US Olympian and former world champion Debbie McCormick. Unfortunately for Grittsburgh, the Tired Parents had enough in the tank to post a 4 point end in the second, staking them to an early 5-0 lead. Finding themselves in chase mode once again, Grittsburgh surrendered a few more smaller ends before finally breaking their dry spell with points in the 6th and 7th ends. But despite doubling their point total from the first game, it was too little too late, as Grittsburgh wrapped up Friday evening with an 0-2 record.

Saturday morning got started with the bonspiel’s namesake, a breakfast “Grits Bar”. “There were a variety of customizing options, which we were told would separate the natives (simple butter) from the out of towners (Hot N Spicy, Cheese, Bacon Bits, Brown Sugar, or whatever combination you wanted to make). I think we ended up clearly on the Yankee side of grits preparation. While our northern mamas rarely (if ever!) made us grits. they would prove to be a key to the team’s success going forward.” ~Steve

Following their introduction to southern grits, game 3 was a do or die loser out game against a team from Palmetto Curling Club. Not yet realizing the power of the grits, Len and Amanda swapped positions for this game, with Len moving up to 2nd,and Amanda dropping back to Lead. Maybe it was the grits. Maybe it was the position swap. Maybe it was even Daphne’s brand new curling shoes purchased from an Olympic champion. Perhaps even a combination of all of the above. Whatever it was, Grittsburgh finally broke through with their first win of the weekend, and had secured a Sunday morning showdown against Cleveland Skate Club in the 4th Event semifinal round.

Superstition prevailed Sunday morning as a bowl of grits was a must for breakfast. The position change from Saturday became permanent. It was time for a classic Pittsburgh vs. Cleveland showdown against a team they had met and played with during the most recent OHPACA Friendly. Team Grittsburgh prevailed, moving to 2-2 and a spot in the 4th Event Finals.

In an unlikely twist of the draw schedule, the opponent in the final game turned out to be a rematch of the opener against Chesapeake, who had gone 3-2 up to that point. As fate would have it, the game also ended up on the same sheet of ice. The only thing that different from the first matchup was the preassigned rock colors. Grittsburgh’s pregame mantra became “Same sheet, same team, different rocks, different results.” It would prove prophetic, as Grittsburgh controlled the game from start to finish to claim the 4th Event Championship.

Despite being the club’s first major bonspiel effort, you would never know it. The food and hospitality were tremendous, the ice crew was constantly soliciting feedback that helped to improve the ice conditions dramatically as the weekend went along, and the photographer seemed to never slow down taking a ton (this may be an understatement!) of pictures throughout the weekend. The Charlotte volunteers may have been rookies, but they pulled through with veteran execution and have placed themselves on the map as a great option in the summer bonspiel circuit.