Arena Curling: Frequently Asked Questions
Another feature of these bonspiels (curling tournaments) that we didn't cover last week is something called "broomstacking". After a game, curlers will stack their brooms aside somewhere, and sit down and socialize with the team they just played against. Curlers are generally pretty nice and sociable, so it's fun! If nothing else, it's a pretty effective way to grow your Facebook friend list.
When we (the Triangle Curling Club) go bonspieling somewhere, and the team we're playing against isn't all that familiar with the concept of curling on arena ice* or hasn't heard of our club before, the broomstacking chats that follow often sound like this:
(* Disclaimer: To some curlers, "arena ice" means curling on specially prepared ice in a giant 5,000+ seat arena, like in major championships and such. "Arena ice" may also mean curling on ice that is mostly used for other purposes, such as hockey or skating, and is prepared by a zamboni. We're talking about the latter.)
Other team: "Where is the Triangle Curling Club?"
Us: "Raleigh, North Carolina." (Editor's note: This question almost always comes up, because the geographic term "Triangle" - referring to Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill - isn't well known outside the state. Technically, our current home is Wake Forest and our future home is Durham, but we usually just say Raleigh. Also, people not familiar with North Carolina generally assume that Wake Forest University is in Wake Forest, which is a perfectly reasonable thing to assume, but, nope.)
Other team: "Nice! There probably aren't too many curling clubs down that way, are there?"
Other team: "So, you curl on hockey ice?"
Other team: "How does that work?"
Us: "Well, once the zamboni finishes, we carry our rocks out onto the ice, freeze the hacks in, bring out the scoreboards, pebble the ice, and go. Then, two hours later, we take everything back off the ice."
Other team: "So, you have to store your rocks and everything off the ice?"
Us: "Yep. All our rocks and equipment is kept off the ice in wooden boxes and such."
Other team: "How long does it take to set up the ice?"
Us: "The zamboni takes 10 to 15 minutes, because it does a wet cut and then a dry cut. Then, after the zamboni, it takes another 15 minutes for us to set up."
Other team: "And then, two hours later, you're done? What if you don't get a full eight ends in?"
Us: "Too bad. Hockey's up next." (Editor's note: This is why arena curlers typically play at a faster pace than most other curlers.)
Other team: "How often do you get to curl?"
Us: "We have ice time on Friday night and Sunday afternoon, and that's pretty much it. Prior to the 2010 Olympics, we didn't even have the Sunday afternoons."
Other team: "Do you get any practice time?"
Us: "Nope. … Well, that's not true. Maybe we'll have an open sheet on a league night every now and then, which someone can use as a practice sheet if they want to. We also have the occasional instructional clinic. Several of our club members are certified instructors."
Other team: "Do you have rings and lines painted into the ice?"
Us: "We do now, and most established arena clubs these days do. But as recently as two years ago, we only had outlines of the rings etched into the ice, which were virtually impossible to see from the other end. Many years ago, we didn't even have that, and we had to re-etch our rings into the ice every single night."
Other team: "You guys have come a long way. How good is your ice, usually?"
Us: "(Laughs) It varies. The biggest challenge is keeping the ice as flat as possible, and we work with the arena on that, flooding the ice every now and then to keep ice from accumulating on the edges of the sheets. On a weekly basis, it's a lot better than it used to be. For our annual bonspiel, the Carolina Classic in August, we get a couple of days beforehand to work on the ice and get it in top condition." (Editor's note: As Triangle curlers, it's our duty to mention the Carolina Classic at least once during broomstacking, wherever we curl. Advertising!)
Other team: "So, arena curling sounds like a lot of work. I had no idea! You guys must be really dedicated. Are you looking to build your own facility?"
Us: "Why, as a matter of fact..." (At this point, some of our more outgoing and/or shameless curlers may transition into a fundraising bit.)
Other team: "Well, it was great meeting you guys. Good curling! You guys played really well. I bet you'll do great in...what event did you guys drop down to, again?"
Us: "The third event. We play again at 8 AM tomorrow morning." (Editor's note: For non-curlers, the "third event" at a bonspiel is basically the losers' bracket, and often includes the most undesirable draw times. Triangle teams don't always end up in the third event at bonspiels, but...well, you know who you are.)
Other team: "That's right. Well, good luck!"
So, now should you happen to run across a Triangle team at an upcoming bonspiel - such as the CAROLINA CLASSIC (there we go again) - you won't have to ask! Of course, by then, maybe we won't be curling on arena ice anymore anyway.