16 February 2011

That Looks More Like A Swiffer than a Broom!

In the beginning, corn brooms were the standard for the curling ice.  That's right - the same broom Grandma used to use was used to sweep in front of the stones!  That made for a noisy game - not only did the stones rumble, but the sweeping made a fun "BAP BAP BAP" sound.

There were two problems with this.  First of all, brooms like that tore the ice to shreds.  This made ice makers quite angry - and no one wants to irritate the iceman! By tearing up the ice, this also made stones behave unpredictably.  Second, it was a very inefficient method of sweeping, as the brooms came way off the ice to make the sweep actually happen.  By being so inefficient, it also made it hard to play the sport forever - anyone with any sort of frailty really can't sweep with so much vigor.

Enter the brush.  Early brushes used hog's hair or horsehair; in fact, my club still uses hair brushes today.  Some people prefer them to what I will discuss in a moment - the fabric head - but I don't.  First of all, I don't think they're all that effective in sweeping - they don't have enough stiffness like corn did.  Second, and more important, is that they are difficult to maintain.  I have seen several people who use this type of broom drop hair on the ice.  When a stone hits a stray hair, that is enough to send it off in an unpredictable direction.

Version 2.0 of the brush introduced a fabric head.  No more bristles to drop on the ice, it makes for a smoother, easier sweep.  There are some that say these synthetic heads are more abrasive than natural hair, a good thing when it comes to curling.  I can't speak to that, but they are certainly more efficient in their pebble abrasion.  Many of these brooms now come with other technological advances, such as multidirectional articulating heads and carbon fibre handles.

My personal broom is a model known as the Hammer XL. The handle is fibreglass, and not carbon, so it's a little heavier.  The Hammer XL does have a synthetic fibre head and is multidimentional articulating - in other words, it swivels.  It replaced a broom called The Hammer, which was essentially the same broom, but it only pivoted up and down - there was no swivel.  Still, I was able to sell that broom to a fellow curler, who really liked it because it did NOT swivel.  Of course, he doesn't curl anymore, but that's another story.

Loudmouth Golf Cotton Candy-A
I am looking to upgrade my broom.  Actually, I am told that Arnold Asham has one just for me, with the Dixie-A design right on it.  So I'm told by Bompi!  All kidding aside, I am fielding suggestions for my new broom.  Frankly, if My Custom Brooms would do a Loudmouth Golf Cotton Candy-A broom for me, I'd use it proudly and tell everyone where I got it! (hint, hint!)

I have seen two effective technique for brushing, and in fact have employed both.  The first, and more common, is to get a really wide grip on the broom, with one hand near the head, and push down.  It's a bit off-balancing when you first try it, but it is an excellent and effective method.  The second was what I was first taught by a curler who has been to US Nationals, and is a modification of the first. The top hand goes all the way to the top of the broom, with the bottom hand in the middle.  In this case, rather than putting the pressure on the head, the sweeper puts pressure on the butt end of the shaft, thus driving down with the entire weight of the broom.

I don't care what brushing method my sweepers employ.  I do care that they don't burn the stone.  For those who are not aware, burning a stone, or hitting it with the broom while brushing, voids the stone and takes it out of play.  This always occurs on perfectly thrown shots.

Another pet peeve of mine - sweepers who brush before I've released my stone.  Please.  Wait and see how fast it's coming out of my hand.  My stone might need brushing, but I don't.   

In Canada, Swiffer - you know, the disposable dust-collecting cloths on a pole - sponsors Team (Glenn) Howard (who as of this writing is Ontario Provincial Champion and my pick to win the Brier).  I've made several comments that I really like that sponsorship, and I stand by that.  Essentially, the modern curling broom - mine is a bit cruder version of them, but it still qualifies - looks a lot like a beefed-up Swiffer.  In fact, I'd like to propose today that Swiffer create a line of curling brooms.  They would need to beef up the head and the handle, so they wouldn't snap in two from all the sweeping pressure. However, the articulation on a Swiffer is far greater than that of a standard curling broom!  Think of the precision and the control!

I would take it one step further.  The brushing is meant to carry the rock farther and alter its path, specifically by melting the pebble.  Especially in club play, there are many cases where I'd like to add pebble and slow a rock down.  For this purpose, I'd love to see the Swiffer WetJet Curling Broom! Ah, if only that were legal...

1 comment:

  1. lol. swiffer wet-jet pebbler. re-pebble the ice as you go! no more angry fans and ice technicians.