There is something great about a shared experience. That may be why I like cooking so much. After all, the most common shared experience is a meal. In the local curling world, there is another shared experience and for a lot of people, it happened last weekend. The Sir Francis Dykes Bonspiel. This curling tournament is commonly referred to as The Dykes as in:
"You haven't been to The Dykes? You should definitely try to go."
The Dykes is a men's 5 and Under, meaning that all of the players have a maximum of 5 years curling experience making it a pretty level playing field. This year's tournament was the 76th so a lot of curlers in the Northeast have been. I believe the Schenectady curling club sent 5 teams. Albany sent teams too. In all, 20 Northeast curling clubs sent 56 teams. When I curled in the bonspiel, there were 30-something teams. The event just keeps getting bigger and bigger.
One of my favorite things about The Dykes is that it is a tournament of firsts. For many curlers this will be the first time curling in a tournament, first time traveling to curl, first time playing on ice that isn't their club (it is surprising how easily you get comfortable with your clubs surroundings), first time drinking with a team kitty (a kitty is when everyone chips in $20, drinks until the money is gone and then repeats as necessary) and the first time playing in front of a crowd. There were 56, four-man teams and only 8 played at a time. That leaves 192 people (plus other spectators) with nothing better to do than drink and watch the games.
A lot of clubs have added web cameras so they can stream some tournament games. It was fun checking in on the Schenectady teams over the weekend. One team made it the The D event finals, the Sinnett Cup. I have good memories of this event, because I once played in it. This particular match wasn't being streamed online, but the Schenectady Curling twitter account was sending out a shot-by-shot call of the game. I was cleaning some of the house and taking frequent breaks to see what was going on in the game. It came down to the last shot, and it didn't go Schenectady's way, but it was a great effort.
Every fall, curlers that have been to the tournament encourage newer curlers with their stories about The Dykes, encouraging them to check it out. This week, the participating curlers will return with stories of this years adventures. For some, this was their last trip to The Dykes as they aged out this year. Others still have trips left. I bet they are already making plans for next year. And the newest curlers, future curlers that will begin playing for the first time in the fall, well they haven't even heard of The Dykes....yet.