Nigel Easton offered up a simple, succinct answer as to why, and more specifically when, he decided to retire as manager of the Langley Curling Club.
“When I hit the big 65,” Easton quipped.
Another motivating factor: Easton also wanted to spend more time with his wife Linda, and in anticipation of his final day in April, has scaled back his hours at the Brookswood club as he transitions into retirement.
Over the years, Easton said he put in “long, long hours, seven days a week.”
He gave the club’s board of directors four years’ notice of his decision and is now there between three and four days each week.
“We’ve hired a replacement, Robyn [Parkes],” Easton said. “She’s been in training and this year she’s basically taken over the whole operation, so she understands the office and accounting work and all that kind of stuff.”
The club – part of the George Preston Recreation Centre in Brookswood – opened in 1973 and started out with only four sheets of ice before expanding to six sheets in 1990.
Easton began managing the club in 1999, after seeing a “help wanted” ad in the Vancouver Province.
Before making a move to B.C., Easton lived in Dryden, Ont., where he owned his own retail business and was the president of that community’s golf and curling club for many years.
“Back then, it was electronics, movie rentals… I started out in ’69/70 in music, LPs, eight-tracks, selling that,” Easton said. “I just evolved as things changed.”
Easton took up curling as an 18-year-old in 1969 but admits wasn’t initially sold on the sport.
“Living in northwest Ontario it’s quite cold and I’d actually listened to this guy on the train when I came from Montreal and he told me about this game called curling, and I thought it was really stupid,” Easton recalled. “A month later, just to make friends and stuff like that, I tried curling, and that was it. I never stopped.”
Easton moved to B.C.’s South Coast from Dryden (est. pop., 7,617 in 2011, and best known for its pulp mill and being the home of NHL Hall of Fame member Chris Pronger) after his wife took a job in B.C around Christmas 1998.
“I came out in the spring of ’99,” Easton said. “My wife found this ad and said ‘you should apply for this job,’ because I wasn’t doing anything, and that was it.”
Nearly 17 years later, Easton has helped to grow the club from 520 to 800 members.
Also, the club co-hosted the Continental Cup at the Langley Events Centre in 2012, and previous to that, hosted the B.C. men’s provincials at the GPRC in 2007, not to mention the juvenile provincials and several playdowns through the years.
The B.C. men’s provincials was a challenge, Easton remembered.
“Probably the biggest difficulty was trying to get sponsors,” he said. “Seven years ago, things were not great financially – it was a difficult time. It became very challenging to find sponsors but in the end we did. There were some great organizations that stepped up to the plate and it was a success from there.”
Another of the club’s major successes is its junior program, Easton noted.
To wit: the Langley Curling Club/Royal City Curling Club rink of skip Tyler Tardi, third Daniel Wenzek, second Jordan Tardi, lead Nicholas Meister, fifth Sterling Middleton and coach Paul Tardi recently captured the Tim Hortons B.C. junior men’s curling title, to earn a spot at the 2016 Canadian junior championships.
“You are now seeing the Tardi boys representing B.C. and also part of the Youth Olympics, so representing Canada,” Easton said. “We have a very, very successful junior program.”
He’s also proud of the fact that he helped grow the club financially, from being $20,000 “in the hole” to having about “$100,000 in the bank.”
Retiring as manager won’t keep Easton away from the club.
He curls four times a week and in bonspiels, and plans to continue volunteering at various curling events.
“I play in the men’s league as well as the master’s league, which is 60-plus,” he said.
For Easton, curling’s appeal is simple: “It’s the activity, great exercise, and the camaraderie I have with my fellow curlers.”
He also enjoys the strategy that comes part and parcel with the sport.
“It’s somewhat considered like playing chess because you’re always trying to think of what the opposition’s going to do and what you are trying to do,” he said, before adding, “but mostly it’s the exercise and being around people you enjoy.”