OAKVILLE, Ont. — Glenn Howard and Niklas Edin used the same word to describe how they felt when the World Curling Federation announced Saturday they had approved the proposed rules for brushes and sweeping at the elite level.
The nearly year-long controversy surrounding brushing material and directional sweeping has seemingly reached its conclusion. Central to the changes are brushes will be made from the same fabric regardless of manufacturer, players cannot change brush heads during a game (unless approved by an official), and severe penalties will be issued to offenders.
New brush heads were already in play this weekend at the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard, but now that the rules are officially in place, Howard said it’s a fair fight for everybody moving forward and the way curling should be played.
“The skill’s gone back to the thrower, which is the way I was brought up,” said Howard, a four-time world champion. “That’s the way curling should be played as opposed to the sweeping, which was last year.
“I hated the whole thing about last year and I think we’ve solved the problem with what I’ve seen so far.”
Edin was in the Ottawa area during the sweeping summit in the spring — where brushes and sweeping techniques were under scientific examination from governing bodies, manufacturers, players and the National Research Council of Canada — and he walked away from there feeling pleased with the results.
“It seemed to come to a really great solution for everyone, to be honest, and especially for the players,” said Edin, a two-time world champion and Olympic bronze medallist. “Now it’s a fair game. I don’t think we’ll see too many teams complaining now. You’re not doing the same for line, maybe. For the sport it’s exactly what we needed, I think.”
Sweeping will still be an integral part of curling — players are allowed to sweep in any direction so long as they do not leave debris in front of a moving stone, and they can finish on either side of the stone — however, good shot-making will ultimately be in the hands of the thrower.
“Sweeping is still marginally effective, which is what we’re kind of hoping for in our game,” Howard said. “It’s one of those things now if you work out and do a good job, you’re bigger, stronger, faster and you’re going to be more effective. That’s what we want to see for our sport.”
Players caught using illegal material can expect to face stiff punishment. On the first team offence, the player committing the infraction will be disqualified from the competition and the team forfeits the game. For the second team offence all players from the team are banned from WCF competitions for a year.
If those penalties sound similar to what you’d expect for someone caught doping, that’s pretty much the point and Edin is in favour of bringing the hammer down hard on cheaters.
“I think that’s a good rule,” Edin said. “It’s kind of like doping actually. If you can steer a rock like all the teams did last year, us included, but if anyone can use that weapon again it’s kind of like doping. It’s the same thing. Within our sport it should be a hard penalty, so that’s correct.”