Grand Slam of Curling's top cop threatens action against broom abusers at The Players' Championship

(Anil Mungal/Sportsnet photo)
(Anil Mungal/Sportsnet photo)

More broom shenanigans have led the Grand Slam of Curling's top event official to threaten in-game sanctions against teams at The Players' Championship, currently being contested in Toronto.

Pierre Charette, Competition Director for the Grand Slams and the man who makes sure players are following the rules at tour events, made a bold statement just after Thursday night's draw had been completed at the Mattamy Athletic Centre at Maple Leaf Gardens.

“I’m gonna give ‘em a warning," said Charette. "I’m gonna tell ‘em ‘if I see it again, I’m gonna pull (a rock).' I am.”

Charette was talking tough about watching a couple of teams - “Not gonna name any names," he said - like a hawk during Friday's action, to see if they were not complying with the spirit of an equipment rule instituted by Grand Slam officials for this week.

“I’ve asked them. I’ve said the intent of the rule this week is for you not to keep brushes so you can carve ‘em," said Charette."Everybody agreed with that but there’s a couple of teams that are still saving their brushes. So, they’re not doing it in the spirit that we wanted to do it this week.”

"Carving" is a term that Charette and some others are using to describe what fresh broom heads can do to the path of a thrown rock, scratching the ice surface in order to make the rock curl much harder than what has been the norm. "Saving their brushes" refers to teams doing their very best to keep at least one broom head unused until the late stages of a game so they can use it fresh at a critical juncture. They do that by simply not using a brush nearly as much as the others.

In attempting to keep teams from saving fresh broom heads for the late going, Grand Slam organizers enacted some new broom rules for The Players' Championship. Basically, three sweeping brooms are allowed per team, and they cannot be swapped around. From the Grand Slam website, a portion of those rules:

Brushing device No. 1: “Right Brush” — MUST be used by the brusher on the right side of the player delivering the stone, regardless of who is the brusher.

Brushing device No. 2: “Left Brush” — MUST be used by the brusher on the left side of the player delivering the stone, regardless of who is the brusher.

Brushing device No. 3: “Skip or Vice Skip Brush” — The skip and vice skip MUST begin the event with a “used brush head” to be approved by the head official at the pre-event practice. They must continue with the same head for the entire event.

These rules are intended to curtail the swapping of brooms between teammates as the game goes on, something that has reached epidemic proportions over the last couple of months. It's a practice that has allowed teams to keep one broom head fresh throughout a game.

According to one curler taking part in The Players', new brush heads stay fairly fresh, or sharp, for a good four ends of use. After that, they become less and less effective as the game wears on. All teams have fresh brush heads on their sweepers' brooms to begin a game, but they've been asked not to use them to "carve," according to Charette.

“The fact that they still have that (fresh) fabric for the first couple of ends they can still steer the rock a bit, which I’ve asked the teams not to do. But some are still doing it which is too bad because 90% of the teams are doing it the right way.”

“I’ll address it before the weekend," he continued. "The teams that are doing that, I’m gonna watch them closely and I’m gonna give them a warning."

If they keep it up?

“Then I might pull a rock (remove a stone played by an offending team) just to make a point,” said Charette.

It's the latest in the wild west atmosphere that has dogged the sport of curling all season long as the sport struggles to get a grip on regulating materials used on broom heads. It all came to a boil (for the first time, anyway) last October when what was termed "directional fabric" led to a player meeting in Toronto.

And a season of headaches for players, organizers and fans.

It's hoped that a series of summer meetings - held by the World Curling Federation - will lead to a solution in time for next season.

"I think it's going to come to every company's gonna have to use the same fabric," said Charette of broom head manufacturers. "And they'll have to come up with a fabric that does not damage the ice."

NOTE: An earlier version of this column identified Charette as the president of the World Curling Players' Association. He is past president.