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Opinion: The season of rockstars

Curling: The original icebreaker and our happy place: between the house and the hog line

SASKATCHEWAN — Not that we aren’t addicted other times of the year but I guarantee you from February through to March, our family is deep into avid curling fan-dom with the Scotties, Brier and World Championships.

Curling has cool terms like, “We’re shot”, “I call takeout”, “13.2 hog to hog” and how about “Hurry! Hard!”. What about knowing that men will sweep the house clean, draw to the button is a finesse play, angle raise double, through the port double, raise double or slash double are even cooler when you can hear it – and none of these terms have anything to do with drinks. Having the hammer is a big bonus.

My parents curled, a lot, so that meant we grew up in a rink. My dad, who is 85, still curls twice a week and he doesn’t miss watching our kids curl each week. That’s the beauty of this game. You can play it for a life time, you can be a lifelong fan. You can start when you’re ten or 30 and you can play as long as you choose. If your knees give out, you curl with a stick and trust me, check out any of these players in a league and they are bang on accurate!

It's a very sociable game. Usually after a game, league curlers, and their fans, join each other in the lounge for a beverage or snacks. At one time the Brier had a dedicated group that attended each year called “The Sociables’ and they emphasized the rockstar atmosphere in a curling venue. Attend any big-ticket curling event and fans, sometimes players too, all meet at ‘The Patch’.

Beginner curlers can rent or borrow equipment at their local club to start. You can play mixed doubles, Stirling style, mixed team with both men and women, or a four-person men's or women’s team. Youth have started in triples tournaments. Wheelchair curlers are some of the more highly decorated athletes in our province and country. The sport just keeps evolving.

Ok, yes, they are some occasional F-bombs at a national championship and they are usually from the same player or two but I can ascertain that curling has good values, good sportsmanship, players shake hands before and after the game and the referees are usually just observers, meant to measure the odd ‘too close to call’ rock but you don’t see players fighting or penalties in curling.

There are dozens of terms in the game of curling, played on perfectly pebbled ice, throwing 40-pound granite stones down the sheet (term for the ice surface played on) while team members encourage both by brushing and in verbal communication to hit the target, scoring points.

There must be something great about this game of stones because since it was reintroduced as a medal sport in the Olympics, participation rates skyrocketed and the number of countries in the World Curling Federation increased from 28 in 1998 to 67 in 2021, with more than two million players curling worldwide. Italy has one of the top men’s teams in the world and have influenced a new fan base not only by their skill but by simply starting a trend with the skip wearing a green hat emblazoned with the world “Trucks”.

Think curling is easy? It requires great balance as attested from even trying to walk on icy sidewalks in winter. Core strength, flexibility and coordination or invaluable. There is cardio involved as you put on about two kilometres or more walking up and down the ice, ready to sweep each stone. Sweeping itself is a cardio workout. Need a leg workout, curling is the activity for you as it works the calves, thighs and butts, as does the elongated lunge when delivering a rock. Arms and shoulders don’t miss out the workout action

Curling is a highly strategic sport that requires planning and acute execution every single rock and team communication is key.

Curlers talk to each other, to their teammates often acknowledging good shots and mingle and mix with fellow curlers and fans immediately following a game. A skip says “Let’s do an in-turn tap to the four foot”, while his teammate responds “I don’t mind that,” in the politest Canadian fashion. Fans don’t boo at big curling events, they remain relatively quiet and cheer after the shot is made, regardless of what team the good shot is for. It’s refreshing to watch nice people play sports with respect for each other and those who paid to watch. It's truly Canadian of us.

Curling creates community. Winter is long but curling gives us something to do if we play it, something to talk about with other like-minded people in coffee shops or online.

Saskatchewan has some rich curling history with teams like the Richardsons, Sandra Schmirler and Rick Folk. Clubhouses capture the spirit and history of curlers for all those who enter to embrace this storied curling history.

Simply stated, curling rocks.