Broomgate sweeps curling!
June 13, 2016 4:52 PM   Subscribe

A new broom is causing friction in competitive curling. The new broom, the icePad, is said to offer too much of a competitive advantage, with Olympic Gold Medalist Brad Gushue stating that it "allowed top players too much control to the point where it was actually difficult to miss some shots on line." This year's Sweeping Summit featured significant research on a number of different brush constructions and sweeping techniques, with sweeping changes expected for the broom regulations going forward. posted by palindromic (42 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wasn't there an episode of The Murdoch Mysteries where Detective Murdoch has shoes made with metal plates to give the constabulary an advantage over Leslie Garland's nordic games-bound curling squad?
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:57 PM on June 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


They met in Kemptville? Kemptville? Was Spencerville too fancy or something? You'd be hard-pressed to find a much smaller town. Maybe Brockville was too urban for them.
posted by GuyZero at 5:25 PM on June 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


This is relevant to my interests, as a while back I was actually chosen to represent my country as an Olympic curling team member.

But then I got cold feet.
posted by iotic at 5:28 PM on June 13, 2016 [19 favorites]


I guess the broom thing seems obvious in retrospect, but I always expected curling to produce great innovations mostly in ugly Christmas sweaters.
posted by indubitable at 5:29 PM on June 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


You can buy one of these for $169 (Candadian) at the Hardline Curling website. Regular curling brooms seem to start at about $65, so it's not apparently significantly more expensive that what competitive curling teams are currently using. How does it offer a "competitive advantage" if anyone who wants to can use it?

One of the linked articles seemed to suggest that the real reason some curlers were upset about the IcePad is that it shifts the makes sweepers considerably more imporant relative to throwers than they have been traditionally. In that way, it reminds me of the early complaints about "soccer style" field goal kickers in the NFL, and I think it is true that the change in where on the field a team could realistically expect to score a field goal has resulted in a different kind of game. (Which I guess the birth of the forward pass as a regular offensive play did earlier in the sport's history.)

Maybe akin to the designated hitter rule in baseball. Does competitive curling have two major leagues? It would be cool if one switched to allow the IcePad and the other refused to make the change.
posted by layceepee at 5:32 PM on June 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


There are no leagues in curling AFAIK. Teams compete in various tournaments and you'll often see the same teams but there's no rule saying they have to be the same from one tournament to another. International tournaments will tend to have the same teams as national federations usually don't rotate their lineups all that often.

The issue with these brooms is that the sweepers can basically steer the rock down the sheet with guidance from the skip. It's less pool and more just moving a pool ball with your hand to make shots - not as much of a challenge.
posted by GuyZero at 5:38 PM on June 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


I guess the broom thing seems obvious in retrospect, but I always expected curling to produce great innovations mostly in ugly Christmas sweaters.

I think you mean pants.
posted by GuyZero at 5:39 PM on June 13, 2016 [10 favorites]


Wasn't there an episode of The Murdoch Mysteries where Detective Murdoch has shoes made with metal plates to give the constabulary an advantage over Leslie Garland's nordic games-bound curling squad?

Yes, and it was pretty much the best episode ever.
posted by Gymnopedist at 5:49 PM on June 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it's definitely not fair that some teams might have a Nimbus 2000 or even a Firebolt, but other teams are stuck with mere Clean Sweep Sevens.
posted by JDHarper at 5:55 PM on June 13, 2016 [28 favorites]


The issue with these brooms is that the sweepers can basically steer the rock down the sheet with guidance from the skip. It's less pool and more just moving a pool ball with your hand to make shots - not as much of a challenge.

Sure, but that's obviously what happens to a lesser degree right now, and completely separate from a "competitive advantage" argument. Some teams will be better than others at sweeping or directing the sweepers, so there's still a sport in it. I'm pretty sure the Scots who invented the game didn't have the fiber pad brooms with swiveling handles that are currently used, or teflon plates on their shoes, so there's been a history of pretty big innovations in the sport and I'm not sure what the big deal is.

Now, if they came up with a broom that could slow the stone down...
posted by LionIndex at 5:57 PM on June 13, 2016


Now, if they came up with a broom that could slow the stone down...

Any broom can do that but technically you're not allowed to tap the stone.
posted by GuyZero at 6:02 PM on June 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think the concern is less about advantage (although it's natural to frame things in that way when talking about hardware) and more about a philosophical problem: what if curling becomes tic-tac-toe? Without knowing the specific capabilities of this broom compared with other brooms, I do think it's legitimate to be concerned that advances in technology could make it so that almost every throw is "perfect", at which point the game becomes less about skill and more about trying really, really hard not to fuck up.

It's less pool and more just moving a pool ball with your hand to make shots - not as much of a challenge.

Basically, this. There might still be some competition left in the game at that point, but would it still be at all entertaining to watch? (Taking it as read, for a moment, that curling is currently fun to watch.)
posted by tobascodagama at 6:04 PM on June 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I do think it's legitimate to be concerned that advances in technology could make it so that almost every throw is "perfect", at which point the game becomes less about skill and more about trying really, really hard not to fuck up.

I dunno. Bowling is still a thing, even though perfect performance is within the grasp of a skilled amateur. (I was awfully surprised to discover that there are televised bowling championships.)
posted by jackbishop at 6:22 PM on June 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm just taking a moment to marvel at the experience of reading this sentence with no context and no real understanding of curling: The icePad took the unprecedented step of throwing 200 years of curling belief out the window by asking one simple question – if the rock travels only on top of the pebble, why do we need to brush in between the pebble?

Why indeed.
posted by moss at 6:35 PM on June 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


Now, if they came up with a broom that could slow the stone down...

From the first article: "Critics, however, say these new brooms can actually slow a rock down and make it curl more..."

With all past brooms - though I'm sure there was controversy when the slappin' brooms were replaced with the push brooms, too - you could only speed up and straighten the path of the rock.
posted by clawsoon at 6:36 PM on June 13, 2016


The primary concern is damage to the ice surface. The broom head material is for sure important in this respect. Seems to me that this issue is coming to the fore even more because the pumped up muscles of the front ends (the two players who do most of the sweeping) are going to do more damage to ice by virtue of their power output alone.

Meanwhile, the (to me misplaced) emphasis here has been on Directional Sweeping as a technique. While broom head technology lead to the discovery of Directional Sweeping, you don't need high tech broom heads to create the effect. Hair brooms, which are 30+ years old at this point, have been banned because combined with the Directional Sweeping technique they damage the ice too. As an article at curling.ca puts it:
With new technology came new techniques, and when the technology was questioned (and in some cases, outlawed), the techniques survived and made the best players and coaches in the world question the conventional wisdom of what we all THOUGHT sweeping did.
Finally, Brad Gushue has been quoted in praise of Directional Sweeping, so I suspect these articles are taking statements out of context.
I'm not that interested in digging deep into the opinions of Brad Gushue--maybe if it was curling season I'd get more into it--so somebody might correct me.. In fact it looks as if he may be the inventor of Directional Sweeping, judging by that Sun article. I'm having trouble googling up a credit for the discovery.
posted by Chuckles at 6:38 PM on June 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


They met in Kemptville?


They wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of Gananoque.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:41 PM on June 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


Here we go, Gushue testing the technique with various heads on YouTube..
posted by Chuckles at 6:44 PM on June 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


> Wasn't there an episode of The Murdoch Mysteries

How did I possibly miss that episode?? /goes off to look
posted by rtha at 7:04 PM on June 13, 2016


Yeah, yeah, curling is silly, but it is not at all easy. I can throw a decent stone, but what's the point if the sweepers can make every bad throw great? It's a team sport. For me, at least, there's a thrill of teamwork.
posted by Ruki at 7:05 PM on June 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


sweeping changes eh. I see what you did...never mind, I'll see myself out
posted by aydeejones at 7:17 PM on June 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


  I'm sure there was controversy when the slappin' brooms were replaced with the push broom

And the, in the mid-80s, some Canadian teams started using corn brooms again, mainly to leave bits of chaff about to sabotage the other team's stones.
posted by scruss at 7:41 PM on June 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


From the first article: "Critics, however, say these new brooms can actually slow a rock down and make it curl more..."

Yeah, I'd have to see that happen. I'm guessing what they mean is that they wear the pebble down enough in the normal course of play that it's a smooth ice surface towards the end of a match, which means more contact with the stone and that slows the stone down.
posted by LionIndex at 7:46 PM on June 13, 2016


This couldn't be any more Canadian than if Gordon Lightfoot was shitting timbits into Wayne Gretzkys mouth.
posted by dr_dank at 7:55 PM on June 13, 2016 [12 favorites]


Plenty of sports have strict rules about their... appliances? Accoutrements? Equipment? to maintain the right balance of skills to keep things sportsmanlike. After all, if a sport gets boring, it dies. (Admittedly, I find just about all sport boring, but quite enjoy analysing the phenomenon of sport.)

So, curling could just adopt a single specification of broom. Or it could split into two variants. Or it could try and evolve the stone to put more skill back into the thrower. Or it could curl up and...

(Cricket has its own history of dealing with faffery with the weaponry...)
posted by Devonian at 8:27 PM on June 13, 2016


Is this like the speedo body-hugging suits in swimming? (Now banned?)
posted by freethefeet at 8:57 PM on June 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Man, controversies like this really make me bristle.
posted by lilac girl at 9:46 PM on June 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


I know the old brooms don't do nearly as much as the new ones, but these two classic broom labels are just the bee's knees.
posted by furtive at 9:59 PM on June 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Stephen Cobert weighs in.
posted by Mitheral at 10:01 PM on June 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


They met in Kemptville?

You can't talk about brooms in someplace unKempt.
posted by InfidelZombie at 10:49 PM on June 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


I had to laugh at the last claim of the "this is not the first controversy in curling" link, which stated that curling is played in silence. The raucous atmosphere of four sheets in league play at my club would stand as a contradiction to this—my biggest challenge when I have a new skip is figuring out which voice is the skip's, so I don't inadvertently respond to the wrong cry of "Hard! Hard! Hard!" or "Off! Ooooff!"

I'd be sad to lose the sort of random-not-random element of what's there now, when it comes to brooms. Learning your team's strengths and weaknesses and playing accordingly is a real pleasure, but give everyone a belt sander and what's the challenge? You might as well install tracks.

Bowling is still a thing, even though perfect performance is within the grasp of a skilled amateur.

This is why I don't indulge in the grotesque sport of idiot bowling (aka ten pins), which has been babyfied until it's dull beyond description for the purposes of making it more suited to suburban kiddie birthday parties. There's never been a 300 game in league play in the history of the sport (I think a 279 in league play back in the nineties still holds the top slot), so we're all united by statistical implausibility and can just enjoy the game.

(P.S. Are any other DC-area Mefite curlers also playing at Potomac Curling Club?)
posted by sonascope at 2:40 AM on June 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


NUTS to CURLING! They wouldn't let me use my BROOM!
posted by wreckingball at 5:50 AM on June 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Curling story? Curling story.

In 1991 I was just a kid working in Upper Canada Mall in Ontario selling computers at a Canadian chain store when in walks a guy with a Lanny McDonald calibre moustache and a familiar face that I couldn't quite place. We chatted for a bit, I showed him a few models and I was pretty sure I was going to sell this guy a computer, but never quite closed the sale.

As I felt the sale starting to slip away I asked him, "Has anyone ever told you that you look like Ed Werenich?" He just smiled and said, "Yeah, because I am Ed Werenich."

At this point Curling was starting to be televised more and Ed was coming off his second world championship. He was friendly throughout our discussion but I could tell he was excited to be recognized by some kid just barely into his teens. So in the end, Ed got a new computer, and I got a story to tell about the time I met The Wrench.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 6:25 AM on June 14, 2016 [18 favorites]


Mind you, I'm just glad we're out of the flappy broom era and no longer pick up the damn rock in a throw like "the ladies" did in '62.
posted by sonascope at 8:27 AM on June 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


There was a certain farcical romance to the old floppy brooms. Using those actually took some skill.
posted by GuyZero at 9:21 AM on June 14, 2016


The Curling.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 10:58 AM on June 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think you mean pants.
Wow. Did Bud Collins cover curling?
posted by MtDewd at 12:08 PM on June 14, 2016


Where is the part of the broom where I put my beer?
posted by Sphinx at 12:42 PM on June 14, 2016


Oh, you mean the hidden flask in the broom handle? Those are hard to find nowadays but still around. But you probably want something stronger than beer in it.
posted by hydrobatidae at 1:00 PM on June 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


obligatory Smack The Pony
posted by aihal at 1:14 PM on June 14, 2016


Those Smack The Pony people clearly could've used the icePad and some directional sweeping. Would've resulted in a completely different outcome.
posted by clawsoon at 1:19 PM on June 14, 2016


When Mr. Dorinda and I decided after our first trial league that we were into this curling thing for good (after both of us moved from Canada -where we'd never curled - to goddamn North Carolina, of all places), we made what we thought was the smart decision: bypass the cheapo fiberglass brooms and heavy heads, which we'd eventually have to replace as our skills - as we assumed they would - steadily progressed to Jennifer Jones-type levels (editorial note: still waiting on that one...sigh), and invest in something a little more high-end that our skills could grow into. We eventually decided on the at that point VERY newfangled Hardline broom and IcePad over the tried and true carbon fiber option from Goldline for the stupidest of reasons: Hardline had launched the product on "Dragon's Den" (the Canadian forbear of the world's greatest show "Shark Tank") so clearly it must be awesome. We also saw that a few pro teams were using the IcePad (maybe only Mike McEwan at that point, I think?) so it must be at least somewhat legit, and - very importantly - it came in way better colours than the Goldline. So we forked over the not insignificant cash for two of the contraptions, and were super duper excited to try them out when league play started up again....then Broomgate broke about 2 games into our season. Sigh.

At our skill level and sweeping ability, I really don't think the fabric makes a measureable difference (which is why IcePad's are still legal for league play and in small bonspiels), but we don't do directional sweeping with our brooms just in case, and we sure do wish we'd gone with the regular brooms and not been seduced by the shiny new thing.....
posted by Dorinda at 5:50 AM on June 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


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