Immigrants need more than curling lessons

GEORGE KARRYS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

Rayad Husain is used to getting odd looks from people. And he has been getting even more of them lately.

First of all, the 25-year-old typically stands out on his beloved curling ice in Brampton, due to his dark skin. Virtually all of his fellow curlers are older -- and much, much whiter.

Very few of them, of course, have Guyanese parents.

Husain is a rabid curling devotee -- "curling whore, actually" -- who practices and plays multiple times each week, with nary a fellow visible minority in sight.

He would love to welcome more.

"I've tried to bring some other Guyanese-Canadians into the game, but it's tough to convince them to try it," Husain said. "I wish I could do more, but to be honest, the sport needs more young people too, not just people of colour. It needs more young couples, more professionals in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

"It needs a lot of work."

Husain read the feature on Toronto's "Curling Crisis," published in the Toronto Sun on March 11, and agreed with everything that was written.

"It's posted on the wall at our club," Husain said. "Everybody's been talking about it. Curling needs more people to volunteer, and a lot of the people don't like to spend money. The sport needs new clubs to be built. Most people agree that a lot of curling's growth problems are the fault of its own people."

An ongoing study of Canada's curling club network and its impact on national society is expected to point to another necessity: New Canadians will need to be specifically invited, and welcomed, into the curling fraternity for them to stick around.

"I don't think you can simply try to get them onto the ice for that first experience," Husain said.

"We all know most people get hooked when they finally try curling. But I think it's different for new Canadians. I think they need more of their people to be there with them, some of their snacks behind the bar. Many from warm climates just can't get used to the cold right away, no matter how much fun they're having.

"I think white Canadians will have to work harder to attract these new curlers, if they really want them."

Husain has received recent stares for another reason, in the lounge at his Chinguacousy Curling Club.

As all eyes were tuned to the recent Ford world women's curling championship on television, Husain was leaping out of his chair with each victory scored by Germany's Andrea Schopp ... including the two wins scored over Canada's own Jennifer Jones.

"They weren't too happy with me, I guess," Husain said. "But they also knew why I was cheering, and I think they understood. They probably just wished I would shut up against Canada, though."

Husain, quite oddly, is the webmaster for Schopp, the most dominant German women's curling captain since the mid-1980s.

Schopp's extra-end win in the 2010 world curling championship final Sunday was her first trip to the world podium since 1989, when there was no such thing as the internet.

"I was put into correspondence with her after the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake, and we started the website later that year," Husain said. "We've continued correspondence ever since.

"Sorry Jennifer, but this Guyanese-Canadian was rooting for the Germans. How about that?"

Broom bits

Another curler with odd allegiances is Germany's Melanie Robillard, a Canadian-born German who lives in Belgium and soon will relocate to Spain ... Kevin Koe leads Canada into the men's worlds in Cortina, Italy beginning Saturday, amid critical World Curling Federation meetings that will affect the sport over the next four-year Olympic cycle.

GEORGE KARRYS IS: CURLINGURU.COM


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