Tim Prohaszka has been hitting the ice his whole life.
Growing up in a family of curlers, participation in the sport was expected.
“My father was an ice maker so I had no choice,” he said with a laugh. “But honestly, it’s fun. It’s like chess on ice, there’s lots of thinking to do, it’s great exercise and you have to have strategy too.”
So when Prohaszka began to lose his sight, he knew curling was something he just wasn’t ready to give up on.
He found a club in Kitchener offering a program for the visually impaired and began making the hour-long trek from Ilderton purely for love of the game.
“I drove there for four years,” he said, recounting how all that travel inspired him to start something a little more local. “I thought I’d like to get a group going here in London because it’s a lot closer, so I put out some advertising and pretty soon we had six or seven players in our first year.”
That was back in 2012. The London Visual Impaired Curling club has been going strong ever since.
Every Friday from October to March, Prohaszka and his crew take over the Highland Country Club’s curling rink for a little fun and a lot of competitive spirit.
“There’s lots of heckling and bragging rights,” he said with a laugh. “On the days we have four-on-four, there’s quite the rivalry.”
Members Bob Fisher and Herb McGowan make their way to the city every week from Seaforth.
According to Fisher, getting the chance to get out to play is something he can’t help but appreciate.
“It’s very seldom people in small towns, or even people in the cities, with disabilities can get out and just relax and socialize with your peers and I think that’s very important,” he said. “In the winter in Ontario if you have a disability, what do you have to do? It’s a great social outlet.”
Fisher was an avid curler before he began to lose his sight and said he found adapting a little frustrating at the start.
“We have our coaches and guides and they set us up in the hack,” he explained, adding some players throw using a cue; a long stick which attaches to the rock. “Through practice you learn your weight, how heavy you are and if you get it in the rings.”
For players who are totally blind, the coach uses a number of different methods, including verbal or audible cues to help the curler determine where the rock needs to go. For those with a little more acuity, the coach positions a broom as a point of reference for the team member delivering the stone. Sweepers include coaches, or members who have a higher visual acuity.
Prohaszka said he loves to see folks come out and try their hand at curling, adding most of his members only stepped on the rink for the first time three years ago.
“That means they had never curled before and just started when we did,” he said, adding the biggest challenge in getting people out is usually transportation. “If we can get a person out here to play it once, we can keep them. There’s the social aspect and just talking about the game, it’s interesting that way, having everybody out is always great to see.”