Curling is the second most popular winter sport in Canada, and is most widespread in the prairies. Curling is played on a sheet of pebbled ice, unlike the smooth ice of a skating or hockey rink, with target circles (the "house") at each end resembling shuffleboard. A curling team is called a "rink" and consists of four people led by the "skip." The object of this sport is to get the most curling "rocks" nearest the center of the rings at the opposite side of the rink. The sport of curling involves balance, strength, accuracy, and strategy.
The curlers use a broom to "sweep" the rock down the ice, guiding it toward its target. Because the rocks are thrown with a rotation they will curl left or right as they go down the ice. The skip needs to "read" the ice during a game to determine how much the rock will curl on any particular shot. The sweeping motion of the broom polishes the pebbled surface, allowing the rock to slide further.
The Canadian curling championships for men and women are called the Nokia Brier and the Scott Tournament of Hearts, respectively. Both are popular televised events.
Curling is an affordable sport to play. The most important pieces of equipment are the slider and the broom (the rocks come with the ice). The Teflon-coated slider covers the bottom of one curling shoe, so the curler can slide down the ice surface while throwing the rock (balancing is a challenge). A curler also needs gloves, shoes, and warm athletic apparel. Sliders and brooms can usually be rented at curling rinks, and the other equipment is available at many sporting goods stores.
There are plenty of leagues in Hamilton for curlers of all ages. If you're interested in joining a curling league, you can contact your local Parks and Recreation office, for the curling club nearest you. There are also a number of curling clubs around the region. The public is always welcome to come out and watch the leagues around town.