CONWAY - There will be little suspense in today's finals of the Grand National Curling Club's Arena Championships, but there will be a nice symmetry as the club that won the inaugural open tournament here at Ham Arena two years ago will now win the sport's biggest title.
Sponsored by the Mount Washington Valley Curling Club and the Ham Arena, the GNCC tournament began Thursday with 24 teams of curlers coming from as far south as Atlanta, as far west as Pittsburgh, and from all over the East Coast.
Clubs sent one or more teams into the bracket-style competition - known in curling terms as a bonspiel - and by dint of the draw, and several victories each, the Woodstock Curling Club's Teams 1 and 2 will meet at 9 a.m. in the finals.
In 2012, the Vermont club came to the Ham Arena as the guests of the MWVCC, which was formed just a year earlier and which in 2014 became the first arena club in the Granite State to host the GNCC championships, which are now in their fifth year.
Ironically, the Woodstock Curling Club has hosted two of those championships, but sometime late this morning it'll have its own GNCC trophy.
Jay Flanders, who is the "skip" of the four-member Woodstock Team 1, will face Skip Rory Gawler and Woodstock Team 2 in the finals, which will begin with a bagpiper playing for the squads who'll salute the sport, each other, have a thimbleful of Drambuie, and wish each other "good curling."
Flanders is a new curler, recounting that five years ago when he and his wife went to visit her family in Vermont, "they had videotapes of curling, I watched them and I was addicted," eventually finding that the nearest curling club to him was across the Connecticut River.
The chief of staff of the New Hampshire State Senate, Flanders said it was "phenomenal to have it (the GNCC Arena Championships) here in New Hampshire, "adding that "the Mount Washington Valley guys are great hosts."
Asked about the sport of curling's famous emotional reserve - players don't applaud their good or lucky shots, nor do they cheer an opponent's error - Flanders said when the smoke clears today on the Ham Arena ice, "there'll be some cheering, but it'll be good-natured."
Pete Ellis, who is a founder of the MWVCC and the GNCC Arena Championships tournament chairman, said he and the Conway-based club were "very pleased."
"It's been a wonderful turnout and wonderful people," said Ellis, who thanked, among many supporters, the Ham Arena and general manager Chris Perley for their help in making the tournament a success.
Ellis confirmed that the competition was both fierce and collegial, "but it always is."