Utah curling clubs see increase in interest
It's brooms and brushes, kizzle kazzle, lazy handles and bonspiels. It's hacks to hog lines to buttons as teams of four try to slide a granite stones into the house.
Created in Scotland, synonymous with Canada and making its way into the United States, curling is becoming more embedded in Utah's winter sports culture.
With clubs in Logan, Park City, Salt Lake City and Ogden, Tim Irish is excited about the upcoming season in Utah, which begins Oct. 1. Irish, the president of the Ogden Curling Club for the last five years, has overseen a growth in the sport in the state.
"It's chess on ice," he said. "It's not really that physical; more of a mental game. You're competing against yourself, trying to improve upon your last shot."
Irish first watched curling in 1998 during the Nagano Winter Games. With alpine events snowed out, the indoor curling arena got more television time. That piqued his interest in the sport, and he signed up for lessons at the Ice Sheet in Ogden.
"It was kind of confusing at first, but you eventually get a handle on it," Irish said. "You're always trying to improve your shot."
It starts from the hack. Like a starting block in track, the hack is a vulcanized rubber piece cemented into the ice that the thrower uses to push off. With the front foot aimed down the ice, the curler pushes off the hack and begins the stone delivery. The team captain, or skip, points with his or her broom where he or she wants the stone placed while two sweepers work in tandem to control the path and speed of the stone with brooms. With the skip barking orders over the ice, the sweepers' brooms create friction causing the stone to travel further until it comes to rest in the house.
The goal is to get your stones closest to the center while knocking out opposing stones. Players rotate positions giving everyone a chance to deliver a stone.
"It's just too much fun," Irish said. "The camaraderie, teamwork and getting out on the ice is fantastic."
Lanny Derby, the president of the Oval Curling Club in Salt Lake City, also has seen the interest in the sport grow over the last five years. He was awarded a grant from the Utah Athletic Foundation to promote sports from the 2002 Winter Games and has been working to expand curling at the Olympic Oval in Kearns.
"It's truly a sport for everybody," Derby said. "From youth to people on the other side of the bracket, curling is a chance for people to compete on the ice at any skill level."
Derby said competition for ice time has been the biggest hurdle for curling enthusiasts. He said that by working with the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation, curling is available every day of the week, including cosmic curling on Saturdays. Cosmic curling is done under black lights and is gaining popularity.
"The demand is high to curl in the state," Derby said. "It's because it's a great sport that everyone can get involved with."
Learning to curl classes begins Sept. 27 in Ogden, and Irish hopes interested people come out and experience the game like he did more than a decade ago.
"I absolutely love this sport," Irish said. "You can't push me off of the ice when I'm curling." Utah's curling clubs
The Olympic Oval (Oval Curling Club)
Mondays and Thursdays • 8:15 to 10:15 p.m.
Fridays • Learn to curl: 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Saturdays • Cosmic Curling 7:45 to 9:45 p.m.
The Ice Sheet in Ogden (Ogden Curling Club)
Tuesday • 7 to 9:15 p.m.
Wednesday • 8 to 10 p.m.
Sunday • 3 to 5:15 p.m.
Eccles Ice Center (Cache Valley Stone Society)
Mondays • 7:15 to 9 p.m.
Park City Ice Arena and Sports Complex
Monday • 8 to 10 p.m.