Curling and crokinole collide, creating a new ice game in Winnipeg

There's a new outdoor game in Winnipeg and it has a distinctly Canadian flavour. It's called crokicurl, and it combines two popular pastimes — crokinole and curling.

​Crokicurl makes its debut this weekend at The Forks, will be free to play

Finishing touches are being put on the crokicurl ice surface, which should be ready for play this weekend. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

There's a new outdoor game in Winnipeg and it has a distinctly Canadian flavour.

​Crokicurl, which combines two popular pastimes — crokinole and curling — makes its debut this weekend at The Forks plaza.

Finishing touches are just being put on the ice for the game, which incorporates elements of a human-sized crokinole game and curling.

The ice had to be redone after the original surface met a sudden demise under extremely mild temperatures last week.

"It was actually supposed to be open but the ice melting gave us a bit of a setback. They had it about halfway done and it all melted so they started again about three days ago," said Liz Wreford, the principal landscape architect of Winnipeg-based Public City Architecture.

"They've done it again real quickly and it's looking great."

Public City is one of the teams behind Hygge House, that fluorescent yellow warming hut you see every year along the river skating trail.

In fact, Hygge House is where the seed for crokicurl was initially planted.

"We had a crokinole board in the hut, and for me, this is the continuation of that idea," Wreford said. "Crokinole was one of the very first things we knew we had to have incorporated in the warming hut because it is so Manitoban."

The hut first appeared on the trail in 2013 and immediately became a huge draw. The board was glued onto a table in Hygge House and people often brought their own playing chips that first year, she said.

Unfortunately, the board and many other items that used to be in the hut have long since gone missing.

Hygge House, the fluorescent yellow warming hut that first appeared in 2013 and has been a fixture on the river skating trail ever year since, is also a creation of Public City Architecture. (Alana Cole/CBC)

The hut, however, continues to be a big attraction and has become a symbol of winter in Winnipeg, with its image appearing in national and international architecture magazines as well as the New York Times, not to mention in thousands of photos posted on social media sites.

Over the years it has served as a pop-up coffee shop, a stage for musicians and a landmark gathering place on the trail.

"It's taken on its own life," said Wreford, who hopes crokicurl will become a similar hit and annual attraction.

"We hope it's going to be up every year. We've had so much great feedback and everyone seems to be so excited and can't wait to get out there and play."

This past summer, staff at Public City were playing the popular board game crokinole in their office — they have a board for when they need a distraction — and the conversation led to the idea of creating an oversized version.

That led to the idea of using curling rocks and doing it on ice, and then to research to make sure they weren't taking someone else's invention.

"We thought 'For sure someone's done this,' but we couldn't find it anywhere so we designed it. Then I took a drawing to The Forks and said, 'I think you should do this.' And they said 'This is awesome.'

"They jumped right on board." 

Crokicurl is played with the same rules as crokinole but with curling stones instead. (Public City Architecture)

Originally, the idea was to put it on the river and make it a lot bigger.

"We actually wanted it to be that you had to throw the rocks the same length as a curling rink," Wreford said.

Officials with The Forks suggested it be located on the plaza, where it could be better seen and accessed, instead of being lost down on the river.

The design was reduced and in the end, Wreford thinks it's much better — and makes the game a little easier to play. Because the rock doesn't have to go so far, it doesn't need to be so heavy.

Rather than expensive granite stones, the crokicurl rocks are made of a durable plastic designed for use outside. They're half the weight of regular curling rocks, but the same size. 

Crokicurl is free for anyone to play on a first-come, first-served basis, but people are asked to limit their games to one hour.

"We want to give as many people a chance to play as possible," Wreford said, adding the rocks will be available at The Common inside The Forks marketplace, which is open from noon until late most nights.

A rule board for the game will be displayed beside the rink.

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