The Albany Curling Club opens its doors to introduce kids as young as 6 to 80 to the ancient sport of curling. In Albany, curling dates back to the year 1866 when, according to records and historical pictures, a curling club played on the frozen lake at Albany’s Washington Park until it disbanded in 1902.
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What Is The Sport Of Curling?
Curling is a unique winter sport often described as “chess on ice.” Originating in Scotland, this team sport is played on a rectangular sheet of ice, with two teams of four players each. The objective is to slide hefty, polished granite stones (referred to as “rocks”) down the ice sheet towards a circular target area called the “house.”
The teams take turns sliding the rocks, and for each turn, team members can sweep the ice in the path of the rock to influence its speed and direction. The team with the most stones closer to the center of the house than the closest of their opponent’s stones at the end of each round, or ‘end’, scores points. The strategy, precision, and teamwork involved make curling an intricate and fascinating sport to both play and watch.
The Birth of Curling and the Royal Caledonian Curling Club
The sport traces its origins back to 16th century Scotland, where games were played on frozen ponds and lochs using flat-bottomed river stones. The term ‘curling’ is believed to derive from the old Scottish verb ‘curr,’ or ‘to coo,’ which describes the rumbling sound a stone makes as it travels across ice. The sport’s institutionalization began with the establishment of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club in 1838, which formalized rules that are still largely followed today.
The Basics of a Curling Game
At its core, curling involves two teams of four players each – a lead, second, vice skip, and skip – who take turns to deliver stones across a sheet of pebbled ice towards a house marked by concentric circles. The goal? To slide stones closest to the ‘button,’ the center of the house.
Players launch the curling stone from behind the hog line, another critical mark on the ice sheet. As they release the stone, they impart a slight turn, causing the stone to travel in a curved path, or ‘curl.’ Teammates then sweep the ice in front of the stone to alter its speed and trajectory, aiming to outmaneuver the opposition and land the stone closest to the button.
The Strategy and Teamwork
The beauty of a curling game lies in its tactical depth. Each team strategically delivers their stones to either land within the house, block opponents, or knock out the opponents’ stones. The skip, acting as the team’s captain, plays a vital role, orchestrating the team’s strategy and delivering the last, often critical, stones of the end (a round in curling).
What makes the game more exciting is that only one team can score in an end – specifically, the team with the stone closest to the button once all stones have been thrown. This rule sparks intense competition as teams vie to get their stones strategically positioned in each end.
The Role of Pebbled Ice
Unique to curling is the use of pebbled ice. Just before a game, the ice is sprinkled with water droplets that freeze into tiny bumps, or ‘pebbles.’ These pebbles reduce friction and allow the 44-pound curling stone to glide smoothly. Plus, they enable the sweeping motion to momentarily melt the ice, allowing the stone to travel further and curl less.
The Joy of Playing Curling
Playing curling isn’t just about the thrill of competition; it’s also about camaraderie and sportsmanship. The curling teams, from the lead to the vice-skip, work in unison, fostering a sense of community. Notably, it’s customary for the winning team to join the losing team for a friendly chat post-match, encapsulating the essence of this engaging sport.
Curling is an intriguing blend of precision, tactics, teamwork, and – quite literally – cool competition. Whether you’re aiming to grip the ice for the first time or an avid fan of the sport, every curling game promises an exhilarating experience that keeps you on your toes. So, why not give this Winter Olympic marvel a try?
The Albany Curling Club
The Albany Curling Club holds an open house every year, usually in January.
No special equipment is needed to show up, although brooms and sliding attachments for one of your shoes are provided there. (One foot sometimes gets to be slippery and one stays non-slippery. It’s not exactly part of the game, but kids and adults enjoy “scooting” across the ice by pushing with the non-slippery foot and sliding on the slippery foot!)
The sport is done indoors on ice, and the room needs to be cool enough so the ice doesn’t melt, so you should dress as you would for a cool autumn day. (e.g. long sleeves plus sweatshirt, gloves, warm socks, fairly clean sneakers or shoes)
For those who end up being interested, there are leagues for children, teens, and adults.
Go See It!
Albany Curling Club
117 W McKown Road
Albany NY 12203
Interested? For more information, you can phone visit the Albany Curling Club website at www.albanycurlingclub.net.