Last year at this time, I was starting the most important season of my curling career. All the preparation that my teammates and I had done was going to be tested as we sought to qualify for the Olympics and capture gold.
There was simply no margin for error last season. Too many great teams to play, too many big shots that had to be made, too many games that were do-or-die. In that kind of a pressure cooker season, I decided to stick with the equipment that I had been using for the past few seasons. I’m not quite like Marc Kennedy — I do change my socks after wins — but I had to have complete trust in everything I used on the ice. Call it security, superstition, whatever — the last thing I wanted to be doing last year was second-guessing any of my equipment choices.
As this campaign gets underway, the situation is quite different. It’s the start of a new four-year cycle and, in Canada, the qualifying process for the Curling Trials is now a couple of seasons away. Our team still hates to lose and we continue to have an intense desire to win Tour events, Capital One Grand Slams, a Canada Cup title and the Tim Hortons Brier. We remain a ridiculously competitive bunch of guys. But, quite frankly, it’s nice to be able to curl with just a bit less stomach churn. Ben might even be able to keep his breakfast down this season.
With a bit less at stake, it’s also a great opportunity to try some new gear. This season, both Kevin Martin and I are wearing the Goldline Podium Gold shoes and, after putting them through the paces at our most recent training camp, I’m loving them. We also have some other new gear from Goldline, our equipment sponsor, that we’ll be trying on the ice this year.
Now, I realize that not every curler is concerned with CTRS standings or the Trials qualifying process. But even if that’s not your main focus, the early days of the season are the time for everyone to visit the pro shop and sample some new equipment. There is a lot of terrific gear available and, if you’re like so many curlers, I’m guessing those ten-year-old shoes of yours might be looking a little sad. Apparel is also better than it’s ever been and I think you put yourself at a competitive disadvantage if you’re not using a modern brush. Remember, if you try something now and it doesn’t feel right after a couple of months, you can always return to your old standbys when you reach the meat of the season.
Equipment isn’t the only thing you should consider changing at this time of year. Before you start to get into your most pressure-packed games, try the tweak to your release that you could never commit to in the past. Revisit your set-up in the hack. Adjust your sweeping style to try and emulate one of the game’s best. If you’re skipping and you’re calling your own shots, do something like throw hits with board weight at moments when your instinct is to throw it harder.
Much like off-season fitness training is a time to push boundaries in order to build strength and endurance, the start of a curling season is an opportunity to get outside your comfort zone and try some new things to move your game forward. So visit a pro shop and do some shopping, ask someone you respect to make some suggestions to improve your delivery, talk to your teammates about a different sweeping set-up. By the time your most important games roll around, the changes that worked should feel completely comfortable.
You can check out some of my favourite gear and apparel online at: