I think most of us looked on with disbelief the first time we watched curling on the Winter Olympics. The broom sweeping seemed odd. It still seems odd to me, even after taking an introductory course in curling at the Ice Chalet.
During the 2014 Winter Olympics, the Ice Chalet will be offering Learn to Curl classes on February 12, 16, 19, and 23. Two sessions will be offered each night. The cost is $10.00 per class. Tickets can be purchased online. Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Children as young as 5 years old can play at curling. A lighter and smaller child-sized rock is available.
Great Smoky Mountains Curling Club
The local Great Smoky Mountains Curling Club has been active for 10 seasons. The club’s charter members were Canadians who missed missed playing the sport.
According to team captain Bob Zasowski, Canada has over 1000 curling clubs. “Every farm town has a club,” he says. The United States has approximately 160 clubs.
The local club boasts 45 members, and they typically play at The Ice Chalet on Sunday and Wednesday nights. The club supplies all the equipment. The ice is frequently shared with the University of Tennessee curling team.
Clean rubber soled shoes may be worn on the ice, while more experienced players may wear curling shoes with a Teflon coated sole.
The flat ice is pebbled with droplets of water before playing commences. The pebbling creates texture to help propel the granite rock.
The Equipment & Player Positions
There are 4 players on each team: the lead, the second, the vice skip, and the skip.
The granite stone, or rock (it is not a ball), weigh between 42-44 pounds. The granite is quarried only in Scotland, where the game originated. A player should never try to stop a rock in motion with his foot.
A curling stick may be used by players who cannot squat due to injury. The stick slips into a notch on the rock’s handle, and the rock is pushed forward by the thrower. This position is very similar to deck shuffleboard. How you turn or aim the handle of a curling stick allows the rock to turn to the right or the left. The skip calls out which direction the thrower should aim. When in motion, the rock should rotate, or curl.
A rock gets set into motion by the thrower, whose left hand balances on a stabilizer, while his right foot rests on a slider that the thrower will use for traction when entering the course. From a squatting position, the thrower grabs the rock’s handle, and pushes off in sort of a low lunge position. The thrower releases or “delivers” the rock is before it reaches the first “hog” line. From there the rock hopefully moves far enough to reach the goal.
Two players will use lightweight brooms to sweep in front of a delivered rock. We were told the sweeping takes the top edge off of the ice, removes debris, and may cause some melting of the ice. This is supposed to help the rock move forward. Keeping up with the rock while quickly walking and sweeping on the ice is more difficult that it looks. Sweeping is not performed in adaptive or wheelchair curling.
Zasowski says a large part of of curling is the social aspect. Bonspiel is how you say “good game.” Broomstaking is post curling etiquette wherein the winning team buys the first round of drinks for the losing team. The winning team is also expected to clean up the ice and to put the equipment away. Zasowski says this tradition is not strictly enforced at The Ice Chalet.
For more information about USA Curling and the 2014 Olympic teams, click here.
© Debra Dylan, 2014.