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Slow play.

February 3rd, 2009 Comments off

Now that we’re just past mid-season, I thought I’d mention something that all of us can work to prevent. Slow play.

Few  things are more discouraging than not being able to complete the full eight ends because the teams on the ice have exceeded the time allotted for the game. Whether you’re ahead or behind, it just feels wrong. It’s also frustrating if you’re waiting for two teams to finish a game so you can start yours.  

Barring unforeseen circumstances, we should be able to complete every game in the amount of time that is scheduled. So why do we see games that extend beyond it? How does it happen?

Well, we’ve all seen the skip who agonizes over every decision. I’m sure there are games when I’ve taken too long to make a call or spent a lot of time figuring out a complicated end. Some decisions are more difficult than others. But if you think your skip is taking a long time to make every call or there is team consultation on every shot, find a tactful way to tell him or her to speed up. I tend to go with something like, “C’mon, call  something already!” You might have something better. 

But skips aren’t always the culprits. Sometimes, the problem lies with the other players on the team being slow to get ready to deliver their own stones. When it’s your turn to throw, make sure you’re getting in the hack while the opposition stone is on its way to towards the other end. Clean your rock and be ready to go when things come to rest. If you’re playing front end, you probably have a good idea of the shot you’re going to be asked to make. It saves time if you think about making that shot before it’s even called. If every player on the ice gets things in motion just five or ten seconds quicker, you can be sure that there will be plenty of time to complete the game.

There’s also an ebb and flow to every curling game. At competitive events, there are clocks that give each team a certain amount of time to complete their shots. If there are a couple of ends that take a bit longer because they’re complicated, you’ll see front ends pick up the pace. So if you’re on the ice and you realize your team just took a long time to complete an end, make an extra effort to be quick in the next one. 

That said, there’s no need to rush. This is curling, after all, a game that demands patience and thinking. But when games move quickly, the sport is more fun to play.

Rocks continuing to improve.

December 16th, 2008 Comments off

It’s been just one week since the resurfacing and our rocks are really starting to run well. They’re still a bit slow in the early ends but they have been getting up to speed quickly and the amount of curl is terrific. Gone are the days of throwing a rock and not being sure if it was going to run dead straight, fall back or curl just a bit. We’re now getting a consistent amount of curl in both directions. I think I’ve seen more successful come-arounds and hack weight taps in two nights than I had seen in the last two years. Great stuff and, once again, hats off to the crew that led this effort.

We’re into the holiday season now so make sure you check your league schedules. It can be a difficult time to find subs — spares, for any Canadians — to try to  plan ahead if you know you’re going to be unable to make a game.

Happy holidays to everyone at PCC.

Hey, now we’re curling instead of straightening.

December 10th, 2008 Comments off

If you played last night or you’ve managed to throw rocks since yesterday afternoon, you will have noticed something quite different at our club.

When you throw a rock now, it actually curls. And not just the one or maybe two feet in certain spots that we’re used to seeing at Plainfield. In fact, right now, the rocks are curling a ton. Throw it at the edge of the 12-foot and it winds up at the button.

What happened, you ask? Well, for the first time since our rocks with inserts were purchased in 2003, they were re-textured. Sanded, actually. This is something that most clubs are now doing on a regular basis and just a few paragraphs down, I’ve copied Bill Nickle’s account of the process.

What’s exciting is that we’ll be able to start playing the kind of game at Plainfield that is more interesting for everyone. With more curl from the stones, come-around draws become a shot that can be made with some consistency. (Sometimes in the past, there were guards that you could not possible bury behind, even if you papered the front stone with your shooter.) Down-weight tap backs can be played. In short, we should see more rocks in play, be able to attempt a wider variety of shots than before and play a a style of game — at least when it comes to strategy, if not always execution — that is more similar to what we see the curlers on television do.

Of course, progress always has a few bumps along the way. Right now, the amount of curl is a bit extreme. The good news? That will change fairly quickly as the new surfaces get more use. Expect it to take a week or two before the rocks settle down and assume a more comfortable amount of curl. The speed should improve as well.

You’ll want to make sure that you have a very positive release with our “new” stones. In other words, you’ll want to put more rotation on the rock when you release it. What’s often called a “soft” release — the in-turn or out-turn just barely started as the rock leaves the hand — will either curl very dramatically or lose its handle.

As promised, here’s Bill’s report on the process:

On Tuesday afternoon, our curling stones were footprinted and ‘re-textured’ in an effort to put some curl back into curling.  From all the intelligence we could gather it seemed clear that our rocks needed some work and that re-texturing was a common course of action.  Over time, the running surface of the rocks becomes too smooth with countless trips up and down the ice.

Some smoothing is due to wear and some is from an accumulation of dirt in the rock (if you look at what the club brooms collect, you can imagine how much dirt builds up on the stone).  If there’s not enough friction between granite and ice, there won’t be enough reaction to cause the curl.  Our stones were new in 2003, so we were seeing the effects of 5 years of use.

By re-texturing the running surface (sanding is too vulgar a term), we clean and add a little grain to the rock.  Using specific instructions and a fixture provided by Canada Curling Stone, the manufacturer of our stone, the work was carried out.

The first step was to footprint the rocks.  This involved taking an impression of each rock’s running surface using a sheet of carbon paper and recording the rock’s serial number.  And thanks to Melanie for the rolling pin.  We now have a record of each stone, like a finger print, and can track changes to the running surface over time.  All our running surfaces were very consistent.

The next step was the re-texturing.  The fixture used consisted of a hard, flat, granite base.  A frame with clamps held a sheet of sandpaper securely in place on the base.  And two stops limited the length of stroke.  A stone was cleaned of any ice crystals, placed on the fixture and pushed and pulled across the sandpaper between the stops.  The stone was sanded twice more at 60 degree increments.  And that’s it.  Six strokes on the sandpaper, one final wipe down, and then ready for play.  A new sheet of 80 grit silicon carbide paper was installed and the process repeated with the next rock.

The rocks were all footprinted once again.  A before and after impression showed that the re-texturing process widened the running surface band slightly.

Don Baird tested the first completed stone and got 5 feet of curl.  He then gave his seal of approval- “I like it”.  We should expect to see an immediate increase in the amount of curl, with a slight decrease in speed. The rocks will settle in with a little less curl after the first week of play.

Re-texturing is a process that should be repeated on an as-needed basis, but no more frequently than once a year.  The borrowed fixture is fairly simple and is something the club should consider constructing for ourselves.  It’s also something that could be shared by neighboring clubs.

Thanks (or blame) to Aaron Dubberley, John Wilman, Don Baird, Jeff Hannon,and Bill Nickle.  And if anyone needs some 80 grit, wet/dry, silicon carbide sandpaper with very low miles, please see Aaron.