NWT curlers investigate new play style with mixed doubles

Click on the slideshow above to view captions.Photos: Meagan Wohlberg.

A new style of play is picking up momentum on curling ice across the territory, with the NWT hosting its second ever territorial mixed doubles curling championships in Fort Smith over the weekend.

Two teams, both from Fort Smith, came out last week to compete in the modified game, featuring different rules and challenges set up by previously arranged rocks, limited rock takeouts and minimal sweeping.

Though it was their first time partnering, Nick Kaeser and Brittany Brasser triumphed in the best of five tournament, winning Thursday’s, Friday’s and Saturday morning’s games against husband-wife pair Tim and Alma McDonald, 7-5, 11-2 and 9-5 respectively.

Bruce McArthur filled in for Kaeser during the Friday night game after Kaeser was put on jury duty.

Kaeser and Brasser will now head to Ottawa in March for the second ever national mixed doubles tournament. Last year, the Moyer team from Yellowknife – which hosted the first ever territorials – traveled down to Leduc, Alta. for the inaugural Canadian championships.

Janie Hobart, who organized and officiated last week’s bonspiel, said there was great play by both teams, making games very interesting to watch for enthusiasts and those new to the game alike.

Unlike a regular game, there are only two people per team who take turns throwing six rocks and skipping, while sharing the task of sweeping. Two rocks are already set up – one in the centre between the hog line and house, as a guard, and the other sitting in the top half of the button. Teams are not permitted to remove any rocks until the fourth is thrown.

“There’s different strategies you have to employ as compared to regular play,” Hobart said of the game’s appeal. “Because there are already two positioned rocks there and because of the modified three guard zone rule, where you can’t take any rocks out in the first three rocks thrown, it means that there’s an awful lot of rocks in play. For some people that’s a switch in how they play, because some people like to play a really clean game.”

The new take on the classic Canadian sport is gaining popularity in Fort Smith, with seven teams making up the brand new Monday night mixed doubles league.

Hobart said more people would have liked to compete in the territorials, but couldn’t due to scheduling issues.

Based on the typical rotation, next year’s territorials will likely take place in Inuvik, where Hobart said she would like to see teams from Yellowknife and the South Slave join those from the Beaufort Delta.

“I think this is something, too, that club-wise we’re going to have to do more advertising to get more people out, because it is a really interesting new format,” she said. “We have to do a bit more promotion of the actual format to encourage more curlers.”

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