Curling comes to Marshall

Why wait for the Olympics? A big crowd came to the Red Baron Arena to try curling out for themselves.

Photo by Deb Gau Rob Miller gave area residents pointers on technique for curling, covering a little of everything from launching the curling stone, to sweeping the ice to help the stone travel farther or straighter.

MARSHALL

The first group of people had taken their positions, crouching down on the ice. One by one, they each got ready to slide the 44-pound stones in front of them down the length of the rink.

Or not. At least at first, many of the would-be curlers gathered at the Red Baron Arena and Expo had trouble getting their stones to move very far. They found it could also be tricky to stay balanced – there were plenty of slips and even some belly-flops on the ice.

But the learning curve didn’t stop the fun during an “Introduction to Curling” event held Jan. 28 at the Lockwood Motors Rink. More than 90 people attended to learn the basics of the wintry sport.

It was exciting to see the level of interest people showed in the introductory curling session, said Cam Bailey, recreation coordinator at Marshall Community Services.

“It’s been a long time since curling’s been in Marshall,” Bailey said. MCS hoped to get an adult curling league going, and after the introduction session, they had eight teams sign up, he said.

A local curling league would offer a chance for people to socialize, Bailey said, and it might help fill the winter recreation void left when Marshall’s bowling alley closed down. And with the 2018 Winter Olympics coming soon, there’s likely to be increased interest in curling, he said.

“The timing itself is great,” Bailey said.

The curling session was exciting for the instructors, too.

“Curling fans are really rabid. We love to share it with as many people as we can,” said Rob Miller, a member of the Glacial Ridge Curling Club in Willmar. Miller led the session, together with ice expert Kevin Madsen of USA Curling.

Miller walked the crowd through the basics of curling, including the rules and some of the terminology of the sport. In curling, teams of four people take turns “throwing,” or launching, granite stones across the ice toward a bullseye-shaped target called the house.

“Each house is made up of four circles,” Miller explained. “The center is called the button.” The goal in curling is to get your team’s stones closer to the button than the opposing team’s stones.

It sounded simple, but there was a lot to learn. Throwing a stone involves pushing one foot off of a specialized foothold called a hack, and sliding forward.

“I like to start out in a crouching position, like a catcher in baseball,” Miller said, demonstrating to the crowd.

Miller said it’s also possible for a player to get a stone to curve, or “curl,” as it moves down the ice. Under the right conditions, a stone can curl as much as three or four feet, he said. By sweeping the ice in front of a moving stone with special brooms, team members can get it to go farther or straighter.

Although it took some practice, getting the hang of curling was fun, participants said.

“I love it. I’ve never done curling in my life, but it’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Justin Romero. After some practice with the curling stone, Romero said it seemed like the harder he pushed off, the easier it was to throw the stone.

“It’s all balance,” said Whitney Long, after she tried throwing a curling stone. Whitney and her husband Josh had come to the curling session from Canby. “I think my husband and his friends are thinking of starting a team.”

By the end of the night, some participants had graduated from throwing the curling stones to practicing sweeping. Brian Janssen and Robert Boedigheimer both tried sweeping.

“We’re not quite sure which way to sweep to get (the stone) to curve,” Boedigheimer said, but it was fun.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Janssen said.

Not everyone at the session was a newcomer to curling. Lucas Tietz said he had been part of a curling league in Redwood Falls in the past. One of the things he liked about curling, he said, was that the sport didn’t require a lot of athletic ability.

“If you can figure out the mechanics,” he said, you can compete. “The really big part of it is probably flexibility.”

Tietz said he was happy to see the turnout at the introductory session.

“It’s cool, all those people wanting to get involved in curling,” he said.

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