Prairie Lily league providing safe space for Saskatoon LGBTQ2 curlers

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Prairie Lily league providing safe space for Saskatoon LGBTQ2 curlers
WATCH: The Prairie Lily Curling League is the only sports organization in Saskatoon dedicated to members of the LGBTQ2 community and their allies – Dec 21, 2020

When the coronavirus pandemic isn’t keeping curling clubs closed, Sunday afternoons at Saskatoon’s Nutana curling club are reserved for a special league, the only one of its kind in Saskatchewan.

The Prairie Lily Curling League is aimed at providing a safe space for members of the LGBTQ2 community and their allies to enjoy the sport. Since its creation in 2014, the league has grown from seven teams to a current total of 18, with some teams carrying as many as six players.

“We just felt there was a need for LGBTQ2S sports in the city and in the province as a whole,” founding member Michael Leier said.

“There’s a lot of people that still feel like they can’t be their authentic self if they go somewhere else, so there’s a little bit of discrimination still in the sports world. They feel maybe unsafe so it’s nice to have a place that they can come and be themselves and not have to worry about that.”

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President Jason Evanochko says the idea to form the league came after he and some friends competed in the Canadian Gay Curling Championship, an event for teams who play in LGBTQ2 leagues, of which there are currently ten across Canada.

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With no league affiliation at the time, Evanochko’s team was granted “orphan” status in order to compete. But the seeds of the Prairie Lily league had been planted.

“We thought this was a great thing to be at and participate in so we came back to Saskatoon and that summer, sat down and started our league,” he said.

The league is open to casual and serious curlers alike, with teams divided between two pools depending on their level of competitive interest. For some players, simply being part of an LGBTQ2 sports organization is just as important as the curling itself.

“Some people find that this is a great place that they’ve met new friends and the social aspect is great…People who have transitioned are curling with us and they feel safe so it’s just a great space for people to feel comfortable,” Evanochko said.

No curling experience is required but the more competitive teams have a chance each year to earn a spot at the national championship. A Prairie Lily team even won the title in 2017 — a first for the league — in an all-Saskatoon final.

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“We got to bring home the banner. It was a pretty great feeling being there, competing with my team against my partner’s team in the final,” Evanochko said.

Saskatoon is set to host the Canadian Gay Curling Championship for the first time in 2022, a sign of how far the Prairie Lily league has come in just a few short years and the impact it has made within the LGBTQ2 community.

“There’s no other place that specifically targets LGBTQ2S athletes and so it allows for a fun and safe atmosphere for them to stay fit,” Leier said.

The league is currently on hiatus due to coronavirus restrictions on organized sports in Saskatchewan, but its members hope to be back on the ice soon.

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