Moncton couple aims for top spot at Maritime Stick Curling Championships

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Teams from across the Maritimes will meet in Moncton this week to compete for the regional championship title in a lesser-known style of curling.

In stick curling, players can participate in the game either standing or sitting, and even wheelchairs are allowed.

Instead of launching the rock from their hand, they use a stick to push it. 

This extension can sometimes cause curlers to aim off target, said Mike Minns, who sits on the event's organizing committee.

"Compared to traditional curling, I find it to be a very difficult sport to play because you don't really have the feel for the rock when you're delivering out of a hack," said Minns.

For non-curlers, the "hack" is a rubber depression on the ice from which players push off using one foot.

Maritime championships

At this year's Maritime Stick Curling Championships, Minns will compete with his wife, Sherril, as one of six New Brunswick teams.

There will be equally as many teams representing Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island at the tournament, which will be held from March 14 to March 16 at Curl Moncton.

Among them are four "open" teams — either two men, two women, or one man and one woman —and two women's teams from each province.

The event is open to the public and free of charge.

Smaller teams

Stick curling has several rules that differ from traditional curling.

The teams are smaller, for example, with only two instead of four players.

And each member must stay at one end of the rink without ever crossing the center ice. They alternately deliver six stones, while their teammate calls the shots.

Mike and Sherril Minns said the game requires a lot of trust because the person delivering the stones relies on guidance from their teammate.

"When they're down there, they're in control of the house, and I think that's really interesting, especially when you're married to each other," Sherril Minns said.

While the players cannot move between the two ends of the ice, they may call two time-outs per game to meet at centre ice.

Also unique to stick curling is that there's no sweeping or brushing between the hog lines.

That keeps the game fairly quiet, said Mike Minns.

"If you're watching the Brier right now, there's a lot of noise being made by the teams," he said.

"There's lots of, 'Hurry hard!' There's a lot of screaming that's going on.

"In this particular case … we'll have four games going on at once out on the ice and very little noise."

Appeals to young and old

Stick curling often appeals to older people because it allows them to continue curling even after developing hip or knee issues, which can make it difficult to move on the ice.

"Most of us who curl absolutely love the sport and do not want to be forced into an early retirement," said Sherril Minns, adding that the no-sweep rule makes it easier for people who are less stable on their feet.

But the game also draws younger people because a game usually lasts only an hour.

Many parents can play the game while the kids either entertain themselves or stay with a babysitter for a shorter time and smaller cost, she said.