On this Day:
In 1920, the 1st US indoor curling rink opened in Brookline, Mass. However, people had been yelling at their teammates, urging them to ‘Hurry HARD!!!” long before this…
Curling is a sport in which players slide stones on a sheet of ice toward a target area which is segmented into four concentric circles. It is related to bowls, boules and shuffleboard. Two teams, each with four players, take turns sliding heavy, polished granite rocks, also called stones, across the ice curling sheet toward the house, a circular target marked on the ice. Each team has eight stones, with each player throwing two. The purpose is to accumulate the highest score for a game; points are scored for the stones resting closest to the centre of the house at the conclusion of each end, which is completed when both teams have thrown all of their stones. A game usually consists of eight or ten ends.
The player can induce a curved path, described as curl, by causing the stone to slowly turn as it slides. The path of the rock may be further influenced by two sweepers with brooms or brushes, who accompany it as it slides down the sheet and sweep the ice in front of the stone. “Sweeping a rock” decreases the friction, which makes the stone travel a straighter path (with less “curl”) and a longer distance. A great deal of strategy and teamwork go into choosing the ideal path and placement of a stone for each situation, and the skills of the curlers determine the degree to which the stone will achieve the desired result. This gives curling its nickname of “chess on ice”.
Evidence that curling existed in Scotland in the early 16th century includes a curling stone inscribed with the date 1511 found (along with another bearing the date 1551) when an old pond was drained at Dunblane, Scotland. The world’s oldest curling stone and the world’s oldest football are now kept in the same museum (the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum) in Stirling. The first written reference to a contest using stones on ice coming from the records of Paisley Abbey, Renfrewshire, in February 1541. Two paintings, “Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap” and “The Hunters in the Snow” (both dated 1565) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder depict Flemish peasants curling, albeit without brooms; Scotland and the Low Countries had strong trading and cultural links during this period, which is also evident in the history of golf.
The word curling first appears in print in 1620 in Perth, Scotland, in the preface and the verses of a poem by Henry Adamson. The sport was (and still is, in Scotland and Scottish-settled regions like southern New Zealand) also known as “the roaring game” because of the sound the stones make while traveling over the pebble (droplets of water applied to the playing surface). The verbal noun curling is formed from the Scots (and English) verb curl, which describes the motion of the stone.
Kilsyth Curling Club claims to be the first club in the world, having been formally constituted in 1716; it is still in existence today. Kilsyth also claims the oldest purpose-built curling pond in the world at Colzium, in the form of a low dam creating a shallow pool some 100 by 250 metres (330 by 820 ft) in size. The International Olympic Committee recognises the Royal Caledonian Curling Club (founded as the Grand Caledonian Curling Club in 1838) as developing the first official rules for the sport.
In the early history of curling, the playing stones were simply flat-bottomed stones from rivers or fields, which lacked a handle and were of inconsistent size, shape and smoothness. Some early stones had holes for a finger and the thumb, akin to ten-pin bowling balls. Unlike today, the thrower had little control over the ‘curl’ or velocity and relied more on luck than on precision, skill and strategy. The sport was often played on frozen rivers although purpose-built ponds were later created in many Scottish towns. For example, the Scottish poet David Gray describes whisky-drinking curlers on the Luggie Water at Kirkintilloch.
In Darvel, East Ayrshire, the weavers relaxed by playing curling matches using the heavy stone weights from the looms’ warp beams, fitted with a detachable handle for the purpose. Central Canadian curlers often used ‘irons’ rather than stones until the early 1900s; Canada is the only country known to have done so, while others experimented with wood or ice-filled tins.
Outdoor curling was very popular in Scotland between the 16th and 19th centuries because the climate provided good ice conditions every winter. Scotland is home to the international governing body for curling, the World Curling Federation in Perth, which originated as a committee of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, the mother club of curling.
In the 19th century several private railway stations in the United Kingdom were built to serve curlers attending bonspiels, such as those at Aboyne, Carsbreck and Drummuir.
Today, the sport is most firmly established in Canada, having been taken there by Scottish emigrants. The Royal Montreal Curling Club, the oldest established sports club still active in North America, was established in 1807. The first curling club in the United States was established in 1830, and the sport was introduced to Switzerland and Sweden before the end of the 19th century, also by Scots. Today, curling is played all over Europe and has spread to Brazil, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, China, and Korea.
The first world championship for curling was limited to men and was known as the Scotch Cup, held in Falkirk and Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1959. The first world title was won by the Canadian team from Regina, Saskatchewan, skipped by Ernie Richardson. (The skip is the team member who calls the shots; urging his team mates that are sweeping the rock to “Hurry HARD!!!”)
Curling was one of the first sports that was popular with women and girls.
Curling is a game of strategy, tactics and skill. The strategy depends on the team’s skill, the opponent’s skill, the conditions of the ice, the score of the game, how many ends remain and whether the team has last-stone advantage (the hammer). A team may play an end aggressively or defensively. Aggressive playing will put a lot of stones in play by throwing mostly draws; this makes for an exciting game and is very risky but the reward can be very great. Defensive playing will throw a lot of hits preventing a lot of stones in play; this tends to be less exciting and less risky. A good drawing team will usually opt to play aggressively, while a good hitting team will opt to play defensively.
If a team does not have the hammer in an end, it will opt to try to clog up the four-foot zone in the house to deny the opposing team access to the button. This can be done by throwing “centre line” guards in front of the house on the centre line, which can be tapped into the house later or drawn around. If a team has the hammer, they will try to keep this four-foot zone free so that they have access to the button area at all times. A team with the hammer may throw a corner guard as their first stone of an end placed in front of the house but outside the four-foot zone to utilize the free guard zone. Corner guards are key for a team to score two points in an end, because they can either draw around it later or hit and roll behind it, making the opposing team’s shot to remove it more difficult.
Ideally, the strategy in an end for a team with the hammer is to score two points or more. Scoring one point is often a wasted opportunity, as they will then lose last-rock advantage for the next end. If a team cannot score two points, they will often attempt to “blank an end” by removing any leftover opposition rocks and rolling out; or, if there are no opposition rocks, just throwing the rock through the house so that no team scores any points, and the team with the hammer can try again the next end to score two or more with it. Generally, a team without the hammer would want to either force the team with the hammer to only one point (so that they can get the hammer back) or “steal” the end by scoring one or more points of their own.
Generally, the larger the lead a team will have in a game, the more defensively they should play. By hitting all of the opponent’s stones, it removes opportunities for their getting multiple points, therefore defending the lead. If the leading team is quite comfortable, leaving their own stones in play can also be dangerous. Guards can be drawn around by the other team, and stones in the house can be tapped back (if they are in front of the tee line) or frozen onto (if they are behind the tee line). A frozen stone is difficult to remove because it is “frozen” (in front of and touching) to the opponent’s stone. At this point, a team will opt for “peels”, meaning that the stones they throw will be to not only hit their opposition stones, but to roll out of play as well. Peels are hits that are thrown with the most amount of power (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
A friend of mine’s wife says that she loves to go curling. Apparently it is the only time she gets to see her husband using a broom….
Second, a Song:
Here is World Curling TV’s comprehensive (and lighthearted) guide to the sport of Curling. How it’s played, scored, won, and why curlers yell so much!
This video has been produced by Curling Canada with support from the World Curling Federation’s Development Assistant Programme (per YouTube.com). I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“It’s not just a rock. It’s forty-two pounds of polished granite, with a beveled underbelly and a handle a human being can hold. Okay, so in and of itself it looks like it has no practical purpose, but it’s a repository of possibility. And, when it’s handled just right, it exacts a kind of poetry – as close to poetry as I ever want to get. The way it moves…. Not once, in everything I’ve done, have I ever felt the same wonder and humanity as when I’m playing the game of curling.” – Paul Gross, John Krizanc, and Paul Quarrington, Men with Brooms
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky