February 25, 2010

Where all you all coming from?

This blog, which usually gets between five and fifteen unique visitors per day, has averaged over 60 hits a day over the last ten days, with a high of 91 unique visitors on February 20th. Virtually all of that traffic has been generated by Google searches for curling related terms. The most common searches have been for variations on 'curling t line'. That comprised about 41% of incoming traffic. Another twelve percent of people were looking for information on curling measuring devices, and six percent seem to want to know how thick curling ice is.

The ABCs of curling series is certainly not an in-depth look at the game, but I hope those of you who have checked it out have found something interesting to take away.

The ABCs of Curling - V

illum_v is for Vice, also known as the third on a curling team. The term is a diminuitive of vice-skip, meaning, perhaps, assistant skip. Traditionally, the vice-skip throws the fifth and sixth rocks of each end, and then holds the broom in the house for the skip's rocks.

As the vice is responsible for the house, and making sweeping calls during the skip's rocks, it is important that he or she have a good understanding of the game, and the ice. The skip will often discuss shots and strategy with the vice during the game, as well.

While I am of the firm opinion that, on a competetive team, every position's rocks are of equal importance, the vice rocks come at a crucial point during the end. The vice is called upon to make the set-up shots that will give the skip the opportunity to complete the end according to the game plan. As well, if the end is not setting up as desired, the vice may be counted on to provide the bail-out shots - tough double take-outs, or touchy freezes that will allow a team to escape from an end that is going against them.

The vice is also often the line of communication between the skip and the front end players. He has to manage the lead and second for the skip, as well as manage the skip for the lead and second. The best vices are often true diplomats and negotiators.

In some instances, the vice delivers the last two stones in an end, while the skip throws the third pair. The most notable example of that being the six time Brier champion, four time world champion Randy Ferby rink from Alberta, on which Ferby called the game - having the best grasp of strategy - but vice David Nedohin - who was the best thrower on the team - threw the last two stones. Sometimes the roles are even more fluid. On the Colleen Jones 1999-2005 rink - considered the most successful women's team of all time - lead Nancy Delahunt held the broom for skip Colleen Jones' shots.

The rule governing the positions of team members only states that the players must declare a throwing order at the beginning of the game, and must throw in that order for the entire game. There is a penalty for throwing a rock out of order. Outside of throwing order, there are no rules that govern where and what the players do. The team member that holds the broom and calls the game can change at any time during a match, as long as the team continues throw in the same order as they began the game.

<- Start at the beginning.

February 13, 2010

The ABCs of Curling - U

illum_u is for Ursel, one of Canada's great curling families. Jim Ursel learned to curl in Winnipeg, and had early success as a member of the 1954 Manitoba Provincial Schoolboy Championship rink of Gene Walker. Eight years later, as a third for Norm Houck, he won the Manitoba Men's Provincial Championship, and made his first appearance at the Brier, where the team finished in a three way tie for first place, losing in the tie-breaker to teams Hec Gervais and Ernie Richardson.

In the seventies, Ursel moved to Quebec, where he won the Provincial Championships six times between '74 and '80. His team of Art Lobel, Don Aitkien, and Brian Ross won the 1977 Brier - the first ever Brier win for a team out of Quebec - and went on to finish second at the World Championships in Karlstad, Sweden to home team Ragnar Kamp. In addition, he was selected first team all-star skip at both the '74 and '77 Brier.

Ursel later returned to Manitoba, where he won the Senior Provincial Championships in both 1990 and '91, going on to win the national title both years. As an interesting bit of trivia, his vice from 1977, Art Lobel, was on the 1989 and 1992 Senior Canadian Championship winning team of Jim Sharples.

Jim's son, Bob Ursel, following in his father's footsteps (or slider path?), is a former Canadian and World Junior Champion, and has appeared in the Brier three times.

1977 Brier Champions Jim Ursel, Art Lobel, Don Aitken, and Brian Ross
(plus some dude from MacDonald Tobacco)

<- Start at the beginning.

February 11, 2010

Pear Chutney

Put about a half a cup of white wine in a small pot or pan. Add about a half a cup of malt vinegar, and a tablespoon or so of brown sugar. Sprinkle in some cloves to taste. Peel, core and chop two pears and drop them in there, too. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the pear pieces are soft enough to mash. Continue simmering until liquid is reduced enough that sauce is at your desired consistancy. Cool and serve with your favourite pork dish. We had it with garlic and clove rubbed tenderloin. Yummy!

(quantities are rough estimates because I didn't measure anything - I was just making it up as I went)

February 05, 2010

The ABCs of Curling - T

illum_t is for...hmmm. Like 'H', T is for a lot of things in curling. There is a T-line, which crosses the centre line in the exact centre of the rings (or house). It is usually desirable to keep ones rocks "in front of the T." There is, of course, the "takeout" shot, in which an opponent's rock or rocks are removed from play - including the always exciting triple takeout.

T can be for timing. Several times a year I am asked by new curlers, "whatcha doing with that there stopwatch?" By measuring the time it takes a rock to travel between two predetermined points on the ice, one can extimate how much weight to throw for a given shot. By using two points close to the delivery end, for example, timing how long a rock takes to travel from the back line to the hog line, the sweepers can estimate how far the rock will travel and whether it will require sweeping.

Other things T can be for are Tap Back, a light weight hit, and twelve foot, the largest ring in the house. But, the most important T in curling is the T in Team. Curling is a team game like very few others. Each player throws the same number of rocks, and it is impossible, with so few members, to hide a weak thrower at any position. A missed shot at any point during the end can be disasterous. Even the very first rock thrown, depending on where it comes to rest, will have a significant impact on the outcome of any given end.

Curling is such a social game, that the team extends beyond the field of play. Pick the four best players available, and put them together on one team. They might win a lot of games, but if they don't get along off the ice, they won't be a team for long.

<- Start at the beginning.