Pampered Ice

No you would not! You might “think” you’d like to play on “championship ice” but as a recreational curler, even though you could strike it from your “bucket list”, I can just about guarantee that your performance will be less than satisfying. Championship ice (aka “pampered ice”) may be cold & damp just like the ice in your curling facility but that’s where the two surfaces part company.

The two buildings are vastly different (does your curling facility seat 15000 spectators?), therefore the air flow is different to say nothing about the sheer volume of air. Championship ice is in the hands of a “world class” ice technician with a crew of 12-15 certified assistants using the very latest ice maintenance equipment. The data gathering electronics is state of the art. Time is available between draws to completely resurface each sheet. That world class ice technician has a budget for the duration of the event that’s quite likely more than your ice technician has at his/her disposal for the entire season.

The result is ice that allows the highly skilled athletes to display all the shots they have developed over many seasons of training and playing in elite events. Weight control means everything on “pampered ice”! Stones on pampered ice don’t so much “curl” as they “break”! Not knowing exactly where that “break point” is located will cause no end of problems. You might brush right through the “break point” and wonder why the stone didn’t curl as expected.

And let’s talk about curl. On some curling facility ice, you’re hard pressed to draw around a CL guard that’s midway between the top of the house and the hog line. On pampered ice they can draw to the button around stones at the top of the 4′! But, and here’s the most striking difference between pampered and curling facility ice, deliver full hit weight on pampered ice and the stone will very likely run very straight which is why you see run back after run back after run back on TV. On your curling facility ice, assuming you could achieve four feet of curl, a full it weight takeout would require at least 1′ of ice.

Thus far in this post, it appears that pampered ice might not be such a difficult surface upon which to play. Wrong! Pampered ice is not very forgiving, whereas curling facility ice is just the opposite, it’s very forgiving. Deliver an ounce too much or too little weight on pampered ice and it can make you look very foolish. On your curling facility ice, and ounce or two or more one way or the other is not the end of the world in terms of making the shot.

In other words, a perfectly delivered stone (clean release, exact line of delivery [no drift], precise weight control and positive rotation) is rewarded on pampered ice. Mess up on any one of the above mentioned parameters and, well, look for a place to hide!

In the list of prerequisite parameters for the completion of a successful curling shot on pampered ice is “positive rotation”. Pampered ice is also usually “arena ice”, not “curling facility” ice. Rotation in my mind is the almost forgotten aspect in the delivery of a curling stone. In my coaching manual (“A Pane in the Glass: A Coach’s Companion“) there’s an article about rotation entitled “The Technical Double Cross” (p. 62) which describes the importance of “positive rotation”!

On its web site, the CCA has an excellent video entitled “Making Championship Ice”. It’s under the “Go Curling” section (in that banner at the top of your computer careen). Click on ” Go Curling” then on “What Equipment Do I Need”. On the right of your screen you’ll see a number of topics. “Making Championship Curling Ice” is at the bottom of that list. Click on it. The process involved in taking an ice hockey surface and turning it into a world class curling surface is amazing!

Before I close today I want to welcome another outlet for the purchase of “A Pane in the Glass: A Coach’s Companion” in Alberta. If you live in the Edmonton area of that province you can now contact Mark Johnson at the Avonair Curling Club on Princess Elizabeth Avenue to make a purchase. And for Calgary area curlers, coaches and instructors, go to the Calgary CC (“Curlers’ Corner”) and speak to my friend Bernice Merrick. On behalf of “The Sandera Schmirler Foundataion”, thank you Mark and Bernice!