Are we setting up clubs to fail? – Gerry Geurts, CurlingZone/Ontario Curling Tour
Another year and another long list of complaining on the Ontario Curling forums about ice conditions at the playdowns which saw Glenn Howard getting knocked out of contention, losing 2 at Regions and then going 0-2 at the Challenge Round to miss the provincials for the first time since the 2003 boycott year.
While getting into whether Howard “deserved better” is for another blog, my concerns are more about playable ice conditions and that curling clubs and icemakers are being put up to an impossible standard as their facilities and the icemaker’s processes are not set up for 12-14 ends of competitive ice.
When you consider that teams get 7 minutes of practice time to learn the ice, you’ll see them throw up and back, twice or more, putting at least 2 ends of play onto the ice before the game even starts. Add in a possible extra end and curling clubs are facing the burden of trying to make ice conditions that need to hold up for DOUBLE the normal club play when you factor in the increased sweeping prowess of these great young teams.
Because of this, we’ve seen problems at clubs that cause randomized conditions that don’t allow the club and icemakers to fully showcase their abilities. The icemakers are forced to tinker and experiment with their tempatures to try and hold up to the conditions and that can often sacrifice curl and speed that these players desire.
Reports out of Gravenhurst was that the icemaker was in consultation with the OCA Ice Team and trying to get more curl on his ice, thus he raised the temperature to get a little more swing, but this also pushes the limit of how long the ice will hold up and in the Region 3 playdowns the reports were that the teams had to deal with a lot of picks.These picks will happen because the ice is softer/warmer and will wear down faster leaving flat spots with no pebble left on the ice, causing the rocks to “pick”.
At the Challenge Round on the weekend, conditions in Bradford were reported to be 3-3.5 feet of curl and teams were looking forward to the opportunity to play on better ice. The end result though was that it seems the icemaker turned his temperature down to allow the ice to withstand the punishment of 12-14 ends of curling, with the result being less curl and disappointed teams.
This is certainly no fault of the ice crews as they’re doing the best they can and reaching out for help. The problem is that we’re expecting them to work miracles with an event format they will rarely see in their club.
The solution: 2 up and 2 back in practice, limit the time to 7 minutes but don’t make it a rush to throw as many stones. Another practice that should be implemented is requiring teams to throw their draw to button, which has been tested in Ontario Curling Tour events and is now used in the Grand Slams as well.
Go to 8 ends for Zone and Regional play and then when you get to Provincials we go back to 10 ends. It will make for better conditions to play on for the preliminary levels of the game, and give the curlers the consistency they desire.
While 4 feet of curl and 25 second ice is great to have at all levels, I believe that all curlers really want is to be able to confidently draw the button in the Final end of their curling game.