Taking a look at Montreal’s lesser known sports
Curling isn’t all what Men with Brooms says it is. Although many shamelessly mock the sport, not many know how it actually works. Let me fill you in on the basics.
There are four players on a curling team. There is the lead, the second, the third and the skip. The skip is the position most similar to one of a captain, and the third is like the assistant or wingman to the captain. Just like hockey has periods, curling has ends. On the professional level, teams usually play 10 ends. In each end, each team plays eight rocks. The lead plays the first two, then the opposing team plays its lead rocks, and so on and so forth.
There are circular rings on either side of the ice in a curling match. The rings, referred to as ‘the house’ is where the points are made. At the end of an end, points are given to the team with the rock or rocks closest to ‘the button.’ The most points a team can get in an end is eight. These ends are called eight-enders, and are even rarer than a hole-in-one in golf.
Strategy is key in curling, as getting more than a point or two per end gets increasingly tricky as you move up in levels. In competitive curling, players are able to make incredibly difficult take-outs and draws. A take-out is when your rock takes the other team’s rock out of play. The more advanced you are, the more you can make shots like double or even triple take-outs. A draw shot is when you aim for your rock to sit in the house. You would set up “guards” in the earlier shots of the end for your draws to hide behind. Professionals have incredible precision and consistency.
One of the biggest difficulties in curling is gaging the ice. Every iced area is different, and gaging the speed and feel of an ice can take a few ends. The sport is about technique, aim and anticipation. Thinking two shots ahead is necessary.
Now let’s talk about those infamous brooms. Sweeping melts the ice in front of the rock, smoothing the pebbling of the ice and ultimately making the rock go further because of the ice’s slickness. If you ever watch curling, you may notice that a lot of leads and seconds are incredibly fit, as they keep themselves in shape so they can sweep like maniacs.
Curling is an incredibly social game. The sport gets you to communicate and meet new people. A shake of hands with opponents is mandatory before and after each game. Although you don’t always feel like it on the competitive level, it keeps things friendly and keeps your head leveled. Also, drinking a beer or two with teammates and opponents after a game is always encouraged. Most importantly, curling is a sport that can be played by the young and the old.
Now that you know the ins and outs, find a joint in the greater Montreal area, practice belting out “Sweeeeep!” and “Hurrryyyy,” show up with some friends, and dive right into it.