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Wednesday, Jun 7, 2023

Stones, Brooms and Some Ice

As one of a handful of ice rinks in the Valley area, the Los Angeles Kings Valley Ice Center in Panorama City is a busy place. It’s booked solid seven days a week, 20 hours a day with activities such as figure skating lessons, private parties and California’s only special needs hockey program. (The Los Angeles Kings do not practice there and the owners, two local businessmen, only license its name for marketing purposes.) But now, with the Sochi Winter Olympics set to start on Feb.7, it’s getting even busier … thanks to curling. Curling? That’s right. Curling is an obscure winter sport believed to have been invented in Scotland around 1540. It made its way to the U.S. via Scottish immigrants and became an Olympic sport in 1998. Two teams of four play one another by sliding 40-pound “stones” aimed at a target known as the “house,” while “sweeping” the ice in front of the stone with a “broom.” Points are awarded based on the number of stones each team has closest to the center of the house. The promotion of curling into a winter Olympic sport has given a boost to its popularity and prompted the formation of the Hollywood Curling club in 2007. Despite its name, the club is based at the Valley rink with additional events held at the Ice Station Valencia rink. It currently counts 60 devotees as members. As Russia gears up to host the Olympics, the organization has filled its calendar with learn-to-curl events and an open house to capitalize on this fleeting interest. “It’s challenging” said Hollywood Curling President Larry Lieberman with regards to membership recruitment in off years. Membership topped out at about 170 following the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 and the aim is to get to 200 in the months following Sochi. Among the strategies, a July 2013 charity match that featured actors Wil Wheaton and Tracey Gold, and upcoming invites for late night TV hosts Jimmy Fallon and Jay Leno to join them on the ice. “We’re really trying to use celebrities to assist us,” said Lieberman, who said the club’s ultimate goal is to have a local facility dedicated solely to the sport of curling. For now, they’ll continue to work with the Los Angeles Kings Valley Ice Center. The 80,000-square-foot rink at 8750 Van Nuys Blvd., is Southern California’s only year-round curling facility. “It’s a good association,” said rink General Manager Lloyd Eisler, who declined to discuss the financial arrangement. – Rosie Downey

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