Pamela Stephani ’74 was traveling for work in Canada in the late 1990s. Several times in her hotel room at night she turned on the television to see a game, a sort of shuffle- board on ice, called curling. “It was mesmerizing; it seemed like a kind of chess, with strategy and all,” says Stephani.
“I knew if I had the chance, I would love to try it.”
Living west of Philadelphia, though, it did not seem as if a
winter-bound sport like curling would ever come her way. But
in spring 2006 she heard about a Bucknell alumni club event
at the Philadelphia Curling Club in Paoli, Pa., only a few miles
from her job at the Vanguard mutual fund company, from
which she retired in 2015.
“I went and I became hooked,” says Stephani, who is one of
about a dozen Bucknell alumni and parents who curl or have
curled at the club.
On a recent Wednesday evening, for instance, Stephani
curled on a team against Daniel Dudt ’ 17, his father, Brian,
and brother Andrew, a high-school senior.
Daniel Dudt has been curling at Paoli since he was 6. His
mother’s parents had some Canadian friends who introduced
the family to the game. His maternal grandmother, Barbara
Moore Hutchinson ’55, and his aunt, Ginger Hutchinson
Pohlman ’82, are longtime curlers.
“It may be one of the only sports where a grandparent, a
parent and a child can all play on the same team at the same
time and there would be no second thought about it,” says
Stephani. There are no formal Bucknell teams at Paoli, but
nearly any night or weekend she might encounter someone
with a Bucknell connection, she says.
The rudiments of curling are simple. Like shuffleboard, the
goal is to have your 38-to-44-pound stones rest in point-scoring
areas at the finish of each “end,” as rounds are called. Instead
of shuffleboard’s triangle of scoring, there are concentric
circles. Each team of four throws two stones, for a total of
eight, in each end — knocking the opponents’ stones out of
the way or throwing them so they block an opponent’s path.
The ice path is usually about 150 feet long. A throw actually
means sliding a rounded stone by its handle down the ice,
releasing it behind a line after a short lead up, the thrower
stooping low with one leg bent in front and the other stretched
out in back. Two broom-wielding sweepers follow the stone
down the path to the target, brushing the ice — which warms
it up and flattens it out — as necessary to direct the stone.
Dudt plays enough on vacations and the occasional weekend
to make it to national competitions. He will be on an all-star
team of sorts out of North Dakota this year in hopes of making
it into international competition, where Canada and the
Scandinavian countries are usually the best. Dudt says he
would love to make the Olympic team.
“People like to ask me about that, but I am focusing on a
career as an engineer,” he says, but then pauses. “But I would
certainly not be opposed to making it. You can’t make a living
as a competitive curler, but I have done it all my life and plan
to compete forever.”
To watch Bucknell curlers in action, check out the video in the
Bucknell Magazine app or at bucknell.edu/bmagazine.
By Robert Strauss • Photography by Laurence Kesterson
An Icy Bond
Generations of Philadelphia-area Bison are swept up in
the curious game of curling.