Curling, an international ice sport, played in Norfolk
NORFOLK — Most people who have lived in the Northwest Corner for long enough know that curling is one of the highlights of the local winter sports season.But most people don’t have a very solid idea of how to curl, or of what curling is.According to the United States Curling Association, this Olympic ice sport began in 16th-century Scotland. It was originally played outdoors on frozen lochs and marshes and, in essentials at least, it hasn’t changed all that much through the years. Curling competitions are now held all over the world, all across North America — and just off Route 44, at the Norfolk Curling Club (NCC).Scottish immigrants brought curling to Canada around 1759 and to the United States around 1832. Today, there are more than 135 curling clubs in about 25 states. It is most popular in Canada, where it is one of the top-rated sports on television.The word curling comes from the movement of the rock (or stone), which has a handle on its top, which is slid down a sheet of ice toward a target (called a house) at the other end of the sheet. The handle allows the player to grip the rock and rotate it upon release. On properly prepared ice, the stone’s path will bend (curl) in the direction that the front edge of the stone is turning, especially as the stone slows.Once the rock is delivered (pushed down the ice sheet), team members use brooms to warm the ice in front of the rock to help keep it moving straight and get to the house (the target). Points are awarded for the stones that get closest to the target.In the 20th century, the game made advances with the availability of refrigerated indoor ice, which helps ensure a fast, consistent and predictable playing surface.In a curling match there are two teams with four members each. All four players on each team shoot, or deliver, two rocks during a game. Rocks were standardized to 42 pounds in modern times. They are made from two types of granite, both of which are mainly found in Scotland. The typical curling game consists of eight “ends” (or innings) and lasts about two hours.Curling may look like an easy game, but it actually requires a great deal of physical dexterity and stamina as well as the ability to strategize. In a typical game, each player walks about two miles on the ice.Mary Fanette is president of the Norfolk Curling Club. She said the club was established in 1956 and currently has about 80 members. “We’re not at full roster and would love to have closer to 100 members,” she said. Membership dues pay the operating expenses of the club — including the cost of refrigerating the ice sheet during the season (which usually runs from November through April). The club does not have a junior curling program, Fanette said, but only because not enough young people are interested in the sport. A minimum of eight players would be needed for a junior league, to make two teams of four players.The United States Curling Association (USCA), founded in 1958, is a member of the World Curling Federation, which governs international competition. In addition to the USCA, the NCC is also a member of the Grand National Curling Association. The Norfolk club hosts several bonspiels (or tournaments) with other clubs throughout the season.The NCC boasts an ice shed recently updated with new heating and energy efficient lighting. There are currently leagues for women and men. There are curling clinics for members and newcomers. The club has a licensed bar and a warming room overlooking the ice, and hosts several noncurling social events throughout the year.The NCC is located at 70 Golf Drive, Norfolk. For more information call 860-542-1100 or go online to www.norfolkcurlingclub.org.