St. John’s has gone curling crazy. The 2017 Tim Hortons Brier, a.k.a. the Canadian Men’s Curling Championship, has slid into town.
Like most cold weather activities in Canada, the athletes and most of the fans have long abandoned hand-knit clothing for technical sportswear. Knitting, however, is still proudly tangled up in Brier traditions.
A bit of background first…
Curling is a deceivingly tricky sport. The game is full of strategy and it’s physically more demanding than it looks. The Brier is probably the hardest curling event to win in the world. This week in St. John’s, at least three Olympic gold medal curling teams are pitted against each other. Game action is serious.
On the other hand, the Brier attracts a crowd of the most intense and eccentric fans this side of the Grateful Dead. Fans across Canada book group holidays to take in the Brier. They bring multiple costume changes. The post-game party scene is legendary.
Which brings me back to the knitting – and some of the glorious work spotted around Mile One Centre, where Brier action is taking place.
First, the curling sweater. It’s an iconic piece of Canadian winter wear.
Here at Mile One Centre, Sandy from St. John’s wears her hand knit curling sweater with pride. Sandy got this as a gift from a friend who wore it while curling in Saskatchewan in the 1950’s.
Here’s another curling sweater, on display as part of a Ford promotion at Mile One. The Ford rep told me the company bought it new, off Etsy. It’s distressed a bit to look like it’s a well-worn heirloom.
Apparently curling sweaters have become a bit of a thing in downtown Toronto hipster circles, which makes the Etsy sweater plausible.
Now – hats. These are gleefully worn by four couples who drove in from Springdale to take in the week’s competition.
Note that the women have red curling stone hats and shirts, and the men are wearing blue. They are wearing a woolen representation of the two sets of curling stones found on every sheet of curling ice.
Debbie from St. John’s is wearing a brand new crocheted curling stone hat.
She said her daughter-in-law, inspired by the Springdale teams of curling stone hats, crocheted this one while watching the Tuesday afternoon curling draw at Mile One.
Over at the Brier Patch, Brian from North Bay, Ontario wears this hat, knit on a loom by his daughter.
Brian was the forward operating scout for his buddies – who were still at the game, wearing matching hats.