FUN ON ICE
Players in new curling club get swept up in learning the sport
The excitement is high on a recent Saturday morning as a group of mostly novice players compete for the championship title in one of Albuquerque’s newest sports leagues — the Road Runner Curling Club.
Players meet most weekends at the Outpost Ice Arena to slide 42-pound orbs of granite across the ice and then furiously sweep a path in hopes of guiding the rock to the button, the target in the middle of four concentric circles on the opposite side of the playing field.
James Brickey and Stephen Stone watch as one of the teams of the players they have brought together gets two of its rocks in the house — the target area — and the other team tries to knock one of them out.
“It’s a really fun strategy game,” said Brickey, an Army nuclear engineer who founded the club with Stone. “It’s an ultimate team game.”
“It’s like playing shuffleboard or chess,” said Stone, a University of New Mexico biochemistry student who met Brickey while playing trivia at a local bar.
Curling has been around in Scotland since the 16th century and has been an official Olympic sport for decades but has not been widely played in recreational leagues. When the U.S. men won curling gold in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February, however, the sport got a big boost.
A group that Brickey and Stone had created to watch curling at local bars and the club’s open curl sessions at Outpost exploded in popularity.
“We started getting 30 people showing up,” Brickey said.
Anyone can curl, and most of the people joining the club and its leagues are first-timers. Just show
up with old sneakers and pants you can do a lunge in, Brickey says.
“That’s one of the good things about curling — it’s very accessible,” he said.
The players have ranged in age from 10 to 84. Those who aren’t able to lunge to slide the stone across the ice can use a stick. Sliding out, as it’s called, is something most people can learn in 20 or 30 minutes, Brickey said.
Sweeping actually is the more physically demanding part of the game. The sweepers can keep the rock on a straighter course and help it to go 5 to 10 feet farther than it would otherwise.
“If you’re really seriously sweeping to break the friction on the ice, you’ll get a real workout,” Stone said.
A game consists of eight or 10 ends — think baseball innings. Each fourplayer team has eight stones, and they alternate turns sliding them toward the target. Scoring is a little quirky. Once all 16 stones are played, only the team with its rock closest to the button can score. That team gets a point for each of its stones closest to the button.
The Road Runner Curling Club charges $10 an hour for open sessions and $100 to join a league team that will play four games and a possible championship game. Last November, the club invested in a used set of 16 stones and other equipment — paying $4,000 over four years — so players don’t need any equipment of their own. The club even rents its equipment for parties.