My curling story has lots of twists and turns and begins in the early 1990’s after my dear Mom passed away. As my two sisters and I were cleaning out her apartment, I noticed her golf equipment and asked my sisters if they wanted it. They said no, so I packed it up and brought it home with me to Sudbury, Ma. Immediately, I enrolled in a golf clinic through our local Park and Recreation Center.

I was feeling good about playing golf, and then a few weeks later I accidentally re-established a friendship at the local gas station. The friend was a scratch golfer and was coming back from a medical leave to play. She heard my story about starting to play golf and invited me once a week in the summer to play golf with her.

At the end of the season, with winter approaching, she invited my hubby, Mike, and me to an Open House at her Curling Club. We took to the game quickly and enrolled in Mixed Curling on Wednesday evenings. Enjoying that, I also started playing with the women in Days’ Curling on Monday a.m.’s. (I had just turned 50, was already involved in women’s softball and was very much interested in doing some winter sports, too, though skiing did not look too inviting at that age.)

Broomstones Curling Club—historic photo

Broomstones Curling Club—historic photo

And I have been doing it ever since…almost 20 years. I’ll tell you how the sport is played in a minute. But first I want to tell you what it is that attracts me to curling? It helps me concentrate on strategy, efficiency on being on the “Broom,” and keeping my balance. There is a feeling of “well-being” working with the team, having the same goal. And I love the sociability involved. I have made a great many friendships over the years.

I curl primarily in the a.m. with women, but occasionally will join the pick-up game Saturday mornings with both men and women playing. I have enjoyed many games at our home club or played away during each year at other clubs in competitions known as Bonspiels (competitive playing for points and/or pins or trophies). I have traveled to: Nashua, NH; and Brookline, Winchester, and Cape Cod in MA. Right now I am at the end of our season and curling once a week. But from November through January, I curled competitively with the women in what is known as Wintershield. That is when I would travel to other curling clubs for the day. You can learn more about the Broomstones Curling Club at our website. The Club has 200 regular adult members, including 87 women, and another 168 college, junior and other kinds of members.

Curling is done inside a building that is part “ski lodge” and part “hockey rink.” The ice is “pebbled” by an iceman or woman. What they do after each game is come on the ice and spray it with water as they walk down the lanes. Thus, the iceman recreates the small bumpy effect, as opposed to making smooth ice for ice and hockey skating.

the stone has just been thrown and the escorts are sweeping the ice

the stone has just been thrown and the escorts are sweeping the ice

You do not need skates or special shoes to play. A clean pair of sneakers will do. The club will supply the broom for you. All you need to borrow or buy is a “slider” to put on the sole of the sneaker shoe that you will push away and glide while delivering a Stone. A Stone is a round-shaped granite rock that weighs 42 pounds and has a handle on top to grip onto. Some people struggle with the delivery. You will feel more comfortable after you practice. You do have the broom pole to hold onto with the other hand for support.

The two teams are each made up of four players, so you need eight players to start each game. The Captain (known as the SKIP) is the director of the game. Each team’s SKIP is situated at the far end of the lane (which is called a SHEET). The VICE SKIP is the assistant, and the 2ND person will start off escorting the stone that (the LEAD player has “pushed” or “thrown” and) is then gliding down the ice in the lane. The two people escorting the stone have ordinary-type brooms and will judge the force of the throw. The SKIP will judge the line the stone is traveling to its ultimate destination. That is when the SKIP will yell SWEEP-SWEEP and HURRY-HURRY as the stone is arriving at the other end of the ice towards the bulls eye area, called the HOUSE. The escorts (the 2ND’s) will sweep the ice, clearing it of any loose ice bits to make it smoother if they want the stone to travel farther. Sweeping causes the ice to melt and generally causes the stone to move faster and straighter; less sweeping means that a stone will slow down more and CURL (turn) more. Usually, the LEAD will set up some blockage with the two stones she has thrown (they are called GUARDS).

The team-mates turns are rotated by the other team (opposition team) taking turns. Each person throws two granite stones. One does not pick up the stone like a bowling ball, but gently swings it from back to forward and, depending on what the SKIP directs you to do, either an inside (clockwise) or outside (counter-clockwise) turn. This rotation determines how the stone will travel to its final destination—whether it will be a “DRAW” into the HOUSE, in front or behind a stone or be a “TAKE OUT” of an opponent’s stone.

Mickey (in plaid) with curling teammates

Mickey (in plaid) with curling teammates

Between the length of the lanes there are two HOG lines. The closest one to the team delivering the stone signifies that the player throwing the stone must release their hand from the handle of the stone before it reaches the nearest HOG line. The farthest HOG line signifies that the stone must travel over it in order to keep it in play. If the stone does not reach the second HOG line, then it is taken out of play.

Judgment in weight and how fast the stone is traveling is the secret to success. The more you play, the more one will be able to judge the speed of the rock. You’ll know when it needs sweeping and when it doesn’t. These stones are placed in strategically desirous spots. The goal is to place your stone as close as possible to the center of the HOUSE or in a position that blocks the other team’s path to the center. The team with the most points wins the game.

You are not only playing to your team’s strengths, but also to your opponents’ weaknesses. As the game is taking place, you might have to change your strategy, similar to playing chess. Curling is a TEAM effort. Each person has a chance to make or break every shot.

medals

medals

There is a strict code of sportsmanship that governs the play. Tradition dictates that the members of both teams shake hands at the beginning of each match and say “Good Curling,” and shake again at the conclusion of the match and say “Congratulations” to the winning team. Also upon ending a match, it is customary that the winning team buys the losing team a “beverage” to toast one another after the last game.

Mickey (right) sweeping the ice

Mickey (right) sweeping the ice

Interesting Note: if at any time in the delivery of the stone to the outside of the HOUSE, the stone is touched by broom or person, it is considered a BURNT stone and is taken out of play for that END. Talking about ENDS, they are like innings in a baseball game. If there is a tie score, then an extra END is played to determine the winner. There are 8 ENDS per game. A game usually take 15 minutes per END and takes two hours to complete. If two opposing stones are in the exact distance nearest the bulls-eye (known as the BUTTON), they have to be measured by a measuring pole instrument to determine the winner. At the end of the eight ENDS, the scoring is decided upon by total stones that count and also number of ENDS that were also won.

As far as who the better curlers are, whether men or women, I think it is equal. Curling is not about strength, but endurance. You get points on who is closest to the BUTTON (the center circle) in the HOUSE. The end of the END is when each team member has thrown their two stones in rotation, which means eight red stones and eight yellow stones are finally at the other end of the SHEET for the next END. Also, at the beginning of the game, the LEADS involved in that game “flip a coin” to see who throws first. Usually, the one who wins the toss prefers to go second and the team that lost the toss chooses which color stone they want to play the entire game. The reason the winner of the toss chooses to throw their stone after the loser does—known as the HAMMER—is that the team that wins the toss wants the option of throwing the last stone in that end to upset their opponent’s stones.

I think the club is mixed with equal men and women. We have a fabulous Youth Program. It starts with 5-year-old boys and girls, and they throw “plastic” stones. We call this group our “Rockers.” They mature into junior and collegiate curlers. Many of our high school’s curlers who go onto college play in their respective universities and colleges. They have tried out and made it to the national competitions as well.

As far as the ages of club members, they range from five up to 90 years old. Many of our Senior Citizens have trouble crouching into the HACK (it is like the starting position for speed skaters or track starters), so there is equipment to aid them in the delivery or throwing of the stone. The club supplies them the equipment, but you can purchase it, too.

Yes, we are called “CURLERS.” Because we are a public organization (as opposed to a private or country club), we have two Open Houses per season to recruit new members.

Interesting Note: Four years ago, after the Winter Olympics, we unexpectedly had over 1,000 people descend upon our club. We were not expecting anywhere close to those numbers. The town’s police and fire department came, because there was nowhere visitors could park safely, and the capacity of people in our building exceeded the Fire Codes. So this weekend we are prepared, and the Open House is already full! We are charging each prospective curler $10.00 admission.

We have a full commercial kitchen in our building, a bar (and a liquor license), and downstairs are two large men/women changing rooms. Also, a Curling Shop, where you can buy equipment you might need. The demographic membership is anybody and everybody, as long as they pay their yearly dues.

About 10 years ago, while curling in our regular Monday a.m. group, one game we played ended up as an EIGHT-ENDER. What that meant was that all our eight stones were resting in the HOUSE and none of our opposing team’s stones were in the HOUSE. This is considered very unusual, in an excellent way. Like a golfer making a “hole in one.” We documented this END and sent it to the Curling Museum and its Archives in Chicago. It is now recorded there and is really something special…

(For more information about curling, contact the United States Curling Association.)