While the temperature outside is pushing 100, the rink at Northern Colorado Ice Center is kept around a brisk 30 degrees.
For those seeking a break from the heat and the opportunity to try something new, NoCo offers curling lessons to all ages. To anyone fearful of the Olympic sport, instructor Gordon Harrison says, “Just give it a try.”
Nearly 40 people gave it a go July 22 during a Learn to Curl day at the complex just west of Windsor.
Harrison, a native Canadian, recently started a curling league at the rink and hopes to get a bonspiel, or tournament, going soon.
“Our main goal is just to spread the word,” Harrison said. “It’s something that anyone can do.”
Curling is a simple sport. The main goal is to get your stones closer to the center of the target area than your opponent’s stones. The stones closest to center score your team points.
The sheet, or game play area, consists of a narrow strip of ice about 10 feet wide and 150 feet long; NoCo offers four sheets next to each other on the hockey rink.
Teams consist of four players: the lead, second, third and skip, or captain. Each player is allowed two throws per end. An end is finished when each team has thrown, or slid, all eight of their stones. Games last eight to 10 ends depending on player skill, and teams alternate throws throughout the end.
The player throwing the stone pushes off from what is called a hack, a piece of rubber, metal or wood, depending on the rink, to gain speed. Before the stone reaches the hog line, the thrower must release it down the sheet.
Once the stone passes the hog line, two players can begin to sweep the stone based on the skip’s instruction. As the captain, the skip is in charge of telling throwers where to slide the stones and the sweepers when to “hurry” the stone.
On the call of “Hurry, hurry, hurry!” from the skip, the players sweep just in front of the stone to make it travel further. If a sweeper accidently touches the stone, it is considered a burn and when a stone is burned, the opposing skip has the option of removing the stone or leaving it where it stops.
At the far end of the sheet is the curler’s target, a set of rings called the house. The center of the target, or button, is where each team wants to place their stone.
With 16 stones aiming for the button, things can get a little crowded at the end of the sheet.
The team with the best throw scores points for every stone inside of the other team’s best throw. In other words, the closer you are to the button, the more points you get.
Scores are awarded only at the end of each end and it is not uncommon for an end to be scoreless due to both teams having stones on the button or equidistant to the center.
When asked, many of the participants at the Learn to Curl lesson said they simply wanted to try out the sport they had only seen at the Winter Olympics.
Others had higher hopes.
“I’m practicing up for 2014,” Brandon Greeley, 23, of Fort Collins offered.
“This is my one shot for the Olympics,” Jon Miles, 27, of Fort Collins joked. “You’ve got to start somewhere.”
This is my one shot for the Olympics. You’ve got to start somewhere.
Jon Miles, Fort Collins resident, said about curling