JUST MY OPINION: 2-PERSON STICK OFFERS UNIQUE CHALLENGES

People scoffed initially at the idea of Mixed Doubles curling. It’ll never catch on Canadians said with a fair bit of arrogance – but it has. Around the world people love the pace and the shorter game, among other what they consider advantages.

If I’d said to you 4 years ago, that Italy would win more gold curling medals at the 2022 Olympics than Canada – you’d have laughed out loud

Curling is ripe for new versions of the sport – Mixed Doubles is, I suggest just the first!

Which does not in any way suggest that 2-person stick is the next phenomenon. Maybe it will always be a niche game played by an older demographic.

But if you’re a ‘regular’ curler who has read this far, think about the unique rules of 2-person Stick play and tell me you can beat the best of these guys, even if they are older than you.

** NO SWEEPING – until the delivered rock gets to the second hogline. Elite curler ability to carry the rock further and ‘carve’ it more than ever before are remarkable to behold. A draw to the button behind cover without sweeping maybe even more remarkable to behold.

** NO HITTING until rock #4. This is the 2-person stick version of the placed rocks in Mixed Doubles – immediate creation of rocks in play. The ‘no-hit’ rule applies to all rocks: rocks in the rings OR rocks in the traditional free guard zone. I wonder if a version of this should actually be tried in 4’s curling. The experiment with the no-tick-if-touching-centre has been interesting. What if 4’s adopted a version of the 2-person stick rule (can’t hit any rock) until perhaps the 6th rock of the end.

** EVERY SHOT EVERY OTHER END – each player plays all six rocks every end. I throw six down – you call the shots. You throw six back – I call the shots. You can’t be a draw specialist, a hit specialist, a tick specialist in our game – you have to be able to draw, hit and roll, tick (although it is not played all that often) – you may have to play any shot, and every possible shot, in a single end.

** 6 Rocks – 6 Ends: It is fast game, completed in an hour at the recreation or competitive level. You don’t have those 7th-8th-9th-10th ends to recover from early mistakes. It is attack from the first end in our version of the game with a lot of rocks in play most of the time. Occasionally a ‘blanking’ game will occur between two high skill hitting teams. Six ends is not long enough to be boring and it is too short to recover when you accidentally stick on that late ends blank attempt.

The key to our game is that the 2-person stick competitors still have to be able to read ice. When you don’t have sweepers to help put the rock where you want it, you better be real close on the ice call (and of course your partner has to hit the broom and give you the right number of rotations) as there is no salvation once the rock is released.

If you’ve read this far, my point is this. Don’t scoff when you hear I and many others have become excited by the challenge and the competition of 2-person stick curling. As I discovered in our third game of the recent Manitoba provincial event at Assiniboine Memorial (against Pembina’s Peter Rey) – I once again have an outlet for my competitive spirit that has been missing on the curling ice. Turns out you’re always a competitor. Maybe with the years of experience we have behind us and with (at least some of us) carrying a few too many pounds – we may not look like the athletes we once thought we were but we are still competitors.

The challenge is – how much practice time would you like to learn how to use a stick, before you’re willing to play us – using our rules.

No, I don’t suggest that 2-person stick curling is going to be the awarded the next Olympic medals. I do suggest it is just another version of our game which is going to expand the sport of curling and the population of curlers in our clubs – and that’s a good thing.

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