Between the Sheets: Curling in Scottsdale??

I never thought I would curl in Phoenix, but thanks to our friend, Kevin Kerwin, Terry and I headed down to Phoenix a couple weeks ago to conduct a curling clinic at the Ice Den in Scottsdale Arizona (practice facility of the Phoenix Coyotes).

Coyotes Curling Club

Kevin arranged a Learn to Curl clinic with the help of Darryl Horsman, President of the Coyotes Curling Club. The participants ranged in age and experience (most were novice) and were comprised of US and Canadian residents! Terry and I had a little bit of a chuckle as the Zamboni prepared the ice surface! The rings(quite faded) were permanently etched into the hockey ice, and after the Zamboni did its thing, they placed the hacks into the ice by warming the metal pegs with body heat and then pushing them into the ice surface and standing on them for 45 seconds…and voila…we had hacks! They then pebbled AND nipped the ice and the preparation was complete. Now where were the rocks? As soon as we had thought it…they appeared. Curling rocks on a trolley cart being pushed out from the off-ice area and delivered one by one to each of the four sheets. Darryl advised us they had purchased a commercial freezer last year to store the rocks in, when they were not in use, as they had been getting “too warm” in the Phoenix heat. Imagine!

Rocks being delivered to play!

We started with a little off-ice instruction, Terry, Darryl and myself explained the basics and what to expect out on the ice. We then broke the participants in to smaller groups and began the process of teaching the art of curling. In about 45 minutes we had 32 new curling recruits sliding, delivering rocks and yelling “Hurray Hard” like seasoned pros. Most of the participants commented that it was way harder than it looked and didn’t realize how easy ‘real curlers’ made it look on TV. But they were all having a lot of fun! We then broke the groups into 8 teams and started our ‘mini spiel’. The format we used was to promote the game itself, and it wasn’t as much about shot making. For example, ‘bonus’ points were given after each end for how many rocks were in the FGZ (free guard zone) or for rocks in the 12 foot. It removed the intimidation of ‘making shots’ in the game and evened out the playing field between teams. It was more about just getting out there and playing , rather than competing…which is important for beginners. We played four – one end games and ended with our 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners.

Darryl Horsman, myself and Terry

Terry and I were both quite impressed with how keen the ice was…but the Zamboni had created some interesting grooves….I had never seen a rock curl a foot left and then fall two feet and then catch a run and never move again – we were mesmerized! In true curling fashion everyone was invited back to the party room for coffee and cake and there was a constant hum as the stories of falling, standing , and the occasional rock reaching the rings were told by all! The winners were presented with prizes, and photos were taken with Terry and myself. We answered as many questions as possible and I shared the 2010 Olympic Silver Medal with all those who wanted to touch it and take photos! The event wrapped up around noon, just in time to be able to get in a round of golf in the sunny, cactus laden, 25C degree weather.What a perfect place, curling AND golf!