The 2016 USA Curling National Championships come to Veterans Memorial Arena February 6-13, the first time a curling championship has taken place in Florida. Ten teams face off to earn the national title with a berth in the World Curling Championships on the line. We asked Chris Plys, Olympian and vice skip for Championship competitors Team Fenson, to educate Sunshine Staters on the finer points of this cool game.
Why is it called “curling”?
The ice is different from hockey ice. It has little bumps made of water that allow the rock to slide on top of the actual base layer of ice. When you put a rotation on the stone, it grabs those bumps, causing it to “curl” one way or the other.
What makes a good stone?
All the rocks in the world come from a little island off the coast of Scotland. It’s always good when they have a little bit of a rough surface on the bottom, so the rocks can grab that pebble easier. This makes the rocks curl more—which is always more fun for us.
Is it a good drinking game?
It sure as heck is. We don't do any drinking in competitions now, because there is just too much on the line all the time. But the "fun spiels" and league at the club is a perfect way to put a couple cold ones back and have some fun with your buddies. Curlers definitely know how to party.
Is there any trash talking?
I like to chirp a little here and there. But, for the most part, it’s pretty much a gentlemanly game. With all the tradition, a lot of people don't take kindly to being messed with on the ice. I’d like to see more trash talking—it’d make us curlers look a little less soft.
Do you get stuck with all the sweeping at your house?
Nope. Thankfully. I do hate sweeping houses. Back in high school, my buddies used to say I was going to be the janitor someday because I just loved sweeping so much.
What do you wish more people knew about curling?
Curling is a lot more athletic than people give it credit for. We're all so used to hearing about how easy it looks, but in all actuality there is a ton of fitness that goes into playing the game at the top level. I think people will start seeing that as the game grows more and more. To your readers that still think it is real easy and that they could make the Olympic team in 2018: Come on down to the Arena when it’s over and play a quick game against us. And bring your wallet.
What’s your favorite part of the game?
Thats a tough one... I love the traveling I have been able to do with the sport. Been able to see most of North America, lots of Europe and Asia a few times. Now we need some dedicated ice in Africa. That would be sweet.
Are you looking forward to coming to Jacksonville?
I am very much looking forward to coming to Jacksonville. It'll be nice to not have look like Ralphie’s little brother in A Christmas Story on the way to every game. All of us are very excited to spend 10 days in your city and hope we get to see a ton of the local faces in the stands. I know the organizing committee down there has put a lot of work into putting these games on and as players, we appreciate all the hard work that goes into making these Championships a success.