One of the many real pleasures of the Winter Olympics in Sochi was the exposure to sports that rarely if ever get proper coverage on television for the casual sports fan. For many sports aficionados this sense of discovery (or perhaps re-discovery) is one of the real pleasures of the Winter Games.
The fundamentals of the sport of Curling typically involve two teams of four players each who take turns sliding granite curling stones across the ice (called a curling sheet). Each stone weighs 42 pounds and they're thrown towards the "house" which is a circular target marked on the ice. Each team rolls eight stones (international games like the Olympics are actually ten "ends") and the team which accumulates the highest score for the game after all eight (or ten) ends wins.
A point is accumulated for each of your stones that are closer to the center of the rings than your opponent’s (think bocce ball). The curling stone is launched down the 145 foot curling sheet where sweepers literally sweep the ice to reduce the friction between the stone and the ice making the stone travel further. The amount of "curl" in a stone can also be influenced by the sweepers by either sweeping early to reduce curl, or late after the stone has begun curling to increase the amount of curl.
A team is made up of a thrower, two sweeperes, and a skip. The skip is typically the captain of the team who helps formulate strategy in a number of different ways such as “reading” the ice to aid the sweepers in delivering and manipulating the stone as it slides along the sheet toward the house.
That's great, but where can I play?!
New York State has a number of well established curling clubs including a club in Utica which was founded in 1868 and ranks as one of the oldest in the US. Long Island has its own, more recently established club, founded in 2008.
Matt Scheiner, an inaugural member and President of the Long Island Curling Club whose home base is in Bellmore, NY’s Newbridge Arena, feels there are levels of appeal to the sport both mental and physical. "For me the most appealing part of curling is the mental aspect of the game. The sport is often referred to as 'chess on ice’ since there is a lot of strategy that goes into it. I find this very appealing, especially for a sport with so much physical activity."
Mr. Scheiner also rightly points out that the sport has an appeal for the athlete with a curious spirit and an interest in trying something new. "It is not something most people have ever tried in their lives. So I think it appeals to athletes who have a sense of adventure and want to have a good time."