February 14, 2013
Last Saturday the Hamilton College Curling Team braved the snow to compete in the third annual Utica Curling Club College Bonspiel. Three teams of Hamilton students competed against curlers from Binghamton, RIT, Syracuse, University of Pennsylvania, Colgate and Bowling Green State.
A team composed of Tara Huggins ’14, Emma Taylor ’13 and Maggie Doolin ’14 had an impressive fourth place finish, and the other two Hamilton teams came in eighth and ninth place out of 10 teams. Earlier this season, Hamilton also competed at a bonspiel at RPI.
According to President Kevin Welsh ’15, all 30 of the students on Hamilton’s roster had no prior curling experience before joining the team. The group practices Sundays at the Utica Curling Club where the local owners provide guidance, though they are not the team’s formal coaches.
“The number one rule of curling is: don’t take curling too seriously,” says Welsh with a laugh. “You don’t do curling for the street cred.” Nevertheless, he notes that it’s such a ridiculous sport that people are usually “weirdly fascinated” when he mentions that he competes on Hamilton’s team, which was founded in 2005.
And it’d be hard not to smile when someone explains the odd yet somewhat endearing rules of this gentlemanly sport. Two teams of four players take turns sliding 24-pound stones across one sheet of ice, with the goal being to get the stones as close to a circular target on the opposite side of the sheet. Similar to the lawn game bocce, points are given to the team whose stones are closest to the target, known as the “house.” Eight stones are curled by each team during an “end”, which is analogous to an inning in baseball. During each match up, six ends are played.
Welsh serves as “skip” for his team of four. The skip stands at the end of the ice sheet and gives strategic commands to the other three players, one of which curls, or throws, the stone, and two of which use brooms to sweep in front of the stone as it slides down the sheet. The other positions are called “vice skip,” “second” and “lead.”
“Even a little speck of dirt can ruin [a curl],” says Kayla Winters ’13, the team captain, noting that carefully maintained curling ice is very different from the ice found in hockey rinks. Water droplets are sprayed onto a curling ice sheet order to “pebble” it, and the sheet somewhat resembles an orange peel.
While other collegiate curling teams obsess over the physics of the sport, the Hamilton Curling Team prioritizes fun and camaraderie while playing. “We stand out from other teams in that way,” says Winters, who says that the one of her favorite parts of curling is getting to know students she never would have met otherwise. Since Winters’ first year, the team has grown from under 10 members to over 30.
With all the weird curling rules and traditions, Winters says she sometimes feels like she’s part of a cult. She explains that before a final event at a bonspiel, bagpipe music is played and everyone stomps the sweeping brooms to the beat of the music. Players are then supposed to take a shot of alcohol or ginger ale. Additionally, the expression “Good Curling!” is used frequently; it can express good luck, congratulations on a good shot, or gratitude for a well-played game.