Curling: It’s Not Shuffleboard

Understanding curling for non-curlers

By: Reanna Sartoretto 

Photo credit: Bjarte Hetland / Foter / CC BY-SA

It’s a Sunday morning at the arena. I’m surrounded by kids, slipping and sliding on the ice, and nearby, girls and boys huddle together, flipping coins, and trying to maintain their balance. No, this isn’t hockey. I’m watching the little ones learn how to curl. Canadians have been divided into two camps: those who curl and those who have no idea what this ice-shuffleboard-bowling thing is all about. In anticipation of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, here is your guide to understanding one of Canada’s oldest sports.

Curlers play nice

Curling is “a social game with an historic, meaningful set of conventions based on the highest sportsmanship,” according to Glenn Paulley, coach of the junior varsity men’s curling team at Wilfred Laurier University. Think back to when you’ve watched curling on television. Have you ever seen a referee? The answer is most likely no. According to Paulley, “teams police themselves and are expected to take responsibility for infractions of the rules.” Curlers pride themselves on their sportsmanship and camaraderie on and off the ice.

Pebbles: not just a Flintstones character

Unless you have an HD television, you may not notice that the ice is vastly different from that of a hockey arena. Tiny droplets of water are left on the ice surface, called “pebbles.” This is done to create less friction, allowing the rocks to travel further with less force.

Throwing rocks isn’t as violent as it sounds

Curling is often compared to chess, in terms of its implementation of strategy. Two teams take turns throwing rocks (or stones) down the sheet of ice into the target (the painted rings). “Throwing rocks” means that a player slides on one foot in a lunge position to get the rock down the sheet. “Curling” is when a player rotates the handle in their delivery; this causes the stone to “curl” or go around the opposing team’s rocks. The rock is helped down the ice by the sweepers. Sweeping gets rid of any debris and also warms the ice, allowing the rock a straighter trajectory to travel up to a metre further. The goal of the game is to get the most points, which is achieved by having the most rocks sit inside the rings over a period of eight to 10 ends. An “end” is the term for delivering all the stones down the ice.

Keeping score is backwards

Many newcomers to curling are utterly confused by the scoreboard. You can blame Scotland for that. “A curling scoreboard was designed by Scots so that the score could be maintained—for both teams—by placing a single number on the scoreboard,” says Paulley. Think of a reversed baseball scoreboard and you’ll get close to the curling version. The numbers across the top of the board indicate the possible points. Two rows consisting of two different colours represent the colour of each team’s rocks. For example, imagine you have a yellow team and a red team. In the first end, the yellow team scores two points. A number one (to indicate the end) would be placed along the yellow team’s second column (to indicate the points scored). Clear as mud? Maybe this will help.












That’s curling in a nutshell. If you’re keen to learn more, head down to the East York Curling Club located at 901 Cosburn Ave., grab a nice draft of your favourite brew, and sit next to someone watching a game. Curlers are very friendly and are happy to explain the game to newcomers. Use this newly acquired knowledge to impress your friends while cheering for Team Canada.

One Comment

  • John

    I’ve always been a closest curling fan. Watch on tv. Thanks for the insights. Sounds like a lovely way to spend some time out of the house during the winter months.Go Canada!

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