Broom issues in the curling world finally came to a head this month.
On Nov. 6, the World Curling Federation announced a moratorium on specialized broom heads for the Pacific-Asia Curling Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan, that was held Nov. 8-14. (By the by, Japan and Korea were in the finals for both genders with Japan winning in women’s, Korea winning in men’s. So China is no longer the curling power there.)
The statement: A moratorium on the use of brush heads constructed from fabric which has been textured, sealed or modified from its original woven form.
Curling Canada informed the players competing in the Canadian mixed champs last week of the same rule.
The moratoriums were declared for those specific events. On Nov. 10, the Ontario Curling Association issued its own statement covering the season unless a change is made at a higher level.
For those unaware, the arrival of “directional fabric” being used on the broom heads appear to make it possible to “steer” the rock as it travels down the ice. Make it curl more, make it fall back, even slow it down.
There is a gentleman’s agreement on the World Curling Tour to not use the brooms in a competition. But there’s currently nothing stopping use in cashspiels across the country resulting in some annoyed competitors, to put it mildly. The Ontario Curling Tour also asked teams to abide by the World Curling Tours gentlemen's agreement.
Nova Scotia’s Mary Ann Arsenault let her thoughts on the matter be known after seeing the brooms used against her in a cashspiel qualifier.
“When you’re first seeing it, you’re like, ‘Gee, that’s weird,’ ” she said to CBC. “But when it happens over and over again, you go, ‘Wait a minute, these guys are cheating.’ ”
Scott Howard, lead on Team Glenn Howard, advises there may be more to it than the cloth.
“Don’t be misled by “directional fabric,” Howard said. “There’s a thin piece of plastic underneath (the cloth). We think it is the main issue.”
The plastic insert could make any fabric effective enough to have the same results, Howard says. The controversial brooms cause “microfractures” in the ice and the rock follows the microfractures.
(Editor's note: Since writing this Nov. 17, World Curling Federation announced Nov. 18 a moratorium on the fabrics AND plastic inserts for the 2015-2016 season.)
Videos of what the brooms can do can be seen online. With a machine delivering the rock, Howard is shown sweeping a stone to negative curl and taking no ice to make a perfect freeze. Search YouTube for Video 1- negative curl” or "Video 2 — Zero ice for freeze."
It makes “Wayne Middaugh as good (a sweeper) as Ben Hebert, and we don’t think that’s right,” Howard said, taking a dig at his teammate.
Technology has been in the forefront of making athletes better before. Advances made in driver heads for golf or super slick suits in swimming come to mind. It took a few years but eventually bans were put in place. These brooms fall into the same category. Testing is being done at the international level.
“The World Curling Federation will be doing its due diligence,” said Al Cameron, Curling Canada’s director of communication and media relations. “It’s not going to be an overnight process.”
The governing bodies are moving in the right direction. Curling’s come a long way in showing it takes athleticism and fitness to play the sport. Let’s not let technology take the sport’s gains away from us.
To abide by the moratoriums, teams can to turn the textured fabric weave inside out, so the smooth side is on the ice. They also have the option of using alternate brush materials or using a hair brush.
Arthur is hosting Zone 12 junior playdowns this weekend. Molly Greenwood (K-W), Taija McGovern (Fergus) Emma Clendanan (Galt Country) and Quinn Walsh (Galt Country) compete in junior women. Oliver Campbell (K-W), Jed Currie (Westmount), Sam Mooibroek (Galt Country), Kieran Scott (Guelph) and Andrew Paulley (Elmira) compete in junior men. Winners advance to regionals are in Gravenhurst Nov. 28.