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Musings with Rich: Give curling a try

By Rich Palzewic
Sports Editor

GREEN BAY – I should have known when I saw Dan Loughney stretching that it wasn’t going to be as easy as it looks.

I kiddingly joked with other members of my group, “Maybe we should stretch, too?”

Instead of stretching, we figured it was adequate to watch Loughney do it for us.

I, along with a few friends, took part in a beginning curling class March 26 at the Green Bay Curling Club (GBCC), located at 781 Mike McCarthy Way in Green Bay.

Founded in 1958, the club has been in operation for 64 years and has more than 250 members.

“Things have changed lots since the beginning,” Loughney, who has been curling for 16 years and club president for three years, said. “In the old days, things weren’t nearly as controlled and the ice was more unpredictable.”

It’s been thought curling originated during the early 1500s in Scotland, but I hadn’t heard about it until about 1998 when it was officially added as a Winter Olympic sport.

After checking in, signing a waiver, grabbing a shoe slider – which makes your foot slippery on the ice – for your non-dominant foot, we listened to Loughney share three rules: don’t make it a habit to put your hands in your pockets so you can brace for a fall; always enter the ice with your sticky foot (normal shoe) first for traction; when leaving the ice, step off with your slippery foot first.

Before entering the ice, we had to brush off the bottom of our shoes to get rid of any excess debris, which might damage the three sheets of curling ice GBCC has.

It took a little getting used to, but by the end, I felt comfortable on the ice without feeling like I was going to fall.

I saw a few falls, but fortunately, nobody got hurt.

After getting used to the ice, we learned how to start, keep our balance, throw the rocks, sweep and score.

The Olympians make it look easy, but it’s not – I can guarantee that.

“That’s probably the most common thing I hear after a session – it’s not as easy as it looks on TV,” Loughney said. “We play a different game than the Olympians.”

After the instructions, we had about an hour to play.

I was on a team with one of my friends and a random person.

Loughney said each game begins and ends by shaking hands with everyone involved and saying, “Good curling,” so that’s what we did.

I didn’t realize you don’t throw the rocks down the ice – you use your momentum from pushing off to release them at the desired speed.

I had a few good laughs when I saw people push off, lose all their speed and then try to push the rock down the ice at the last moment – it usually didn’t end well.

Also, you don’t throw a rock straight.

You either have your hand in a 2 or 10 o’clock position and twist it – whichever way you want it to curl – slightly upon release and end up at a noon position.

You’ll also see team members “sweeping” the ice – this is done in front of the rock as it slides down the ice.

Loughney said, sweeping, when done vigorously, can significantly alter the rock.

“The professionals can influence a rock by as much as 15 feet,” he said. “Sweeping warms the ice in front of the rock, making it slide further.”

When I asked Loughney how much our rocks, which weighed about 42 pounds, were affected that night, he laughed.

“None,” he said.

The few times I swept, my heart rate increased – it’s not easy.

We played three ends, which took the full hour of play.

Personally, I did OK – I put a few rocks into the house but mostly released them too fast and put them further than I wanted.

After the session, while drinking a beverage, Loughney said he purposely releases his rock short of the house, so his teammates can sweep the stone where desired.

If you release the stone too fast, you don’t give your team a chance to sweep.

Why should you try curling?

“It’s super communal,” Loughney said. “I started 16 years ago, now I have 250 close friends. The camaraderie is the best. You can’t play softball in the winter so try curling.”

If you’re interested in giving curling a try, there’s a “Try it League for Beginners” once a week on Tuesdays in April.

The cost is $40 for all four weeks.

For more details and to register, CLICK HERE.

P.S. I never did get sore, so I guess it was wise not to stretch.

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