Jock Tyre never tires of talking about curling, especially local curling.
Tyre, general manager of the Kelowna Curling Club, was like the Energizer bunny on Wednesday, running from interview to interview, answering a series of persistent telephone calls and responding to constant voice-mail messages.
The topic was not the Grand Slam of Curling's Canadian Open at Prospera Place but Kelowna - the Okanagan's and possibly Canada's hot spot for curling - even before 'the best of the best' from around the world arrived in this city.
"The very fact that anyone is even calling me, saying: 'What is this doing for the curling club?' If there was a hockey tournament or a volleyball tournament, people don't call them and say: 'Is this going to increase your numbers?' Curling is so unique that way," said Tyre.
The simple answer is: "All of the guys are going to be hanging out here at the curling club, signing autographs, meeting with people in the stands. It's just going to bring people closer to curling. That's what it is doing for us. It elevates the profile of the game because people get to meet the curlers."
Plus, the Canadian Open will encourage even more Okanagan residents to try curling, a pleasant bonus but also a challenge for Tyre and his club.
"We've got so many people trying the game," said Tyre. "It's unbelievable how many young people want to try this game. They don't want a ton of instruction; they jut want to go out and do it."
Three years ago, the KCC went against conventional thinking by changing the rules for two new novice leagues. Instead of four curlers, like official draws, teams of up to six novices are allowed to rotate players. And the teams play a half-season.
The result: both novice leagues are fully booked with a total of 48 teams. And Tyre is looking at establishing a third novice league in 2013 because "the demand is there."
The novice teams play on Wednesday and Friday nights, traditionally "quiet ice."
Tyre has concluded many people don't realize what a great facility the city has in the Kelowna Curling Club on Recreation Ave.
"What I find is that people come down here to learn how to curl," said Tyre. "They walk in, they see the foosball, the pingpong, the big-screen TV.
"And they decide: 'Hey, this isn't just a place I'm going to go to curl. This is where I'm going to hang out with my friends.' They thought it was just a place to drink beer. Now it's a place to get a good meal, to hang out and to have a winter recreational sport."
In part because of the novice leagues, the club now has more than 1,000 members, making it one of the biggest clubs in Canada. And it's an unusual club because it has 12 sheets of ice.
Regina is the only other club that Tyre can remember with that many sheets.
"There just isn't 12-sheet curling clubs anymore," he said, even though B.C. has 140 clubs and Ontario 1,200. "We're doing really well. We're not just holding our own, but we're a growth market because people are trying it here. I don't know what it is that we're doing that is so much better than anyone else -Â I don't feel like I'm being new or creative, but apparently we are."
Tyre virtually answers his own question by pointing to the 175 slo-pitch teams in the city - which, by the way, don't play strictly by traditional baseball rules. If there are 12-14 players per team, that's a pool of more than 2,000 amateur athletes.
"What do those people do in the winter? We're trying new things. We've changed the game; we've changed the rules to accommodate novices. We went after novices, we went after the kind of people who play on slo-pitch teams," he said.
Rotating up to six curlers and the half-seasons keep the cost down and everyone gets to play, said Tyre. "If someone is injured or wants to go upstairs and have a beverage, they can do that."
In first-draw action on Wednesday night at the Canadian Open, Glenn Howard beat Brad Jacobs 6-2, Jim Cotter of Vernon beat Kevin Koe 6-5, the Kevin Martin rink posted a 9-1 win over Peter de Cruz, Brad Gushue beat John Epping 7-4 and Jeff Stoughton beat William Lyburn 7-2.