I’m not a sports fan. During the Olympics I’ll watch the final hockey games to ensure that Canada wins, but that’s about it. Being a hockey fan is kind of a big deal for a Canadian. You gotta love your hockey if you’re Canadian, when in fact our official sport is lacrosse (for some reason). There is, however, one sport that I do care about and it’s more Canadian than hockey. It’s curling. And I love curling.
Did you know that 80-90% of the world’s curlers are Canadian? The sport is widely played in the prairie provinces (where most of the elite Canadian players hail from, for good reason). We’re in the middle of peak curling season right now and these past few days I even skipped a Democratic debate to watch the Scotties Tournament of Hearts on TSN.
Last night I also purchased some tournament package tickets for the 2021 Tim Hortons Brier in Kelowna, British Columbia, which I am beyond stoked for. It’ll be a late 10th anniversary gift to ourselves, which is cool, going to a national sporting championship.
Where My Love of Curling Began
Unfortunately I haven’t had much of a chance to play. I did play one Jam Can Bonspiel in when I was 11 back in the late 90’s (which is where the header image of this blog is from). Back then I wanted to be the great Sandra Schmirler, who won Gold in Women’s Curling back at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. Schmirler incited my love of curling.
In the Jam Can Bonspiel, I played Skip just like Sandra, but I was definitely not an epic shot-maker (even though I did have that wicked awesome nylon jacket that made me FEEL like an epic shot-maker. I ended up switching positions with my friend Lauren and played lead because I COULD at least throw a pretty decent draw.
As a team, we weren’t so great. We lost some tough games to literal 6 year-olds, but those wins, when we did win, felt so damn good. It’s part of the reason why I get really invested when rooting for my favourite teams. Obviously their games matter more an involve 120% more skill, but seeing those losses or victories work over their expressions really takes me back.
Obviously I would have loved to learn curling for real but when you grow up poor and your parents can’t afford to put you into sports, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles, right?
Recently, I went curling with my husband for his work Christmas party, where I learned the ropes again. I got in one damn good slide and the lady instructing us like like, “Yeah, she’s good!” and I did a bunch of fist pumps because it made me think of my old 1998 Sandra Schmirler dreams.
I was still bad though. My draw weight was weak.
What’s so great about curling?
I love curling because people mock it. It’s an obscure sport, a weird sport that most don’t understand. I love the sweeping. The yelling. The fact that most people don’t understand the game at all. There’s nothing greater than watching an epic curling shot on YouTube and scrolling down to read the comments from people saying, “I literally have no idea what just happened.”
Case in point:
This curling shot, dubbed “The Shot” is considered to be the greatest curling shot of all time, pulled off by Jennifer Jones to win the 2005 Scotties Tournament of Hearts. Down two points, this extremely difficult shot scored her 4 points and a win.
Explaining curling to newcomers proves a complicated task. I’m not even going to try because I’m still a relatively new fan and I still have a lot to understand. Teams alternate throwing stones toward the house (the three circles). The team with the rock closest to the button (the centre of the three circles) wins an end. Multiple rocks of the same colour closest to the button equals more points for a team. Usually a curling game consists of 10 ends and the team with the most points at the end wins. Boom. Keeping it simple for you.
That’s really all you need to know to watch curling. The sport proves elusive but you learn more about the strategy and jargon the more you watch and pay attention. The game is all about angles and math and the stuff you didn’t pay attention to in high school, but curling is a sport, so it’s fun!
Curling teams consist of 4 players (the lead, second, third (sometimes known as the vice-skip), and skip). Each player makes two shots in each end, with shots alternating between teams.
Typically, the first and second will make draws or guards in order to set up the game strategy. The third and fourth (skip) typically make takeout shots, though many close ends of curling do end up with the skip making a ridiculously tense and accurate AF draw in order to get a stone closest to the button.
Curling teams are always named after the skip, who is typically the most-skilled player. The skip is in charge of formulating strategy during the game and is also responsible for making those integral two shots at the end of the end.
Much of a team’s success depends on communication, which is what the players are doing in that “And Now…” clip that Last Week Tonight featured on Canada Day of 2018:
Ah, the jargon! How can you not love the jargon? And the Canadian accents?
I love being able to watch how teams work through this communication aspect. As a viewer, you get a lot of insight as to how each team works. Ever player gets miked in televised curling, which makes the viewing experience quite candid, in all honesty.
In a game I watched yesterday, this exchange occurred between two players in Team Canada:
Lead: Man, I gotta piss.
Skip: Me too.
So candid. I feel like I know them!
As a writer, I love those close-up shots of players in the heat of the game. Reading faces is a part of my career, and curling really does allow me the opportunity to get a good look at someone’s disappointment, frustration, or, in the best curling moments, their excitement.
Of course, this is what most curling fans love. Some ends come down to a highly difficult draw to the button, while others come down to a dramatic takeout. One of my favourite curlers is Matt Dunstone, who is like the takeout KING who celebrates his victories:
It’s funny because a lot of curlers make epic takeouts and do that whole “walking away from a burning building and never look back at the explosion” stereotype. Case in point is Kevin Koe, who seems to be the G.O.A.T. in terms of active male curlers (I wasn’t a fan in the Kevin Martin days but I get it, yo). Koe consistently makes epic shots and always walks away stone-faced every time. Which is badass, I can’t lie.
And let’s not forget those finesse shots, which are so slow and agonizing at times, but to watch a stone slip past a bunch of others into the exact place it needs to be is just so satisfying:
It’s those intense shots that make a curling game just as nail-biting as a hockey game. The slower pace simply means that you can actually time your bathroom breaks around those last couple shots so you never miss a thing.
Curling is known for its politeness. This stereotype is a part of what makes it a “Canadian game”. They respect each other and congratulate each other on their shots. For lack of a better phrase, it’s not a sensationalized sport. There’s a real community aspect that I like, both at the casual and the competitive level.
I do always look forward to that point where the teams shake hands at the end of the game.
Also, curlers have great arms
All that sweeping? Dang. Some of those front end curlers have some nice biceps.
So, that’s Why I Love Curling
Once again, I’m not a sports person, yet here I am with a TSN subscription so I can watch my game of choice. Just remind me to cancel it once the Brier is over because I ain’t paying another $25 to not watch March Madness, whatever the hell that is exactly.
I love curling because it feels like more than a sport. This year, especially, I’ve learnt a lot just watching this year’s Scotties Tournament of Hearts (the women’s national championship) and am of course enjoying the Tim Hortons Brier (the men’s nationals), where my favourite team (Team Bottcher) is currently dominating.
I’m also beyond excited to go to the 2021 Brier in Kelowna, British Columbia with my husband next year. We got the full package so we’ll be sitting in the stadium for the entire week and will hopefully make it into some TSN crowd shots.
Do You watch Curling?
I mean, you’ve probably enjoyed Team Norway’s fun pants at the Olympics over the years. Mr. T says curling is cool. You should think it’s cool too, because it is.