Curling News – Firemen’s BonSpiel

I recently took part in the local Alonsa Volunteer Fire Department’s Curling Bonspiel. This event is a very big deal in my town. A maximum of sixteen teams can register and it’s first come first serve. The list fills fast. I was surprised and delighted when my tutor for curling invited me to be on his team. It’s a high tension, tough, demanding game and I am a beginner so I didn’t expect anyone would want me on their team.

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For those of you unfamiliar with Canadian winters, it gets too cold outside for the game to work because the people freeze and curling stones stick to the ice. Therefore every small community in western Canada has an indoor curling rink. The temperature is kept at just freezing and the ice has cooling things inside to keep it frozen. That takes a lot of electricity so we only keep the rink running in winter when it’s cold outside.

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Everyone pays $20 each to help cover the cost of running the two sheet ice. Most of us also do a lot of other volunteer work. My husband and I help run Bingo every six weeks and that helps pay the bills. The big room with the kitchen where everyone from the bonspiel eats and rests is also the Senior’s Centre. There’s a skating rink on the other side of this rink. That’s used to hockey and figure skating. In addition to the curling there are numerous ancillary fund raising events like a 50:50 draw and a big chicken dinner, the food mostly potluck and donated. All proceeds go to the local volunteer fire department.

This is very much a family event. The groups of four consist of groups of school kids, families of Mom, Dad, and two kids, or four friends. People can throw the rock either with a stick or doing the classic slide method of the pros. I use a stick.

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Waiting for my skip to indicate what he wants me to do before I throw my stone.

Each team does three ends, meaning we all throw two rocks each, three times from one end to other. Real pros will do eight ends. Three is enough for us. As it is it takes all day to get all sixteen rinks to play three games each. It’s fun, but we don’t freeze. Here I am standing and waiting for my “skip” to tell me (via hand signals) where he wants me to get the stone to stop. While I am getting better, my skips generally don’t get what they want but they are ever optimistic.

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A skip signalling what he wants a curler to do. The person throwing the stone aims for the broom. Since the stone curls (turns) as it moves) the skip has to get the person to aim to one side of the objective. The hand out on one side indicated whether the curling stone should spin inward or outward. (In this case ‘out turn’.)

As I said I was deeply flattered to be invited to participate. I soon discovered why my lack of skill was not a consideration. For one, after each end (session of each of us throwing all eight stones) we gather to do the extra thing. We throw a dice and depending on the results, that is the score. This means it doesn’t actually matter what you do on the ice. The dice roll decides the winner at random. The beauty of this is it removes all the competitiveness and allows anyone, even a total beginner like me, to participate and have a chance to win. As it turned out I was the only person who had ever played rock paper scissors on my team and the first team we went up against so I got to do the honours when the dice rolled 3. I taught everyone how to do it, and then faked out the newcomer to the game earning our team three points.

Being a beginner, I am generally the one to throw first and my job for the team is sweeping. This means I chase the rock, and if directed by the skip, I sweep. Sweeping in front of the stone makes it go farther and faster and straighter. In this picture we are frantically sweeping to get it over “the hog line”. For strategy reasons it is generally better to get the stone over the hog line but not in the circles early in the game. Pros get very good at setting the stone just over the hog line. This is not a problem I generally have. My rocks usually go right on through the house and out of play.

There is a fun little addition to this game. If someone does not get the stone over the hog line, they get to wear the pig. They have to wear the pig until the next person fails to reach the hog line. It’s not all humiliation though. If you get to wear the pink pig, you get to put your name into a draw for a piggy prize. I wore it once, I did not get the piggy prize.

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if you don’t get the rock over the hog line you have to wear the pig until someone else fails to get over the hog line. Here two people sweep frantically to try to get the rock over the hog line while the person currently stuck with the pink pig hopes they fail so he can pass the pink pig along.

Between playing, waiting to play and after the whole thing, there is a lot of socializing. We gather around and chat. The coveted trophy stands waiting for the winner to claim it.

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The result is hilarious fun for everyone. Oh and, thanks to a few unlucky dice throws, my team finished 11th. Thanks to my photographer, hubby dearest, seen smiling below.

4 thoughts on “Curling News – Firemen’s BonSpiel

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