Brian Reymann's plans to transform his downtown D.C. hotel into a curling mecca began with the idea that he could maybe get a plastic curling set to put in his bar, allowing people to goof around while drinking a beer or two. And somewhere along the line, Reymann wound up arranging for volunteers from Utica to descend upon D.C., regularly exchanging texts with the COO of the United States Curling Association, sleeping three hours a night, fielding hundreds of curling e-mails and canceling his anniversary trip to Playa del Carmen in favor of hosting a three-day curling exposition.
His wife, no doubt, thinks this is hilarious.
"Tell her I love her," Reymann requested, when I got him on the phone.
So here's what happened. Reymann is an assistant general manager for the Hilton Garden Inn at 14th and I NW, a hotel that has a reputation for being, let's say, fun-loving. Enthusiastic. Quixotic. Pick your word. Obama Bingo during the State of the Union, that sort of thing.
The hotel is a sponsor of the Washington Capitals, and--remembering how curling seems to be on TV all the time during previous winter games--Reymann thought his location should embrace the sport this year. He came up with this idea in January, less than a month before the Opening Ceremonies. Figuring you could get a kiddie set somewhere, he headed to his computer and Googled "curling supplies." This led him to directly to George Phillips of Dakota Curling Supplies. Which, it turned out, was a good place to start.
"It was as if I Googled nuclear fission, and the first person I called was Enrico Fermi," Reymann told me.
Almost immediately, Phillips was volunteering to go to the Elks Lodge in Manitoba and pick up some 13-pound stones for D.C.'s Hilton Garden Inn. Reymann wasn't sure he wanted to commit to that, but Phillips--a former Olympic judge and fixture in the American game--insisted he should call Rick Patzke, the COO of the United States Curling Association.
Reymann dutifully called the number, and wound up on the phone with Patzke's daughter, since Phillips had given him the family's home number. Reymann said he wanted to cut a deal to become the official hotel of the United States Curling Association.
"Hilton? That's great!" Patzke said.
"I said 'No no no no, just our hotel,' " Reymann recalled.
Patzke wasn't sure whether the federation should designate just one Garden Inn from downtown D.C. as its official hotel, so they agreed to call it "AN" official hotel.
"And from there," Reymann said, "the curling floodgates opened."
Someone from Pittsburgh agreed to set up 20 percent scale synthetic ice sheets in the ballroom. Volunteers streamed in from the Potomac Curling Club. The Grand National Curling Club said they'd provide the 42-pound stones. (Reymann asked how much it would cost to ship them from Utica to Washington; "we're just gonna put 'em in a pickup truck and drive 'em to you," his contact said.) Coca-Cola agreed to underwrite much of the cost, and to donate 100 percent of the proceeds from any of their products sold to USCA.
And suddenly, Reymann was part of this unique sub-culture. Every TV in the hotel's bar is tuned to curling whenever the sport is on television. An older guest misted up this week when he realized what was going on, confiding in Reymann that some of his fondest memories were of curling with his Scottish grandfather. A member of the Philadelphia Curling Club dropped off his card. Reymann was watching the Americans curl this week and e-mailed a few questions to Patzke; the COO wrote him back, from Vancouver, in the middle of the U.S. match.
The national federation had sold out all its shirts, but arranged a special run of gear so that the Garden Inn's staffers could be properly outfitted. And those staffers--who hail from such curling hotbeds as El Salvador, Morocco and Ethiopia--have gotten into the spirit, watching along with their guests.
"Everyone I've come across in the curling world has been gracious, kind, funny, generous, just truly unbelievable," Reymann told me. "Everyone's having a good time with it, and that's really what it's all about."
The weekend expo of free curling starts Friday at 6 and continues through Sunday. There will be those four mini-sheets in the hotel ballroom, live curling in the ballrooms and lobby lounge, and demonstrations and videos in the theater and plenty of volunteers to talk about curling's history, customs and techniques. Learn more about the Expo at the Going Out Guide, which also has more about the Hilton Garden Inn.