In most barns across Saskatchewan, and in the rest of Canada, you are likely to find tools, vehicles, fuel or animals.
But on Laurie Tonita’s acreage, located 20 minutes south of Saskatoon, you’ll encounter rocks and ice.
“About 15 years ago we started outside, (but) it was too cold, and there was too much shoveling, so we started doing it in here,” Tonita said.
And that’s how his indoor curling rink came to be.
The rink is a 40-foot by 10-foot sheet of ice built in the lean-to off of Tonita’s barn.
The ice is eight inches thick at its deepest point and a pebbler procured following the closing of the original Nutana Curling Club is used to surface the rink.
Tonita said his flooding times for the rink change every year.
“I usually start flooding after the Roughriders are (eliminated from) the playoffs, some years it’s November, and in other years it’s the end July,” he chuckled.
The initial set-up only took him a week to complete, but every year it has expanded in some capacity.
Tonita considers it a constant “work in progress.”
Part of the progression the in-barn rink has undergone is the warm-up room, coined the “Brier patch.”
It features a wood-burning stove, record player, pictures of friends and family who have enjoyed using the rink and, of course, tournament brackets from previous bonspiels.
The newest addition to the barn, a heated outhouse, saves patrons a walk across the yard over to the house on cold and windy nights.
Plans are already in the works for the next expansion.
“Well we’d like to put a window in here so we can view it from inside (the brier patch), but my wife says she needs cupboards first,” Tonita said.
With multiple tournaments on the sheet every year the barn has no shortage of spectators and curlers alike passing through.
“We have, probably, three or four New Year’s bonspiels and family bonspiels every year, and our son goes to school about 15 minutes away, so, (he and his friends) come, and practice at lunch hour sometimes,” he said.
His son Stefan grew up with the curling rink in the barn, and couldn’t remember a time without it.
“You know, just to have people out and just enjoy ourselves, it’s fun, just good old fashioned fun,” Stefan said.
The reaction from his friends, the first time he brought them over to curl, was priceless.
“They didn’t know what to expect, but they came over and we were probably out here for one-and-a-half hours just having a blast,” Stefan said.
For Laurie, the upkeep and upgrades at the rink are a true labour of love.
“Every year we seem to get more and more people out, so people always enjoy it and have a good time,” he said. “I don’t mind doing it, even giving the neighbours a chance to have some fun in the winter,” he said.