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It’s ‘Try-It’ month at the Petersham Curling Club

  • Petersham Curling Club member Eric Sorrelle works on his form at the local club.<br/>Submitted photo

    Petersham Curling Club member Eric Sorrelle works on his form at the local club.
    Submitted photo

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  • Petersham Curling Club member Eric Sorrelle works on his form at the local club.<br/>Submitted photo
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The Winter Olympics are officially under way and with it returns one of the most popular sports from four years ago: Curling.

An Olympic sport since 1998 and at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, curling seems to have grown in popularity here in the United States. The sport, which can be referred to as chess on ice because it’s as much about thinking as actual physical skill, begins Monday, but the Petersham Curling Club is going to allow anyone wishing to check out the sport prior to that to do so.

The Petersham Curling Club has been in existence since 1960 and has two sheets of ice. It is a private club, with a hair under 100 members but will open its doors to the public multiple times over the next couple of weeks. On Saturday from 6 to 10 p.m., anyone interested in watching a curling match can do so at the “See It” Open House. Spectators will be able to watch from the warm room, which is a lounge that overlooks the ice surface.

On Feb. 16 from noon until 5 p.m., anyone wishing to actually try the sport can give it a whirl at the “Try It” Open House. Interested individuals will get the chance to go on the ice and get some basic instruction, learning to deliver the stone and sweep. Anyone wishing to try it at this time must wear clean, rubber-soled shoes (such as sneakers) or they will not be allowed on the ice.

There will be a second “Try It” Open House on Feb. 20 from 6 to 9 p.m. Everything is free and open to all ages. Special membership rates will be offered during these three events, and new members can start curling by the end of February.

For those who don’t remember how the sport works, a quick reminder. Curling began in Scotland in the 16th century with stones taken out of a river. The name comes from the Gaelic word, “curr,” which means “low rumble” and refers to the sound the rocks made while traveling along the ice.

Teams feature four individuals and each team alternates taking shots using the 42-pound “rock” on a sheet of ice. The “rocks” are made of granite that is quarried in Scotland and Wales. The ice surface is 146 feet long and is prepared by “pebbling,” which means the surface is scraped smooth after a match and then water droplets are sprayed onto the surface to create mini bumps. The bumps wear down during a match and change how the stones travel.

The object is to deliver the stone from one end of the ice to the other, where the “house” or target is located. The bulls-eye in the middle of the house is called the “tee.” Each team delivers eight stones per round, otherwise known as “ends” (think innings in baseball), and the team with the stone closest to the tee after each team delivers all eight stones scores a point. That team gets one additional point for every stone that’s closer to the tee than its opponent’s closest stone. After 10 ends, the match is over.

In order to deliver the stones, players push off from a starting block, or “hack,” and glide along the ice. The player must release the stone before a line, known as the “hog line,” which is 21 feet from the starting block. This line also serves as the line down the other end that the stone must travel past to remain in play.

After the stone is released, two designated sweepers can work it by feverishly sweeping in the path of the stone. This serves to warm the ice briefly, and can speed up the stone, as well as turn it. The fourth member of the team, the “skip,” hollers out orders to the sweepers.

At the last Olympics, both the U.S. men’s and women’s teams finished 10th out of 10 teams.

The Petersham Curling Club is located at 150 North Main Street (Route 32) in Petersham. For more information call 978-724-3210.

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