Doubles curling league sweeps into town

If you’ve ever wanted to curl in a league but don’t know three other curlers, you’re in luck. Now you only need to know one.

If you’ve ever wanted to curl in a league but don’t know three other curlers, you’re in luck. Now you only need to know one.

The Whitehorse Curling Club has added a new doubles league to its schedule for this season.

The relatively new version of curling will be included in the next Winter Olympics Games.

“I think the big driving force is over the last few years there has been a national championship that Yukon sends a mixed doubles team to each year,” said league organizer Tyler Williams. “There hasn’t been much participation in the playdown to go to that event — the same team has gone each year that it’s been going — so we wanted put it up and get more people interested in it.

“It’s a version of the game that’s going to grow in popularity being a new Olympic sport and all the top players in the country are starting to play it.”

Doubles curling is mostly played in a mixed format with one male and one female with no substitutions. Each team has six stones instead of the traditional eight. One stone from each team is positioned on the centerline before the start of each end. Player one throws the first and last stone and player two the three in between.

“It’s an emerging part of the sport. It has really captured people’s imagination and their attention,” said club president Mark Evans. “The club wants to have leagues that its members want to participate in, so this was something that really came from the curlers.

“Its interest is growing. It’s relatively small right now but there’s enough interest to start a doubles league.”

The World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship, held annually since 2008, uses a mixed format, as does the Canadian championship. The new league at the Whitehorse club is open, meaning teams of two males or two females can also join. The league currently has six teams, five of which are mixed.

“It’s easier to put a team together, you just have to find one other person, and it’s a really fun game to play,” said Williams. “It’s a much different strategy than in a four-person game. You have lots of rocks in play and different shot making. It’s something different and people really enjoy it.”

The new league is the club’s 10th, adding to the men’s, women’s, mixed, open, “super league,” learn-to-curl, fun league on week nights, plus “Little Rockers” and junior league on Saturdays.

The fall league is underway, but it’s not too late to join, said Williams.

“It’s a pretty open schedule — we’re playing any night of the week — so we expect it to grow a little bit, hopefully throughout the year as people see what we’re doing,” said Williams. “So I think there’s room to add onto the league.”

Whitehorse’s Robert and Jody Smallwood have been the king and queen of doubles curling in the territory the last few years. Last December the husband and wife team won the Yukon Mixed Doubles Curling Championships a fourth year in a row and went on to play at the national championships. They reached the quarterfinal at their first nationals in 2013.

This season’s Yukon Mixed Doubles Championship is scheduled to take place Dec. 1-4 in Atlin, B.C. The national championship, which is the qualifier for the worlds, will take place early April in Saskatoon. The next world championships will happen late April in Lethbridge, Alta. Canada won a bronze at the 2015 worlds in Sochi, Russia, for the country’s one medal to date.

“It’s an interesting, new, developing sport,” said Evans. “It’s completely different than the regular curling game, for sure.

“You only need two people. For some groups of people, getting a consistent four people to play on a team every week is difficult.”

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com

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