Monday, June 27, 2016

Hardline Curling Response to New WCF Guidelines

Hardline Curling Response to New WCF Guidelines
St-Laurent QC - June 27, 2016

Hardline Curling would like to congratulate the players and the WCF for coming together at the recent Sweeping Summit and finding a solution for the Elite level player.

First, based on the player testing performed, the players decided that all performance enhancing properties (i.e. ridges, foil, plastic insert) from ALL manufacturers were deemed excessive for Elite play. Second, it took the players several testing sessions to find a fabric that minimized the effectiveness of sweeping. Based on our previously stated position, we would have preferred that the WCF come out with new sweeping rules, but we believe finding a fabric that minimizes the effectiveness of sweeping is a reasonable second solution. Hardline Curling was one of the few that stated at the start of the controversy that the WCF should have taken all performance enhancing properties out from all the manufacturers and the Elite players should have been playing with foam on fabric. This being said, we hope now that these issues are now behind us and we can all move forward.

What is this new fabric?   
Based on what we currently know, there are questions surrounding the approved fabric which is mostly centered on its durability. Testing will continue at the start of the year, but the fear is that the new fabric might last for only one or two games and as such, will add significant costs to competitive curlers around the world who do not have the sponsorship money that the Elite curlers do. This is unfortunate, but the players at the Sweeping Summit saw that any type of waterproof material as well as the majority of other non-coated fabric was also deemed “too much” in terms of its effectiveness at the Elite level. Hardline Curling is currently working diligently to manufacture our icePad covers using the approved fabric based on the limited supply we have. We will be calling the new product “Maxim”. Oxford dictionary defines Maxim as a statement expressing a “rule of conduct”. The new cover should be available starting next Monday. Competitive curlers using Hardline brooms will have the tools necessary for the start of the year.

What does this mean for the design of the icePad?
The icePad design and head construction passed the Sweeping Summit testing with flying colors. In fact, Hardline was told that the construction of the actual head had minimal effect on the manipulation of a rock. Putting aside the sweeping technique, the manipulation of a rock was mostly as a result of the performance enhancing attributes of a brush (foil, ridges and insert) as well as the fabric used. Therefore, the icePad design is good to go and here to stay for a long time!

What this decision means for a recreational curler?
In most cases, absolutely nothing – there will most likely be no change. The testing that was conducted was from the best sweepers in the world, on championship ice, using a brand new pad that was only used once and therefore, not a good representation of the general curling public. The decision by the Elite players and the WCF at the Sweeping Summit is only for Elite players and for tournaments that lead to a National or World Championship.  It is also most likely to be adopted by the Grand Slams and WCT events since teams earn Order of Merit points at these events. For the recreational curler, we do not believe anything will change. However, each curling club will be able to make its own decision as to whether they will adopt the new WCF guidelines or not.  

For non-Elite events, bonspiels may or may not use WCF guidelines. Please check ahead of your spiel to determine if the WCF guidelines apply. Our recommendation would be if it is a very competitive spiel with cash prizes or that earn points to provincials, use the WCF guidelines. If it is just a fun bonspiel, then play with whatever what was available in the past.  Be sure to contact your respective regional curling associations and let them know your thoughts.  Hardline Curling would like to make it clear that we are indifferent as to what curling clubs and tournament organizers ultimately decide to do. Whatever your decision is, just know that we will have the products available for you to play the great sport of curling.

What does all this mean for Hardline Nation?
During this past curling season, because of the uncertain environment created by the moratorium and rules changes to equipment, several curlers decided to wait to make their equipment purchase. Now that the new brush guidelines have been announced, the icePad is still in the best shape to adapt to competitive as well as recreational curlers and we believe is still the best curling brush on the market.  Hardline Curling is currently increasing production of icePad's to meet the expected demand. We appreciate your patience during this time and we thank you again for your continued support. Hardline Curling will continue to strive to develop innovative products, and provide the best curling products to all curlers.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Hardline 2015/16 Recap – An Amazing Season!

Hardline 2015/16 Recap – An Amazing Season!

The 2015-16 curling season for #HardlineNation was simply AMAZING!  We are so proud of our teams and all of their successes!   Here’s a summary of a few of our teams’ accomplishments over the past curling season:

Team Gushue
After joining #HardlineNation at the start of the 2015-16 season, Team Gushue went on to have one of the most successful years in history!  Some of their accomplishments:
  • 3 Grand Slam wins – National, Elite 10, Players Championship
  • Brier silver medalists
  • #1 on the money list with over $194,000
  • 101 wins, including 9 tournament wins
  • Rogers Grand Slam Cup Champions

Team McEwen
Coming off a great year in 2014-15, Team McEwen was poised to have another solid season in 2015-16.  The highlight of their year was capturing the elusive Manitoba provincial title earning their first Brier berth in Ottawa.   They also had 3 event wins including the Masters Grand Slam, Stu Sells Toronto, and Point Optical Curling Classic.  They were also Canada Cup finalists, and finished # 4 on the money list!

Team Carruthers
In their 2nd season together, Team Carruthers captured the inaugural season ending Champions Cup for their first Grand Slam win.  They were also finalists in two other GSOC events this year (National, Elite 10), and won the Dekalb Classic.  They also finished 3rd on the money list and 4th in CTRS standings.

Team Carey
The 2015-16 season saw Chelsea Carey take over skipping duties from Heather Nedohin, and with Amy Nixon, Jocelyn Peterman, and Laine Peters won the Alberta provincials and then had a fantastic week winning the Scotties Tournament of Hearts!  They made playoffs in 6 WCT events, including 2 event finals.

Team Tirinzoni
Team Tirinzoni’s 2nd year with #HardlineNation got off to a great start winning their 1st Grand Slam title in Paradise NL at the Tour Challenge!  They had 3 wins on tour, 12 playoff appearances including 8 finals and 11 top-3 finishes, and finished # 2 on the money list and # 3 on the Order of Merit for 2015-16! 

Team Shuster
Team Shuster of the USA had a very successful season. They won the Bronze medal at the Men’s World Championships, won 3 WCT events, qualified for the Continental Cup of Curling and Curling Night in America, and reached the semi finals in the opening Tour Challenge Grand Slam event.

Team Laycock
Team Laycock’s first year with Hardline Curling was a solid one. They won the SK Tankard and the Canad Inn’s Classic.  They had 10 playoff appearances including 6 top-3 finishes.  They finished 6th on the money list and Order of Merit.

Team McCarville
Krista McCarville made a return to competitive curling this year and what a season it was!  They were Scotties Tournament of Hearts finalists, including defeating Team Canada in a semi-final to remember, and had 4 WCT wins, earning a berth into the season ending GSOC Champions Cup.

Team Thomas
Charley Thomas had an impressive year on the tour, winning the Original 16 WCT bonspiel. They were also AB Tankard finalists, and made playoffs in 10 of 11 events played including 7 top-3’s.  They finished 9th on the CTRS standings for 2015-16.  Charley also won the gold medal in New Zealand Winter Games 2015 playing mixed doubles with Kalynn Park.

Hardline Curling is proud of all our teams who qualified for the Scotties, the Brier, and World’s this season:

Chelsea Carey – AB
Krista McCarville – NO
Kerri Einarson – MB
Jolene Campbell – SK
Stacie Curtis – NL
Karla Thompson – BC

Brad Gushue – NL
Mike McEwen – MB
Steve Laycock – SK
Mike Kennedy – NB
Jamie Koe – NWT

World Championships:
Chelsea Carey - Canada
John Shuster – USA
Aku Kauste – Finland
Alexander Baumann – Germany
Max Kirkpatrick - Canada

Some other highlights of the season, national and provincial champions, and WCT event winners:

  • Team Max Kirkpatrick – 2015/16 World Mixed Championships
  • Jocelyn Peterman & Brett Gallant – Canadian Mixed Doubles 2016 Champions
  • Team Colleen Jones – 2016 Canadian Senior Women’s Champions
  • Team Bryan Cochrane – 2016 Canadian Senior Men’s Champions
  • Team Einarson –MB Scotties champion, GSOC Tour Challenge Tier 2 winner, 4th place at STOH, 10 playoff appearances including 6 top-3 finishes
  • Team Canada with Tyler Tardi & Sterling Middleton won the Youth Olympic Gold medal in Lillehammer
  • Team Felix Asselin – QC Junior Men’s Provincial Champs
  • Team Tyler Tardi – BC Junior Men’s Provincial Champs
  • Team Jacob Hersikorn – SK Junior Men’s Provincial Champs
  • Team Alex Robichaud – NB Junior Men’s Provincial Champs
  • Team Kourtney Fesser – SK Junior Women’s Provincial Champs
  • Team Brooke Godsland – NL Junior Women’s Provincial Champs
  • Team Jacqueline Harrison – Oakville OCT Fall Classic, Gord Carroll Curling Classic, Royal Lepage OVCA Fall Classic
  • Team Peter De Cruz – Cookstown Cash
  • Team Allison Flaxey – KW Fall Classic
  • Team Shaun Meachem – HDF Insurance Shootout, Medicine Hat Charity Classic
  • Team Dean Joanisse – Cloverdale Cash Spiel
  • Team Jeff Hartung – Westwood Inn Classic
  • Team Michelle Montford – Mother Club Fall Curling Classic
  • Team Kristy McDonald - MB Scotties finalists, 6 playoff appearances, T3 Masters GSOC
  • Rocks Around The Clock – Official Guinness World Record holders for longest game
  • Dustin Mikush - Optimist U18 Champions

Those are just some of the highlights of a wonderful season for all of our #HardlineNation teams!  We apologize if we have forgotten to include some (let us know and we’ll add it to the list).   

Whether a pro curler winning a national or provincial championship or Slam event, or a recreational curler winning a club championship or fun bonspiel, we appreciate the support you give Hardline Curling, and the trust you put into playing with our equipment.  We will continue to strive to provide all curlers with the best possible curling equipment to help you reach your curling objectives!   Have a great summer, and we’ll see you in the Fall of 2016!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Hardline Curling Response to Sweeping Controversy

With the curling season coming to an end, Hardline Curling would like to respond to articles written and opinions given in recent weeks, and ask a few questions ourselves.

In Don Landry’s article “What to do about the broom? Top skips weigh in on curling's possible sweeping solutions”, he interviews several skips asking their thoughts on what should be done about the broom/sweeping issue.

In it, Niklas Edin mentions Hardline by name, saying that their team had a poor record against Hardline teams. We felt we needed to respond to this. It is unfortunate that Edin infers that the Hardline icePad is the reason for their poor record against Hardline teams. 2014-15 was the first year we had top men’s teams playing with the icePad Pro cover – McEwen, Carruthers, Shuster. In the 2015-16 season, we added Gushue and Laycock in the top 10 teams. Going back and comparing Edin’s record against these teams before they used Hardline icePad clearly shows that Edin had a poor record versus Hardline sponsored teams way before they ever joined Hardline.

Another team that has been a strong opponent of the icePad is Team Ulsrud. Looking at their record against Hardline top men’s teams, Team Ulsrud was 3W-20L before our players joined Hardline and 1W-3L after. Are Edin and Ulsrud really saying it is the fault of the equipment for their poor performance vs Hardline players playing with the icePad?

Team by team, it is the same story. Let us take another example. Team Jacobs’ records versus our top men’s teams:

vs McEwen:  4-6,  vs Gushue: 2-4,  vs Laycock:  5-3

With Hardline:
vs. McEwen: 5-7,  vs Gushue: 2-4, vs Laycock:  4-1,  vs Carruthers: 6-4.

Not much difference in the records.  It is a shame when certain teams say there is a huge advantage with Hardline, when the statistics do not indicate this at all. You can see the head to head statistics at the end of this blog. The line in the picture indicates when players switched to Hardline. For those teams who claimed Hardline had an unfair advantage using the icePad, perhaps you should have played with it yourself since it was available to anybody. For any team to claim that you lost the game before it began because of the icePad is not only misleading, but disrespecting those teams who have beaten you consistently way before they even used an icePad and who have committed and sacrificed to be one of the best at this great game.

Since the fall of 2015, Hardline and Hardline athletes, whether at the pro level, or recreational, have undergone character attacks, blaming first the icePad Pro fabric, “directional fabric”. Our teams were called “cheaters” for using the brooms.  A small group of players did not like the icePad Pro, so they launched a campaign to tarnish our reputation, with one company bringing out their own “Blackhead” broom which “was to prove a point”. So a players’ agreement forced our teams to play with a new fabric. We scrambled to find a new fabric. A Goldline rep was kind enough to give us the name of the manufacturer and we went with that fabric, which became the Tour Elite. We did not think there would be any concerns because this same fabric was used back in 2010 on the older Goldline pads.  So the same players who now are opponents of this fabric actually played with the very same fabric in years past. And since then, Goldline is using a more waterproof fabric on their Norway pad that is currently accepted as “legal”.

When we received the fabric and felt it, it was noticeably more abrasive and rougher than the icePad Pro fabric. It was mind-boggling to say the least, but we went with it for the sake of our teams. Don Landry reported in his article that it was said that this fabric we were given is less abrasive than the fabric that was restricted (icePad Pro cover), but yet still aggressive in nature. Well, we polled over 50 curlers, and had them feel each fabric and each cover, and 100% of the curlers said the fabric we were given was more abrasive than the icePad Pro cover. We are not fabric experts and this may very well not be the case, but any layman could see that the fabric that was supposed to be “legal” was more abrasive than the Pro cover.

When our teams continued to win with the inverted Pro fabric, it had to be something else with the brush, so the next step was to target the plastic insert. Teams then complained that the plastic insert was too much and caused the rocks to move against the laws of physics.  However, there was a player experiment done at the Masters in Truro in October 2015 stating that the icePad with inverted fabric and the plastic insert performed similar as other manufacturers’ brooms. Edin even did testing with Reid Carruthers on the inverted fabric with insert and also agreed it performed similarly to other pads. It was based on his recommendation that the plastic insert and inverted Pro cover was even accepted as an alternative at the time. There was also testing done by the players in Oshawa at the National Slam where it was shown again that the icePad with insert did not back up rocks and it did not cause damage to the ice so as to impact the next shot. We have this report in our hands. So why was the plastic insert banned? We still do not have an answer even after months of demanding answers from the WCF and Curling Canada, but we believe it is because certain teams complained loud enough and the governing bodies agreed to it. We still have yet to see any proof or evidence from the governing bodies that the plastic insert had any adverse effect on the ice or shot-making.

Then on November 18, 2015, after weeks of silence, the WCF came out with their moratorium on brushes. Essentially, the icePad Pro cover, and “hardening or stiffening inserts” were restricted at Elite Play. Recreational curlers were still free to use the icePad Pro. But that did not happen. Certain leagues and associations enforced this brush ban – the icePad Pro ban – which was unfortunate and went totally against the moratorium.

After the moratorium came in, the new fabric is in play and the plastic insert is out, and yet our teams continue to win events. The governing bodies then came out with a moratorium to ban hair brushes, a product that has been a staple in curling for the last 30 years. Our teams continued to play well and win events.

Can we finally put to rest that it is not the fabric or the plastic insert? The plastic insert or the fabric is not making non-Hardline teams shoot mid 90s for the last 3 months. What else can it be?

What everyone is trying to avoid talking about is the sweeping technique. In August and September 2015, Team Gushue determined through hours and hours of practice and actual game play, that employing only ONE sweeper was more effective than using two sweepers, almost 20% more effective. They discovered that using two sweepers actually counter-acted what sweeping was trying to achieve. They were ridiculed, and were accused of cheating and going against the ethics of curling, and because they switched to Hardline icePad, naturally our brooms were to blame as well.  Fast forward 3 months and 99% of teams are now using the one sweeper method and all the teams have seen shooting percentages skyrocket no matter what brooms they use. Team Gushue should be applauded for being sweeping pioneers.

It is Hardline’s position that this entire sweeping issue has to do with sweeping technique and not the fabric or the icePad insert. The plastic insert should be reinstated immediately and the icePad Pro fabric should be brought back. Why, after 30+ years in play, were hair brushes banned?  What changed from last year, when it was ok to use, to this year?

What changed from last year to this year, when teams call the world curling championships the “world carving championships”?  You never heard the “carving” term being used before February 2016, especially with regards to the icePad Pro with insert. And remember this new fabric was given to us by a Goldline rep!  Our competitors began to use the same fabric on their own brooms, forcing the WCF to alter the moratorium to allow them to use that fabric. The moratorium also stated that brush heads must be available for retail sale to the public as of Nov 18, 2015, but we could not help but notice teams were playing recently with a new head that is not available to the general public. That is because the governing bodies altered the moratorium once again. This is just another example of the governing bodies making exceptions.

In the Don Landry article, there is mention of scratching the ice. The truth is everything puts micro-scratches on the ice. All brushes - the icePad, the Norway, the EQ – all brushes. An old pad that has not been changed for 100 games will put micro-scratches on the ice and will still be able to manipulate rocks. A cornbroom scratches the ice. The curling rock even scratches the ice! The micro-scratches created are invisible to the naked eye and can only be seen with special microscopes.

The problem is the message about scratching the ice. Is scratching the ice actually damaging the ice? The answer is no. Damaging the ice is what the “Blackhead” did at Stu Sells Toronto. When you cannot make a shot because your rock is in a trough, then that is damaging the ice. Curling Canada performed testing in Oshawa with the players, to see for themselves about the icePad. The icePad with insert did not back up rocks, nor did it damage the ice to affect the next shot. But the icePad and insert was still banned.  We are still wondering why?
Some players have suggested finding a fabric that will not put micro scratches on the ice.  The fact is every fabric with any type of weave will leave micro scratches and players will be able to manipulate rocks with the current sweeping technique. We have searched for a non-abrasive fabric ourselves but could not find anything that will not put micro scratches on the ice and not make players manipulate shots. Has the WCF or Curling Canada taken the time to find this fabric?

We challenge anyone to find a woven fabric that will not leave micro scratches on the ice where players will not be able to manipulate a shot with current sweeping techniques.  If someone does find a fabric like this, we are fairly certain all manufacturers will be happy to put it on. There will be a sweeping summit to determine what is and isn’t acceptable. The WCF and Curling Canada have announced a Sweeping Summit, however have yet to confirm a date. In their statement, the WCF said a decision will not be ratified until September 2016, right at the start of the curling season.  How is it fair for manufacturers to plan for the next season when a decision is reached in September 2016, after the season has already started?

Some players in the article commented that they do not want to change sweeping technique.  This was an “eyebrow raiser” for us. Only Brad Gushue and David Murdoch addressed certain sweeping techniques need to change. All the other players were ok with the corner sweeping and snow-ploughing. The players all know that the problem is with sweeping, but no one wants change because they say it is too hard to police. If the players really want to go back to the old way and not manipulate rocks anymore, then the only solution is to change the sweeping technique. And if a material does exist where rocks are not being manipulated with the new sweeping techniques, then let us know.

When push brooms came into play in the 1980s, it was a new innovation that changed the game. Players were able to manipulate rocks however they wanted by corner sweeping. What happened next? Ask any curler old enough to remember. The governing bodies put rules in place to ban corner sweeping and not the brooms. And then what happened? Everybody stopped corner sweeping. Why? It was because it was in the rules of curling. The players respected the rules. Players respected each other. But most important, the players respected the game. We do not remember any issues regarding sweeping violations in any event prior to this year. To say the players of today could not respect new rules about sweeping is simply too hard to believe. Back in the day, there was no need for on ice officials for sweeping. Were there any problems back when there were sweeping rules? No.  Did players respect the sweeping rules? Yes. Were there officials calling out players who swept wrong, like at this year’s world championships?  No.

We just do not understand why the players will not enforce sweeping rules by themselves. It is just like dumping in front of a rock to slow it down. It is against the spirit of curling, and no one does it. If a rule is in place that no corner sweeping or snow-ploughing is allowed, then why wouldn’t players adhere to the rules? Is this not “the game of sportsmanship”? Enact sweeping rules and there would be no need for a ban on brushes, except for brushes that damage the ice.

There have been several rule change experiments in recent Grand Slam events.  We feel these rule changes are acceptable. Why weren’t these rules put in place in October/November, instead of an outright ban of the icePad insert and Pro cover? For the elite curlers, all of this sweeping controversy could have been avoided if the governing bodies tried these experiments, instead of an outright ban. Enact rules for only two sweeping brushes per event, and color code a left side broom, and right side broom or to make it even simpler – one brush per player and no changing sides. You would still be able to use the one sweeper method and no brushes would need to be banned.  The decision making of the governing bodies has been extremely suspect since the controversy began – changing rules on the fly, putting a moratorium in place, only to change it to allow other manufacturers to bring in new products.

There is a lot on the line. Enforce the sweeping rules for no corner sweeping, no snow-ploughing, and only sweeping across the face of the stone. There would be no need to restrict any brooms, inserts, or fabrics, or hair brooms, unless to the point of damaging the ice like the “Blackhead” did at Stu Sells Toronto. The tour players all know the real problem is not the brush fabric or the insert, but the lack of sweeping rules. Who will be the bold one to stand up and say, ''It IS the sweeping. Let us fix this, and play by the rules, for the spirit of curling''. We hope there will be players who have the integrity to address the real issue of sweeping with all curling brushes.

We are afraid our statements will fall on deaf ears.  If enacting sweeping rules are indeed not going to be looked at, then we implore the WCF and Curling Canada to let us know what fabric will be accepted and we will have no issues using it.  BUT, a decision must be finalized in MAY 2016 to allow manufacturers time during the off-season to prepare for the 2016-17 season and comply with the selected fabric.  A final decision in September is totally unacceptable.  It has been a very frustrating season of curling, but Hardline Curling still holds out hope that the right decision will be made.

If certain players want to continue the smear campaign, against players that have chosen to use the icePad, and question the integrity of these athletes and our products, it would be best if solid evidence were presented to back up your claims. Hardline is proud of athletes that play with our gear and support them 100%. They have demonstrated an incredible amount of integrity this past year, through all the slander that has been thrown their way. Their success is due to the incredible amount of hard work, dedication and sacrifice they have given this great game. For anyone to suggest that their success is due to better equipment, is not only an insult to Hardline athletes, but it is an insult to the integrity of the game.