Once every four years the top winter sports athletes get their chance to shine and compete against the rest of the world in the Winter Olympic Games. It’s no surprise though that Texas, a state that closes down schools at just the thought of ice, isn’t a big competitor in the Arctic athletics. That being said, North Texas has quite a few athletes in Sochi this year and the state has jumped on the winter sports bandwagon (band-sled?) in support. So I’ve taken it upon myself to showcase some of the DFW area’s winter sports in hopes of finding the next great Texas Olympians. Or just teaching my Southern brethren how some of these sports work. Either, or.
I’ve partnered with my old friend Daniel Meyer, a former McKinney High ice hockey player who has coached across the country with the Northern Edge Elite Hockey School. We’ll take a look at three of the Winter Olympic Games biggest competitions: curling, ice hockey and figure skating. We both may have grown up playing hockey, but being back on the ice was a bit different this time around as we had out first lesson in curling as you can see in the accompanying video below.
I spent my formative years on the ice and winter sports have always been a huge interest of mine, but curling was far from what I expected. Both Meyer and I met with the Dallas-Fort Worth Curling Club last week where we got to test our skills on the ice, sans skates. Steve Walton of the DFW Curling Club, showed us the ropes, didn’t laugh (too much) when we fell and explained how much more depth there was to curling than “ice bowling.”
Let me start off by saying that while I’m not at my peak physical condition anymore, I hardly expected this to be any strain. Even decked out in curling’s craziest American flag pants, the constant test of flexibility was something I wasn’t exactly used to and my balance was less than stellar. Needless to say, I probably should have stretched out a bit more before slipping and sliding on the ice. Speaking of slipping, the entire stone-throwing process is no easy accomplishment, even for someone who played hockey for 15 years. The minute I stepped on the Teflon sliders (flip flops for gliding on the ice better) I was rolling around on my behind more than I care to admit. Let’s just say my stars and stripes were big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas.
The game, while relatable to shuffleboard, also integrated much more planning and strategy than I had expected. While I mostly just tried my hand a blind luck, trying to plan out where my stone would go and actually get it there were two very different things. Stones didn’t always (AKA never) curled the way I wanted, if by chance they even made it far enough. One of the biggest things I drew from the lesson though is that the sweeping you see doesn’t slow the stone down like I had thought. It actually makes it go further. And that sweeping? Man, just do that for 30 minutes a day and you’ll break down doors like Johnny Quinn in no time. Running on ice, sweeping madly and trying not to hit the stone was a much harder workout than I’ve had in a while.
All in all it was a lot of fun. I doubt I’m going pro anytime soon, but I wouldn’t count me out of the curling game just yet. The DFW Curling Club and Steve Walton were very gracious hosts and definitely patient in our endeavors. At least mine; Meyer picked it up pretty quick. I would highly suggest everyone try curling at least once. The Curling Club is giving open house clinics over the next month for just $25. That gives you off-ice training, an hour on ice and a totally cool (pun intended) experience that most Texans don’t have the chance to get. Check out their website and sign up soon, because these clinics fill up fast.
The Winter Olympic Games is in its final week, but be sure to check out our next adventure in the days to come. Meyer and I will be heading back to our roots and focusing on ice hockey in our next segment. While I doubt getting back on skates will be as difficult as curling was, we’ll be going up against some real pros and will definitely have our work cut out for us.