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Picks on Your Curling Ice

Saturday, 21 February 2009 - Posted by Danny Lamoureux

I can pretty much guarantee that every curling facility in Canada suffers from ‘picked’ rocks during recreation play as well as what you see and hear on television from the elite players. Picks are a pain and often spoil a good game or causes a team to lose.

Grippers should be maintained.

Grippers should be maintained.

Or it happens so often, the game itself is not fun anymore. You know from previous blogs that customer service is the name of the game if we want to experience growth and while your icemakers will do all they can to provide solid ice that is fast and curls, it is up to us to educate our curlers on why we have so many picks and how we can change the way we do things to significantly reduce the number of times it happens in a game.

  1. Hot feet…..It is universally agreed that heat from individuals that are working hard while brushing has the potential to be transferred through the bottom of shoes to the ice. When hot feet come into contact with the ice while brushing, smudges where the pebble has been affected appear (from pushing off with the gripper foot/feet) and can definitely affect the ice surface causing picks. How can we help ‘fix this’?  Players go through a footwear cooling down period prior to commencing play. So, stand behind the hack while shaking hands; and/or walk down the side of the sheet to the hog line and back before your practice slide.
  2. Dirt……Players often walk with their curling shoes on, from the dressing rooms to the ice surface bringing the dirt from the floors / carpets with them. How can we help ‘fix this’? Carry your shoes with you to the ice surface OR stay on the playing surface during an entire game.
  3. Grippers…..Older, worn out grippers tend to peel off small pieces of rubber that can definitely cause picks. Also, grippers are being worn out from the inside. The teflon or metal sliders dig away at the inside of the gripper causing small pieces to break off and get onto the ice and cause picks when the sliding foot gripper is removed for throwing. How can we help ‘fix this’? New grippers OR a concerted effort to keep them “new” through washing and removing small pieces of rubber about to come off OR remove the sliding foot gripper behind the hacks. It is also recommended that player’s who remove a gripper/anti-slider for the purpose of delivery, should leave it on the ice as opposed to setting it up on a walkway. There is a substantive difference in the ambient temperature of the two surfaces.
  4. Body Parts on ice, knees / hands…..We have supplied information (below) from a current study being conducted at a university in Canada. Body parts touching the ice when during the slide have virtually no impact on the ice surface. Body contact in one spot on the ice for a period of 3 plus seconds after releasing the stone renders that spot “damaged” and it will not be improved until it is scraped and re-pebbled. This includes the knees and hands of skips and thirds while calling line in the house. National Team Program players have been made aware of this information and have truly made great strides in staying off the ice (except the feet) following the release of the stone. It is not perfect but it certainly has vastly improved. How can we help ‘fix this’? Get your hands and knees off the ice following release at the conclusion of the delivery. Skips and thirds do the same in the house.

Effects of Body Parts on Ice:

Without a doubt, a knee print causes the greatest amount of damage to the ice surface. This includes the thrower’s stationary position at the conclusion of a delivery and a skip’s/third’s knee on the ice in the house while calling line. Any stationary contact over 3 seconds can raise the temperature as much as 3 degrees Celsius. This damage is also enhanced by the common practice of using a brush or hand to “sweep away” any damage caused by the knees on the ice. This essentially reheats the spot extending the damaging effects to the ice. If there are any concerns about a damaged area left by an opposing thrower kneeling on the ice, it is recommended a very light dusting of the area is your best course of action.

The damage of a hand on ice can be significant as well if left in a stationary position on the ice.  The heating effects of a bare hand on ice while the player is still sliding, is negligible.

The take-away message is to never place body parts other than your feet on the surface for an extended period of time.

Content provided by Gerry Peckham, Director, High Performance for the Canadian Curling Association.



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