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Druley: St. Charles grad hatches curling connection

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 5:30 a.m. CST
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(Photo provided)
St. Charles High School alumnus Keir Kurinsky owns the company that manufactures foam curling stone hats, which gained a cult following in the recently completed Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

By his own admission, Keir Kurinsky hated school and “barely graduated” from St. Charles High in 1992.

Turns out one piece of advice from late business teacher Steve Mahoney still stuck.

“I remember listening to him in high school going, ‘You’re never going to work for somebody. You’re going to do your own thing,’ ” Kurinsky said. “Yeah, it was in high school that I knew that I couldn’t work for anybody and that I had to work for myself.”

Kurinsky began his entrepreneurship by hatching Sillycone, Inc., a company that manufactures silicone baking and freezing molds. He extended it to curling years later. Kurinsky’s foam hats shaped like curling stones picked up steam in the recently completed Winter Olympics, proving that Mr. Rockhead isn’t just a Flinstones character.

“It just blew up,” Kurinsky said. “We sold probably over 10,000 hats during the span of two weeks during the Olympics.”

The hats, made of rigid foam and similar to the texture of a Green Bay Packers cheesehead, retail at $29.99 plus shipping and are available for purchase online at gocurling.com.

Kurinsky, who works from his home in Bay Village, Ohio, outside Cleveland, has distributors in Canada and Europe, where the sport is more popular. The hats are made in China. Models come complete with blue, green, red or yellow handles on top.

Some fans create custom designs on the side of the stones. The hats sported by Canadian hockey players such as the Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews and Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo during a Team Canada curling match earlier this month fit the mold.

Inspiration struck Kurinsky in 2002, when he traveled from his then-hometown of Phoenix to the Winter Games in Salt Lake City. He was there to honor his heritage and see Team Slovakia play hockey. Then someone slid him a curling ticket and another idea surfaced.

Kurinsky since has created curling stone ice trays, which are sold online and in some retail outlets in Canada. He has seen his share of the country since the hats took hold – about 100,000 have sold worldwide since 2007-08 – and fondly recalls Canada’s curling clubs, comparing their interiors to country clubs.

“It’s just such a unique sport and the fans are a unique group of individuals that just like to have fun and a good time,” Kurinsky said.

Hand Kurinsky a Dos Equis and he might just rival a certain beer pitchman in the realm of riveting people. Named for actor Keir Dullea – Kurinsky’s mother, Cathy, is fond of “2001: A Space Odyssey” – Kurinsky moved around until coincidentally settling outside Dullea’s hometown of Cleveland.

In high school, Kurinsky inputted obituaries, birth announcements and engagements part-time for the St. Charles Republican, and not usually with a straight face. He said he was fired for tampering with some of those items, with pranks like inserting names of popular St. Charles High couples among those welcoming new children.

Like many, Kurinsky fully grew up when he became a father himself. In 2012, he and his 1-year-old daughter, Ada, were named Cleveland Indians fans of the year for attending at least a few innings of each of the club’s 81 home games.

Kurinsky’s parents still live in St. Charles, where foam curling hats partially got their start, at least in principle.

Nearly a quarter-centry after fudging birth announcements, Kurinsky is working for himself, armed with ideas that quickly came of age.

• Kevin Druley is a sportswriter for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or kdruley@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @kevindruley.

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