Curling: Canadians on Ice Without Skates, Sticks or Concussions

Pamela DawesContributor IMarch 12, 2011

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 27:  (L-R) Adam Enright, Ben Hebert, Marc Kennedy, John Morris and Kevin Martin of Canada walk on the ice with the Canadian flag and their gold medals after the Curling Men's Gold medal game on day 16 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at the Vancouver Olympic Centre on February 27, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Although many sports fans are unlikely to include curling on their list of most-watched events, this past week has illustrated to those north of the 49th parallel that hockey need not be the only competitive game on ice worthy of their support.

The recent spate of concussions and injuries around the NHL include a vicious hit on Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens and the possible season-ending concussions suffered by Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby.

The apparent apathetic response of Commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL Head Office has hockey fans, sponsors and players reacting loudly and vociferously.

What is any self-respecting hockey lover supposed to do?

The answer may be found at the Brier Patch.

Annually, the best 12 teams vie for the Canadian Championship (the Brier) with the victor moving on to the Worlds.

Granted, hockey is often associated with beer north of the border and curling is sponsored by a major coffee and donut company but that does not mean that the competition is any less fierce. 

Brooms, albeit synthetic ones, are used to facilitate rapid and precise placing of the "rocks" that each player delivers.

Some call it shuffleboard on ice, but the tactics and the athleticism of the players belies that comparison.

Gone are the days of pot-bellied players standing at one end of the ice whilst chugging their rum and cokes, cigarettes dangling from their lips. This is not your grandfather's curling match.

Players have athletic physiques and a year round dedication to the game.

At the Olympics in Vancouver, the curling venue was sold out for almost every match, and the Canadian Champions (and Gold medallists) played a spirited game against the Norwegians who sported John Dalyesque pants as part of their uniform.

Hockey is becoming more violent and for many fans curling has become the icy alternative. 

No one is swinging a curling broom at his opponents' head and curlers do not charge at each other at full throttle in order to ensure bodily harm.

Every match includes friendly and polite banter between the teams.

"Nice shot, John. Beauty, Kevin!"

And, at the conclusion, there are handshakes all around.

What could be more Canadian than that?