This morning marked the beginning of the Men’s Curling tournament in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Twelve years ago, it was the Tsongas Arena ice where the best curlers of the world converged as Lowell hosted the 2006 World Curling Championships.
Curling had steadily been gaining popularity in the United States since it was added to the Winter Olympic games in 1998. At the 2002 World Curling Championships in Bismark, North Dakota, Lowell was chosen as the host for the 2006 event, which would be taking place in an Olympic year when interest would be at a peak.
The nine day championship would both give the then eight-year old arena international exposure and also provide locals with some on-ice sporting entertainment very different from the usual UMass Lowell River Hawk and Lowell Lock Monster hockey.
The World Curling Championships ran from April 1st to April 9th, 2006 and was ultimately won by the team representing Scotland, who defeated Canada in the final round.
Among those competing in Lowell that spring was Team USA’s John Shuster, fresh off a bronze medal at the Torino games two months earlier. Shuster has since been the skip (team captain) of the U.S. Curling team at each of the past three Olympics–including this year in Pyeongchang. If he ever makes it back to the medal podium, we can say that perhaps his time in Lowell helped pave the way.