The Shot that Brings You Back

Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 10.44.29 AMI’ve been watching curling for probably a good 16 years.  If you’re like me, it was an addictive sport to watch during the Olympics at really odd times of the night.  Back in college, it would be a good distraction on that late-night-due-the-next-day paper that you really didn’t want to be working on.

And, if you’re like me, after the Olympics, you forgot about the sport.

Well, this past year … I decided to look up a Curling Club.  And came across Windy City Curling and a learn to curl.   I thought it would be easy, as I’ve played hockey for a good 20 years and knew my way around the ice.

We started out with a broomstacking session, which could be the greatest thing in sports.  Broomstacking is socializing with your fellow curlers, usually with a tasty beverage or two.    Then began the off-ice instruction about the basics of the game.  To be honest, I was ready for the ice.  I was the arm-chair curler, knew everything from several years of watching on TV.

Then we hit the ice.  True fun, but I didn’t know how much finesse that this game requires!  Sending a few screaming through the house, than over-adjusting and having stones burned.

It became my turn to be the skip.  Although we were rotating positions, I got to skip the final end.  We were keeping score, and tied going into the final end.  I took advantage of the time as skip, and tried to be as vocal as I could.  When else do you get to yell at people, and its expected.

I was seeing the movement of the stones, and my team was on FIRE.  We ended up with 4 rocks sitting in the house.  Probably all about 8-12 feet out.  It was my first throw, and I also had the hammer.

You get to a point in sports commonly referred to as being “in the zone.”  Everything else blurred out, the sounds around me muted, and the house looked HUGE.  I released the rock, and it was heading right for the house.  HOLY COW … HOLY COW … HOLY COW … the rock looked perfect.

It ended up settling about 10 feet out.  With the way everything was set-up, the opposing skip would have to curl to the button.  A simple knockout would have still left us up three.

On the outside, I remained cool, calm and collected.  Curling etiquette to a degree is like the etiquette that you show as being a goalie.  Save it for off the ice.

On the inside, I was doing backflips!  I’m imagining fireworks going off on the ice, heck, start playing the national anthem!

I look back, and the opposing skip had already released the next stone.  Once again, the silence creeped back.  Perfect weight, perfect handle.  Seemed like it took 20 seconds for the stone to make it to the house, perfectly curl around for shot rock.  About 6 feet out.

On the outside, I still remained cool, calm and collected.  On the inside, NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  As you probably have noticed, I am a very competitive person.  I don’t like to lose.

So, the pressure is on.  Had to throw a in-turn handle to even have a shot.  My previous rock and the other skip’s shot rock were looking like beach balls.  I didn’t have a good take-out shot, because I could easily knock out my team’s stones with the way everything was set-up.  Had to draw to the button.

I released my stone, and I wasn’t in the zone.  The first second after release, I didn’t feel it.  Dropped my head for a second, as I was bummed.  Felt like the right weight, but just too far outside.

I looked back up, and the hammer was curling!  Wow, this looked like a legitimate shot! Could it?  Was it?  I couldn’t tell, but the coach from Windy City looked up.  I couldn’t hear it, but I could tell what the lips were saying.  GREAT SHOT.

I kept it cool, calm and collected … as both myself and the other skip went down to the other end of the ice.  I had drawn to the button!  My team won!

I shook hands with the other team, and walked over to the other skip.  “You had an unbelievable shot … that was awesome!” is what I told her.  I’m guessing she was about 10 years old, so she is going to grow up to be an awesome curler.

Myself and the older curlers returned to broomstack, and I just sat back with a big smile on my face.  I didn’t gloat (well, until now.)  I just knew that I would be coming back.  Now, I am curling on the league with Windy City Curling.  Fun times, friendly competition, and I’ll never forget the shot that brings me back.

First Date. Last Night.

“I’m pleased and very scared to be here.”
-Penny Pingleton, Hairspray

First dates are scary. You never know how things are going to go. You hope for the best, brace for the worst, try to keep an open mind, and do everything you can to make a good first impression while hoping the other person does the same. That gamut of emotion is almost exactly how I felt as I walked into Rocket Ice Arena last night to sub in for my first game ever with the Windy City Curling Club.

Flashback: I’ve only been curling for the past three months, and have done so only at two different places around Lake Michigan, neither of them being Windy City Curling. All of the previous clubs I’ve been to I found online, so I kind of felt like my search for a curling club home has been like an adventure in online dating. Google searching led me to my start in Kalamazoo, Michigan. And while the Kalamazoo Curling Club was incredible and had a great group of passionate and dedicated members, a two-hour one-way drive was a bit too far for me to maintain, sadly.

From there I transitioned over to South Bend, Indiana to curl with some of my friends at Notre Dame. Although this was a much better drive, and curling with your pals is always a heck of a lot of fun, the league structure there is more akin to a collegiate style than a traditional club.  It’s weird how much broomstacking really does make the difference in this sport.

The major positive thing about Notre Dame for me was simply being cast in the role of skip for my team. You see, without that club feel to the league, there weren’t any experienced veterans to really help coach us newbies. I had to do a lot of self-teaching about this crazy rock throwing sport of ours by scouring the internet, and even then, everything I found and learned was untested game theory. In my searching, however, I found a fantastic community and resource for help on (r/curling, for those of you familiar with it). It was there in a discussion on league fees that I casually mentioned being close-ish to the Chicago Chicago Club, but the drive was still more than an hour away.

Thinking nothing more of it, a week later I received notification that someone had replied to my comment. This reply simply said the following:

“If you’re anywhere near Bolingbrook, we’d love to have you at Windy City Curling!”

After a quick click on the link, some light reading that turned into reading the entire website, hoping over to the Facebook page and liking it, and – ultimately- a few excited cartwheels later, I began emailing back-and-forth with Matt Galas. It was his friendly and helpful replies to my MANY questions about WCCC (and again – to Matt – sorry for flooding your inbox, dude) that convinced me to give this new club a try. Third club’s the charm, right?

Flash forward: So there I was at 8:30 p.m. on a drizzling Thursday night, less than an hour from home (the closest club I’ve ever found to me), sitting in the parking lot of Rocket Ice Arena, and downright honest-to-God nervous. Earlier in the day, I couldn’t type fast enough to reply to the email I received asking if anyone wanted to sub in for a team, but now that I was actually at the arena, all those dubious and anxiety-creating questions started to creep into my mind. Anyone who has ever joined a new social group of people should know them by heart: “What if I’m terrible at this? What if I embarrass myself? What if no one there likes me?” etc.

But you know what? It took less than an awkward, “Hello, I’m Eric and I think I’m subbing in for one of your teams tonight…?” to have all of those anxieties and fears allayed. From the moment I met Matt (finally in-person!), some other leaders of WCCC (I’m terrible with names, or else I’d give each and every one of you a personal shout-out), and my team for the night, I don’t believe I ever once stopped grinning like an idiot. Every single person at the WCCC that night was incredibly warm and friendly to talk to.

As we waited to take to the ice, I got to know some new faces over a really fun curling-like table top board game called Crokinole. Once we set up the rink and took to the ice, most of the guys put on their best ‘game’ faces, but even those couldn’t completely mask their friendly demeanor. They were all such a blast to play with. I couldn’t believe it when our game was over, it flew by so fast. “Wait, we’re done?” I believe I asked with an evident tinge of sadness.

I looked at the clock on my cell phone: 11:30p.m. Three awesome hours had flown by in the blink of an eye. I was stunned. Post-game conversations quickly followed with talk of shots made and missed, good ends and bad ends, and even talk of where and how to get a kickin’ pair of curling shoes for the newly initiated and addicted (Debbie McCormick at Goldline Curling!).

When I got back to my car, I finally allowed my stupid grin to turn into a full-blown smile. If this is what subbing-in with the Windy City Curling club is like the first time out, I cannot wait until the end of May to see what this summer’s ‘D’ league has in store. (Seriously – I can’t. If any of you need a sub until then, call or email me.) For those of you I’ll be playing with then, see you on the ice! And for those of you reading this that I won’t – change it so that I will. You gotta try this. 🙂

Eric is a guest blogger with a penchant for verbose analogies, musical theater metaphors, long-winded talks on game theory, and geeking out in general.

Windy City Curling on Public Perspective TV

Public Perspective, with host Kevin McDermott, serves up lively conversation each week with intriguing guests from a wide range of backgrounds. The half-hour show covers politics, the economy, business, and social issues with well known public voices and with unsung heroes.

Two of our founders, Jeff & Matt, were guests on the show a few weeks ago discussing curling, the community we are building and how to get involved.

The show is currently airing in the West Chicago market and will be airing throughout June and July in the Elmhurst Comcast market.



New Clubs – The “Columbus Model”

Building a Curling Club

In an ideal world, each club would have their own dedicated building and space for their club activities.  However, this usually isn’t feasible for newer clubs.  With the recent growth of curling, we have seen unprecedented amounts of new clubs both nationally and globally.  The typical startup club doesn’t have too many options and usually clubs will often start on arena ice.

This is a great way for clubs to start to build interest and get people curling.  However, this also produces a few issues that really hinder the long term success of arena clubs.  The problem with arena ice in this manner is it is near impossible to maintain properly for curling and usually curling takes a back seat to everything else at the ice arena.  The combination of bad ice conditions, inconvenient times and expensive rental time makes it hard for the new club to grow and prosper.

Wouldn’t it be great if their was a model that a new club could reference to build their own dedicated space?  There is and the Columbus Curling Club has found a way! This same method can be used for current clubs to grow and expand as well!

Dedicated Space – Lease Option

If you can’t buy a house, what do you do for a place to live?  You rent!   In the past, the costs to renovate the space and to create the ice field usually makes renting or leasing cost prohibitive in a building that is not a permanent home.

However, with new technology that is available, this is now a viable option with a track record of success.

Leasing provides relatively small startup costs while still providing the convenience and effectiveness of a dedicated space.  In the current economy, you’ll be hard pressed not to find distressed properties available for lease.

When looking for a space, there a just a few requirements.  The space must be zoned properly, have enough space to create the number of sheets, have a warm area and plenty of storage.  We’ll be looking into this more and gathering additional requirements over the next couple years.

Equipment, Materials and Technology

So how do we create a cost effective ice field in a leased space?

The IceMat simple design results in years of trouble-free use. Each mat is modular in design so that your rink size can be increased or decreased at any time. The mats roll out like carpet over the floor and then roll back up when not in use.

The ICEMAT produces an ice field that not only produces good conditions, but it typically saves in annual operating costs as well.  This also provides the ability to expand as needed.

In addition to the floor and ice sheet, other considerations must be evaluated as well. An ALUMA-ZORB Ceiling Curtain, with an emissivity of 4 to 5 percent, will stop 95 percent of this energy-robbing heat radiation to the ice surface.

Hopefully we’ll continue to add to this as we investigate more options and learn about the process.

Sample Use Cases

Columbus Curling Club –

In November 2008, the Columbus Curling Club completed their own two-sheet dedicated curling facility in leased warehouse space.  Their total upfront cost for this project was $150,000 and took 5 months to complete. Within a year, they expanded to 3 sheets and are currently beginning plans and fundraising to purchase their own building.
Contact: Stu Cohen

Evergreen Curling Club LogoEvergreen Curling Club –

Congratulations are in order to the Evergreen Curling Club in Portland, OR for following this model and beginning their construction this year.  They plan to be open and ready for this season in October!  Their plan was name “Dedicated Ice in a Year (DIY)” and they accomplished it based on the results from the Columbus Curling Club.

Their project was estimated at roughly $385,000 in startup costs for a 4 sheet facility.  Based on expectations, they decided to start with 2 sheets (saving $32,000) and use their great members for volunteer work ($79,000) reducing their startup costs.

Contact: Bruce Irvin

 View a Presentation of their Model (pdf)

Future Curling Clubs

While every curling club will not be able to follow this model precisely, it now has a proven track record with the success of the Columbus Curling Club and the current construction of the Evergreen Curling Club.

Depending on your clubs variations and special circumstances, you can adapt this to your club’s needs and available resources and should provide a successful path to creating the community you desire.

We will be hopefully going down this path in the next few years and will update this and provide more information as we come across it. We would also LOVE to hear from you if you have any insight or experience that may help us or any other club.

Best of luck, and Good Curling!

What the Ice Taught Me

Growing up in north central Wisconsin, winter reigned supreme.  Winter sports reigned supreme. We got

2002-2003 Wausau East Lumberjacks Varsity Girls Curling Team...oh dear...

2002-2003 Wausau East Lumberjacks Varsity Girls Curling Team…oh dear…

out of school early on Fridays to hit the local ski hill, the Badger State Winter Games were the highlight of the season. Kids were dropped off at school on the back of their parents’ snow mobile…heck, CURLING was a high school sport!  In the old Wausau curling barn, the ice taught me a lot of lessons that I carry with me both on and off the ice even today.  Here are top 10 nuggets the ice has taught me over the years:

  1. Honesty and integrity– the fate of a game rests on your word.  Unlike other sports, curling has no refs; the teams are left to their own devices to make the calls that could cost them the game, and at times it’s very tempting to not call a burned stone, or miss-call shot rock to benefit your team. But the thing that makes curling such a unique game is its spirit – its heart – that upholds honesty, integrity, and fair play above all things.
  2. Grace, the physical kind – you’re running, sliding, and throwing stones on an ice field for goodness sakes!  Curling isn’t a game of brute strength.  It’s a game of finesse.
  3. Grace, the feel-y kind – losing stinks in any game.  But after a curling game, win or lose, you’re encouraged to ‘broomstack’, or share drinks and laughs with the opposing team.  The quicker you learn to leave the game on the ice, the better time you’ll have.
  4. Teamwork – sure, there’s one Skip calling the game, but without the entire team of four working in unison, you’re looking at a train whose wheels have fallen off the tracks.  It’s all about team chemistry, knowing your teammates backwards and forwards and having each other’s backs game in and game out.  My teammates are like my family.  I know they have my back, and I, theirs.  Plus a good team dynamic makes the aforementioned broomstacking an ABSOLUTE blast!
  5. Communication – you know all that screaming and yelling you hear on the ice?  It’s not angry yelling. It actually serves a purpose, and a big one at that!
  6. Sportsmanship – it’s right up there with that honesty piece, but even more so.No heckling, no badmouthing, no overzealous celebrating when your opponent misses a shot, or when your team makes a shot.  It doesn’t negate a competitive atmosphere by any means, but there’s something to be said for subtly.
  7. Open-mindedness – curling’s one of those great sports where no matter how long you’ve played, if you let yourself, you can always learn something new.  Whether it be from your team, the opposing team, or that rookie who just stepped on the ice for the first time, don’t discount what you might be able to pick up.
  8. Adaptability – ice is a fickle strumpet; sometimes she’s fast, sometimes slow, and sometimes she’s fast, then slow and slightly askew. A perfectly executed shot might do the exact opposite of what you want.  Other times you’ll completely botch a shot and get lucky.  You need to know how to adapt.
  9. Practice excellence – like everything else in life, you can always improve your game.   Mistakes happen, the best learn from them.
  10. Have FUN!!! – this one goes without saying, right!?  It’s at the heart of the game, and in the heart of those who play!  If you can’t have fun, why’re you playing in the first place?