Maybe it is our close proximity to Canada that makes curling
popular in Vermont. Who knows, but there are four established
curling clubs that are active in the state. On Saturday, Feb. 23,
eight players from each club came to Rutland to compete in a one
day bonspiel (the term for a curling competition) at Giorgetti
Arena. The 32 curlers vyed for "Best in Vermont" honors.
Curling is widely believed to be one of the world's oldest team
sports. Northern European paintings depicting curling date back to
the 1500s. There are also Latin texts recovered in Scotland that
date the sport to the 16th century. The modern game of curling
gained notoriety as a part of the first Olympic Games in Chamonix,
France in 1924.
If you've ever played bocce or shuffleboard, you will more
easily understand curling. Two teams of four players take turns
sliding heavy granite stones down the long "curling sheet" of ice
with targets (called the houses) at each end. These polished stones
weigh about 50 pounds and they are designed to be able to "curl"
with subtle rotation initiated by the player. Other team members
are allowed to alter the ice in the path of the curling stone by
using brushes or brooms. Essentially, these brushes melt the ice
slightly and allow the players to change the speed and curl of the
stone. After both teams have thrown their eight stones, the score
is calculated for that "end." A point is scored for every stone
that is closer to the bull's-eye on the target than the opposing
stone. For example, you may have three stones close to the center,
putting you in good position to score 3 points. However, if the
opposing curler manages to get his or her stone closer than all
three, you won't get any points.
Eight or ten "ends" typically make up a game. There is a
tremendous amount of skill, strategy and teamwork involved making
it a fascinating game to watch or play. It is sometimes referred to
as "chess on ice," (an accurate comparison, in my oppion.)
Worldwide there are 1.5 million people registered with the
international governing body. It is not exactly America's favorite
pastime, but still surprisingly popular. Most Americans are
probably only aware of the sport during the televised Olympics and
may know that our neighbors to the north are the most successful
curling nation right now. The Canadian men's national team won gold
at the last Olympic Games and the women lost out to Sweden to
garner a silver medal. In addition to Canada, the USA and Sweden,
curling is popular in Switzerland, Scotland, Norway and Denmark.
The United States is currently listed as sixth in world rankings, a
respectable standing considering it is no where close to the
cultural forefront of our country.
The "home team" at last weekends tournament was Rutland Rocks.
They competed against members from Woodstock, Equinox, Green
Mountain curling clubs.
Rutland Rocks was founded in 2007 by Bill Anderson and Nancy
Murphy. There is league play, learn to curl sessions, and open play
nights available to the public at Giorgetti Arena. The founders
themselves and most of the players are relatively new to the sport
so interested players should not be apprehensive to learn. The club
is always looking for more members to expand their leagues.
Curling, unlike skiing and snowboarding, is a low impact sport
and offers an alternative way for people to be active throughout
the winter. Curling is also a very social game, so be prepared to
buy the first round of drinks, should your team lose!