Learn the lingo, experience the game, and embrace the fun.
Curling is the backbone of small communities everywhere. As much a part of Canadian culture as a Tim Horton’s. A big player on the the Canadian winter social scene, for those of us not born into it, or drafted into it by more knowledgeable friends and family, it’s a sport that remains as mysterious as a game of cricket, and one that has an equally mysterious language all its own. With phrases like: “Draw Weight,” “Hog Line” “Out of the Hack” and “In the House,” it can be daunting for those who think they might want to give it a try, but who have no idea how to get started. For those of us who didn’t grow up with a broom in our hand and a “hurry hard” in our ear, just exactly how do you go about trying to learn?
To help those like me, who have yet to embrace this seemingly easy, but deceptively hard sport, Curling Clubs around the Southwest have been opening their hearts and their ice times, and welcoming newcomers by hosting a number of “Fun” curling events. From lessons, to cheap open ice nights to tournaments known as Bonspiels, their only goals is to help newbies learn the lingo, experience the game, and embrace the fun.
One such event I recently attended was the Swift Current Curling Club’s 2013 Funspiel. With a hastily put together team of myself, my husband, a young man from Ontario, and a woman from Tunisia, who surprisingly enough had more experience than all of the rest of us put together, we knew that while we weren’t likely to win, we were likely to have a good time. And we were right. Calling ourselves the RBC Team – aka the Really Bad Curlers (thanks to RBC for lending us the jerseys) – we soon happily discovered that our skill level didn’t much matter as each game had its own “twist” that ensured even we would have a chance. Rolling dice to see which points counted, counting all of the rocks outside of the house instead of inside, and counting only those rocks in play that were either even or odd, ensured that ven when pitted up against experienced curlers the mixed-up rules of the game meant that each team had an equal chance of scoring points. Which, as was intended, meant we didn’t have to walk away with our heads hanging down in shame. With the pressure off – all that was required of us was a desire to learn, an ability to rise with dignity intact from a fall, and a sense of humour to laugh at our mistakes. All of which we had in abundance.
With open minds, and wobbly balance (thank goodness for the brooms that held us up), we learned some important lessons especially when it came to the lingo — including:
- Hurry Hard – the most oft heard phrase in curling, it’s the one you yell at your teammates when you want them to clean off the ice faster and harder than you think they actually are.
- Whoa – the phrase you yell at the rock when you want it to slow down. It rarely listens, but it feels good to try.
- Nice Rock – when your teammate tries to make you feel better by saying your shot was good (even when it wasn’t).
- Hogger – the rock that proves you to be the wimp that you’ve always worried you are – the one that doesn’t make it past the “hog line” a mere 33 feet from where you threw it from.
If you’ve got even the smallest inkling of a desire to try curling, I highly recommend that you give it a go. If for nothing else but to say that you tried, and to be able to stop on a channel featuring a curling match and yell out to the competitors on screen in a most knowledgeable voice … “Hurry Hard!”
For those like me who have never curled before – here is my take on what the game is all about, with definitions of some added lingo thrown in for good measure:
1) Teams: Teams are made up of 4 individuals. One who is the boss (the “Skip” otherwise known as the “fourth” or the “hammer”), who remains on the other side of the ice, telling you where you should attempt to “throw” your rock. The Skip always throws last. The other team members are called the “1st” “2nd” and “3rd” respectively, and once you have your number, that’s the order you throw in for the rest of the game.
2) Object: Originating from the “hack” (the little black rubber starting points on the ice), your goal is to place one foot firmly on the rubber, while the other foot has a “slider” placed upon it, on which you will …um…slide…ideally. (In reality you’ll probably just fall the first couple of times but that’s to be expected). Pushing off from the hack, you will “throw” your “rock” (aka slide the heavy stone-like object with a handle), down the ice, release it from your grip and hope like heck it gets past the “hog line” with the ultimate objective being of course to try and get it as close to the “button” (the bulls-eye) in the “house” (the series of coloured rings) as you can. Note: Don’t try and actually “throw” the rock. They’re heavy, and the only thing you’ll end up throwing out is your back.
3) Strategy: While the object is to be a close to the button as possible, you also want to ensure that you make it as difficult as possible for the opposing team to get close to it. This involves throwing up “guards” (expendable rocks that can be bumped like bumper cars out of bounds), and equally aiming for the other teams rocks to knock them out. Do it with enough precision, force and luck and you might even get a double (2 rocks hit out), or a triple (3 rocks hit out).
4) Scoring: Here’s where even I get confused. The numbers at the top of the score board are the actual points. Each time you complete an “end” (both teams have thrown all of their rocks (8) down to the other side), you count who is closest, totaling up the number of one colour of rocks that are in the “house” without the opposite colour being closer. When you put the score on the scoreboard, it’s the “end” number that you post under the appropriate score on the line that reprsents the colour you are throwing. (Even I didn’t understand that – best to ask a real curler).
How to GoHere: You pretty much can’t throw a …well…a rock without hitting a curling rink in the Southwest, so they should be too difficult to find. In Swift Current you can find the Curling Club in the I-Plex (also home to the Broncos) and in Shaunavon at the Wickenheiser Centre. In EVERY other community it’s the biggest building you’ll see around.
Gotta Go?: The Swift Current Curling Club happens to be located in the new addition built on to the I-Plex, and as such it’s got brand new bathrooms that were good enough for curlers from around the world, when Swift Current hosted the Ford Women’s World Curling Championship.
Good to Know:
Curling the first time out – unless you’re an Ironman Athlete, and even then, you’ll probably wake up the next day feeling a little sore. Whether it’s because you fell coming out of the hack, you fell trying to sweep without taking off your slider, or simply because you used muscles you’ve heard about, but never really believed they existed. So don’t forget to stretch!
- You don’t have to wait for a Fun Bonspiel to be offered to give curling a try. The Swift Current Curling Club regularly holds $4 Fridays – where just like at a bowling alley, you and your friends can jump on the ice and play a fun game, or match up with another group and battle it out.
Not just for adults, Curling is a great way to get kids off the couch and out being active. Just tell them it’s a game where they get to try and “shoot” at the other rocks and they’ll be in.
- The Gull Lake Curling Club has still one more night devoted to teaching beginners how to curl on Jan 30th from 7:30pm to 8:30pm – and it’s FREE. Call Dan McEachern 672-6441.
- Hazlet still has many Bonspiels happening including:
Ladies Bonspiel Feb 6-10th with a Banquet Saturday night at the Hazlet Hall
Mixed Bonspiel Feb 26th – March 3rd – Calcutta and Dance on Saturday Night.
- There’s a number of Fun Bonspiel’s left in the season just call the rink nearest to you to find out when and where.
- Compared to many other sports curling is actually relatively affordable – for beginners there’s equipment available to borrow – so no need to buy your own, and fees for a season are pretty reasonable. For something like the Fun Bonspiel we took part in, it was only $20 per person for 3 games spread over Friday and Saturday, pizza on Saturday night, the chance to win some prizes (which we took home 3rd for best dressed I might add), AND a Timmy’s gift card all thanks to their sponsors! -> OI Optical, Tim Horton’s, Boston Pizza, Biem’s Massage Therapy, and the Swift Current Broncos.