Friday, April 22, 2011

#Curling Season Wrap Up

As I sit in "my office" at the Jasper Place Curling Club, watching the Kevin Martin Junior Bonspiel, it seems like an appropriate setting to wrap up a few thoughts about this past curling season. And wow, was it ever an awesome curling season!


Curling on the Continental Cup official ice with official rocks!


The tied-for-awesomest-curling-good-times award goes to volunteering at the Continental Cup and at the Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championships. Though two very different events, they were both super good fun! I met wonderful people and watched fantastic curling (when I wasn't working my butt off in the Servus Centre Arena or 'my office'). I was shocked to find out my blog/twitter rambling was being read by the powers-that-be.  It was great meeting/working with the folks from the Canadian Curling Association (CCA) at both events, and I'm excited to work with them again next season. Another product of twitter, I also really enjoyed being on the Wheelies committee, and the event was probably one of the most special weeks of my life.

I met/talked to a bunch of 'famous' curlers and curling commentators at the Continental Cup. I even hung out with 'famous' curlers parents: Mrs. Nixon at the Continental Cup and Mr. and Mrs. Martin just today at the Kevin Martin Junior Spiel. I also met/made friends with a bunch of awesome people at the Jasper Place Curling Club, which I joined half way through the season. This was capped off by a fun times double league, and likely I-can't-believe-there's-no-curling withdrawal next week.


Meeting Kevin Martin during the Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championships


On the club curling front, I started curling twice a week and got voluntold to be on a club Board (which is actually quite interesting). I got some coaching to fix one aspect of my delivery, and even though I'm still very inconsistent, I actually feel like I'm making some shots (not many, but some, an improvement for sure). I definitely understand the game more and find it easier to call the line/weight while sweeping, so what I lack in delivery I definitely make up for in wicked sweeping skill! I've made some great new friends at both clubs, and will likely be back curling with both teams next year.

What about the 2011-2012 curling season?

On the pro-side, I'm definitely going to watch the last few days of the Alberta Men's Provincial Finals in Camrose. And I'm definitely volunteering at the Scotties (Canadian Women's Curling Championship) in Red Deer, assumably tagging along with the CCA webteam again. That means I have less than a year to befriend someone with a spare room/couch in Red Deer! I might try make it out to the last few days of the Brier (Canadian Men's Curling Championship) in Saskatoon too, but that depends on how well Red Deer works out and if I can get time off work. Ditto for the Women's Worlds in Lethbridge. I'd like to try get to one of the Grand Slam events, but I think I might be out of luck location wise.


Trying out wheelchair curling with some help from the Wheelies curlers


Club curlingwise, one club is getting some sort of Dominion Playdowns so I'll see if I can volunteer for that. I'm definitely going to try take some pre-season lessons at Jasper Place too. Oh, and I won the JPCC 2011 Brier pool so that means I'm going to be a super awesome curler after I buy fancy new curling shoes! There's a slight possibility I'll be playing three times a week next season - which means I'm never going to find a husband but since I've got the spinster-cat-lady-librarian thing going on it makes me no nevermind. I'd rather just curl, thank you very much.

And I'll keep up the curling posts on this blog too. Though this is the last curling post for awhile, I'll be posting throughout the summer, likely Edmonton event type stuff or more pictures from future photo walks. I might even resurrect Music Monday!

So take care and keep in touch over the summer, otherwise I'll be back for some good curling in the fall!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thoughts on Doubles #Curling

I can't quite remember how it came about, but on one of our last nights of Tuesday curling at the Jasper Place Curling Club sometime in March, @1CathyC had a brilliant idea: a fun doubles curling league in April.

So that's what we did. And this is how it went.

First - what's doubles curling? The inspiration was the mixed doubles event at the Continental Cup, although the 'mixed' rule was relaxed for our league. Conveniently, there's the World Mixed Doubles going on right now and my favourite national curling association just posted an overview!

Basically, each team throws five rocks. One person throws the first and the last, the other person throws the middle three. Two rocks, one for each team, are pre-positioned at the start of each end - one at the back half of the button, the other midway between the house and the hogline on the centre line to guard the rock in the house. The team with the hammer decides if they want their rock at the button or as the guard. The team whose rock is placed on the button gets last rock, so whoever's rock is the guard goes first (this is tricky, we kept forgetting how this works, so my rule of thumb when I'm in the hack was whichever rock is first goes first). No rock can be taken out until the fourth stone. You can't sweep your opponent's rock past after the T-line. You play six ends.

Confused yet? Watch this:


Yes, it is confusing, but we got it eventually. Almost. We played six games over three weeks, so two games a week. With twelve teams signed up, there was a four game round robin and two games of playoffs. The cost was $40 per person. So how did it turn out?

Well, @kevinmalinowski was a great doubles partner and we had a lot of fun. I had a good season of curling and wasn't quite ready for it to end in March, so it was nice to play a bit more in April. Most of the teams were made up of 2011 Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championship volunteers or curlers, so since I'd just spent a week hanging out with them, and was going through Wheelies withdrawal anyways, it was nice to see them again. Knowing everyone in the league was the best part - and made for some fun post-curling conversations in the bar afterwards. The World Men's Curling Championship was on during the first week, and it was super fun to watch the last few ends of great curling with a bunch of curlers, as opposed to by myself with only twitter for company.

It improved my curling skills too. Well, not my delivery, but because there was only two of us I got to play skip a lot, and as I'm usually the lead and have nothing to do with calling shots, so it was a nice change seeing the view from the house. Kudos to Kevin for letting me pretend to call some shots, and for not getting mad when I missed! We quickly figured out that we did better when I threw first and last and when Kevin threw the middle three (he is less sucky and unpredictable than me, plus is way better at hits and takeouts and making angles), so I got to call three rocks each end. Kevin was a good teacher and I think I got better at strategizing shots, figuring how much ice to give, and calling line. I made some good shots and I missed some good shots, so pretty much par for the course delivery wise.

We did ok, and finished dead middle, 6th out of twelve teams, winning half our games. We lost the B final and a chance at a $10 bar tab by 1 point. Guess we shouldn't've let them get 4 in the first and steal two in the third. Oops.

There were three wheelchair teams playing, and that's where I think the real strength of doubles curling is. I agree with Cathy, the national/international wheelchair curling should be doubles as opposed to team competitions. During team competitions, once the lead and second throw, that's it, they're done. There's no sweeping so they just sit there and get cold. Sure, they hold the throwers chairs, but I imagine it's not overly exciting for them. Doubles changes that. Curlers are constantly wheeling up and down the sheet, and both players get to call shots. There's more action. And I think the wheelchair curlers liked playing doubles. They sure had fun, and they were fun to play against.

Plus they let me try stick curling from a wheelchair! A few of the Alberta Host Team curlers were giving me advice for how to move my arm, where to position the stone, how to throw the turns etc. It was harder than I thought. I wasn't expecting the stick head to pivot like it did, and all my rocks stopped in the middle of the two hog lines, so I certainly didn't get the weight right in the six rocks I threw. It was good fun though. I totally appreciate and respect the wheelchair curlers' skills - they are very talented curlers. I was wondering what it was like and the curlers were rock stars for giving me a lesson!


So double curling was fun, but not super fun.

It was quiet. With a quarter of the people of a regular league, there weren't as many people to chat to. And there was little sweeping. This is the part I didn't like. I'm a lead, and I'm not the most consistent or accurate curler, but I like sweeping. It's the part of the game I think I'm good at. I like walking out with the rocks and judging weight and line that way. I like the bursts of exercise and the excitement that occurs when someone is yelling at you to sweep harder. There's not much of that in doubles. I'm not quite so coordinated enough to get up and sweep my own rock (nor should I, as it's not super safe) and on occasion did run out of the house to sweep during Kevin's shots, but not very often. It's not as active a game.

And that meant my feet got really cold, even with the addition of a second pair of socks!

It was quite challenging sorting out weight too. I'm used to throwing guards or draws to two sweepers who can push it a few extra feet. Not so in doubles. The first week a lot of rocks were hogged. And now I'm used to throwing to no sweepers, so I could never play in doubles and team leagues at the same time, I wouldn't be able to sort out the weight. I'm just not that good.

Only throwing five stones and only playing six ends also screws with your game.  We were often able to score three or four rocks when the first rock is in the house, so if you have a bad end or two the other team can get so far ahead that you can't catch up in the short time allotted. This led to some lopsided scoring. I'm sure if we were star curlers we wouldn't have this problem, but we're not, so we do.

Would I play doubles curling again?

Maybe. I wouldn't play in a league that lasted a whole season, but I would play a couple one-off games for fun or as a bonspiel or in a short spring league. It was a nice, social league that allowed me to extend the curling season a bit and get to know some awesome people. But it wasn't quite as fun to play as team curling.

Well done Cathy for organizing it. Maybe we'll do it again next April!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

#Curling with Kids...At The Mall?!

I hung out with a bunch of kids at the mall on Saturday. And we curled. In the mall. No kidding!!

About a month ago, one of my curling clubs (Sherwood Park Curling Club, the one where I'm on the board) sent out a message asking for volunteers to help with a curling promo at the local mall. Once it became clear I wasn't going to get to the Player Championship in Grande Prairie, I jumped at the opportunity.

The Northern Alberta Curling Association (NACA) has 3 "Kurling" sets. You know that Capital One Rocks and Rings commercial that always runs during the curling-on-tv events*? It's the same set. The NACA set came with two target/house mats** and 4 blue and 4 red "rocks" (made out of rubber with 3 ball bearings for sliding). Our curling club manager booked free time at the mall for two days, booked and picked up a kurling set from the NACA office (for free) and we were good to go.

The mall floor was tile, not conducive to rolling ball bearings on, but they gave us their stage in the food court which was perfect. It was the perfect width and height for little people to throw rocks on (I'd say the stage was 3 curling brooms wide and up to the middle of my thigh - I know because I have bruises there from leaning over against the edge to collect rocks for 4hrs). We duct taped down the houses on each end so they wouldn't fold up, and away we went.

It's a simple enough game with 4 rocks each so the kids got it right away. The rocks curl or roll straight, depends on how the kids threw them. Apparently the rocks curl in the opposite direction of how you curl the handle, but I never got around to testing that. One volunteer stood on either side to catch the rocks before they rolled off the stage. We used curling brooms to push and collect rocks from the middle of the stage after each "end". And we explained and encouraged and cheered.

All the kids sure had fun - and so did I! Some would only play once, others stuck around for 20 minutes, and we had a lot of kids come play, then go eat lunch, then come play again, then go shopping, and then come play again! It was fun for all ages, and we had a couple toddlers try it out, but I'd say most kids were elementary school age. They played against themselves or their siblings or friends or parents or random other kids hanging around. Some kids really got the game and used hit or draw strategy, and some just threw as hard as they could at whatever rock to make them go flying off the edge. It certainly was interesting to see the difference.

I was pleased that all the kids were all good sports and were willing to play with strangers. The food court was a great setting because there were always people around. That's not to say there weren't downtimes - apparently Friday was quiet (full of teenagers all day), but when I was there on Saturday it was mostly steady, with a few quiet periods thrown in. Once one kid started played other kids in the food court would come over and join in. We also had a real curling rock (an old vintage one) on the stage, and the older kids and parents had a good time trying to lift it. Fun times all round!

Actually, it made me a) sad that I quit being an elementary school teacher and b) thankful that I quit being an elementary school teacher - at the same exact time. I think maybe only ex-teachers or people who know me well would understand that sentiment.

On top of the fun bit, we also had a big banner advertising the club, and a bunch of brochures. People did take them, and a couple parents/kids were quite excited to sign up for our novice program. I think a few parents walked away considering joining one of our adult leagues too. Ultimately the timing was a bit off. I guess the curling club manager thought we'd try it out, and now that we know what it involves I'm pretty sure we'll get the kurling set back for early September to try to promote the club (and our late September Open House) more. Makes sense.

All said and done it was a super fun day. Later that evening I received a random twitter message: "my 2 yr old enjoyed the curling at the mall. thank you." - how lovely! That made me smile all weekend long! You're very welcome!

I'd encourage other clubs to consider holding an event like this in a public place - not only to promote curling club registration, but also to introduce children to the sport we love. And we all know children are our future. From what I saw last weekend, the future looks pretty fun!

* Why do they run curling commercials during curling events - that's like preaching to the converted. They really need to get those commercials on during mainstream programming to reach those who don't watch curling or even know what it is to begin with! Mostly they are brilliant commercials (kudos to the CCA, their promos have been awesome the past couple years!) but sometimes I think the effect is lost on those who already love the sport.

** You can buy the sets at kurling.ca, but be warned, they're pretty pricy (I think they're made in the UK). And the set only comes with one house mat, so you might need to buy another one. Weird. It certainly is not affordable for the average family - but still cheaper than buying a cool curling table. It's a super fun thing for schools to possibly purchase though.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Photo Walk: St Joachim Cemetery

My photographer friend always takes me on the best lunch dates: this week we went to the cemetery!

Actually, it was lovely. The weather in Edmonton felt all spring-like for once, and my office atmosphere has been tense lately, so as usual it was nice to get out and go for a walk.

The whole point of these walks is to teach me photography stuff. The past couple walks we talked about exposure (I think that's what it's called, anyways that's the 'A' dial on my camera and the + or - spectrum to get the lighting/colouring right). I think I still failed those lessons, but we moved on to something new anyways: composition (I think that's what it's called, anyways that's positioning objects in the frame using the rule of thirds and diagonals). I'm not sure I learned this lesson either, so it'll all have to be reviewed again next time. I'm a much better student in a classroom where I can take notes to study afterwards!

Here are my best/favourite shots:


Pre-cemetery/lesson - and one of the best of the bunch!

I love the "dead tree in the graveyard" view.






Military headstones will always remind me of my first trip to Belgium...









Monday, April 11, 2011

#Curling on TV: Player's Championship

Well folks, it's time for the last curling-on-tv event of the season!




The last Grand Slam of Curling event will take place in Grande Prairie, Alberta from April 12 to 17.

Men's teams include: Bawel, Camm, Edin, Epping, Fowler, Howard, Jacobs, Koe, Martin, McEwen, Moskowy, Petryk, Schlender, Simmons, Stoughton, and Virtue.

Women's team include: Bernard, Carey, Hasselborg, Homan, Jones, Kaufman, Kleibrink, Lawton, McCarville, Middaugh, Muirhead, Nedohin, Ott, Overton-Clapham, Owen, and Viktorsson.

Wow. Quite a field. And it breaks my heart because it's in my province (albeit 5hrs away) and I had an opportunity to go - an opportunity I had to pass up for a number of personal/professional reasons (some of which have since been cancelled which makes me more sad). It sure would be fun to go watch and maybe meet some of those awesome teams! Plus this will be the last time (I assume) team Koe plays together with Blake MacDonald at third! Same goes for team Simmons (who will be joining team Koe next season), team Bernard and possibly other teams who will be retiring, shuffling, golfing instead. One of these day's I'll get to a Grand Slam. Hopefully.

Fortunately, CBC will be showing a few games on the weekend. Here's the schedule in Mountain time:

Saturday, April 16
Women's final: 1:30pm (CBC, cbcsports.ca)
Men's semi final: 8:30pm (cbcsports.ca, BOLD)

Sunday, April 17
Men's final: 9:30am (CBC, cbcsports.ca)

I do believe you can order the game package if you live outside of Canada, and I tried to find the link but I couldn't. Check out the #GPPC hashtag on twitter during the event for details.

Last event of the season! Enjoy the curling while it lasts!