Gerry Geurts – CurlingZone
It’s been an interesting month since the directional fabric and sweeping debate heated up to a point where it’s been all we’ve been talking about within our sport. Brad Gushue and his team started with using one sweeper, exposing the strength of the Hardline icePad, though likely more, showing what teams can do when they vary their sweeping techniques. Next it was the BalancePlus Blackhead, put into play to make a point but took the effectiveness of the fabric to a whole new level in Toronto at the Stu Sells Toronto Tankard.
Many of the top teams banded together and agreed that directional fabric should not be part of the game, but it certainly hasn’t been the solution to all of our problems. There have been arguments amongst teams at all levels over how rocks are swept, and the resulting effect it has on stones in play, leading to confusion and tension between these teams.
CANADIAN SWEEPING RULES
(8a) Given that the intent of sweeping is to keep the path of the stone clean and to take a stone farther, there must be brush head movement in the sweeping motion.
(8b) The sweeping motion shall not leave any debris in front of a moving stone.
(8c) The final sweeping motion shall finish outside the path of the stone.
When reading these rules, the interpretation is that corner sweeping, snow-ploughing and sweeping to make a rock curl by finishing it in a specific direction are all legal under the loosened Canadian rules on sweeping. Essentially the rules suggest you can do pretty much anything you want as long as you’re not burning the rock or finishing your dumping debris in front of the stone.
On Wednesday evening at the Grand Slam Masters of Curling in Truro, Nova Scotia, the brush debate came to head with several teams feeling like the inverted icePad was still superior to the existing brush pads on the ice. It got so bad that several teams were openly calling out others over the results they were getting on the ice.
What followed was a week of tension between the players, until a breakthrough was had on Saturday evening at when two teams involved in Wednesday’s accusations over cheating came together and tested each other’s and other brushes. These two teams tested the Norway Pad, the EQ and the inverted icePad on a variation of hit weight shots.
By the end of it, the two teams had come together and agreed that all three brush pads were showing similar results, to a point where “I’ll shut my mouth now”, was uttered by one of the players on the team laying accusations of cheating against the others and both teams came together a sorted out their differences on the ice.
Many of the top teams have run tests and witnessed the comparisons between the three top level pads that we can safely say that until rules and guidelines on fabric are in place that the inverted icePad is an acceptable product that performs close to BalancePlus’ EQ pad and Goldline’s Norway pad.
For one, something the brush pad debate has made many realize is that with ANY high quality brush pad, players can affect how much a rock curls. By sweeping on the inside players can hold a rock straight and by sweeping the outside they can make rocks curl.
Even on hits. As these two teams (along with yours truly) witnessed, by as much as a full rock width on down weight hits.
It’s a paradigm shift in our sport that shows how big of a difference sweeping technique can make. As a sport, the switch technique has been used for many years, but until now many did not know how effective it really is.
Curling Canada while investigating restrictions on fabrics is reportedly not interested in tightening these sweeping rules at this point, as it would mean bringing more official interventions into the game, something we can all agree is not ideal. This means that whether we like it or not, this is the new reality within the sport and teams must adapt to remain competitive.
We hope this lays the debate to rest in the short term and ends to accusations being levied on teams at all levels.