Point of View

Reporter from Down Under learns to play ultra-Canadian crokicurl game

After a quick, teasing skirt around the rim of the hole the stone toppled in. In that moment, Australian Alicia Bridges understood why crokicurl is such a big deal in Canada.

CBC reporter Alicia Bridges had never curled or played crokinole — until now

Crokicurl Alicia Bridges Australian 2:25

As I teetered feebly over the ice in the most ungraceful of stances, I saw time slow down on Friday.

The whopping piece of granite I had moments earlier struggled to move was now gliding toward the target in an icy bullseye.

After a quick, teasing skirt around the rim of the hole it toppled in — and in that moment I understood why this thing called crokicurl is such a big deal.

The game — which made its debut last winter in Winnipeg — is a combination of two beloved Canadian games: the sport of curling and the board game crokinole (which I have learned is pronounced "croak-a-know", not "croaky-knoll"). As an Australian living in Canada, I wasn't familiar with the rules of either until now.  

The outdoor game arrived in Saskatoon for the first time last week, brought to town by the Broadway Business Improvement District as a way to enjoy the outdoors even when it's cold.

Crokicurl in Saskatoon

On Friday, DeeAnn Mercier, executive director of the Broadway Business Improvement District, agreed to be my guide and teach me the rules to both games.

As I stepped tentatively onto the ice, the odds of a successful start were not on my side.

I grew up in the red dust of a hot, dry mining town in Western Australia.

"Winter sports" were just sports; it was too hot to play in summer. A little frost on the grass was the only ice I ever had to traverse. The only two types of weather were wet heat or dry heat.

Broadway Business Improvement District executive director DeeAnn Mercier (right) teaches CBC News web writer Alicia Bridges, who hails from Australia, how to play crokicurl. (Don Somers/CBC News)

The art of the ice shuffle

Although I've now been in Canada for more than four years, I still have to play it cool when I'm walking feebly on icy sidewalks next to Canadians who will walk, jog or ride their bikes in bitter cold and over slick surfaces — smiling all the way.

I've seen how casually Saskatonians navigate the ice, and I've decided the art of the shuffle is one of those skills you learn when you're young and you bounce easily. It's all about balance and shifting your weight, and I've yet to master it.

For all of these reasons, and a general apprehension about landing legs akimbo on the ice, I had never tried curling in Canada until this week.

Crokicurl opened the doors for me to try it out with a little guidance and less judgment; nobody in Saskatoon has played it either. What better way to fast-track my journey to becoming a true Canadian than to play what's being called the most Canadian game.

Bridges gives herself a clap after shooting her first crokicurl bullseye. (Don Somers/CBC News)

The rules

To me, it seems like a combination of lawn bowling and golf. The golf part because the goal is to land the rock in the "button": a hole in the bullseye centre of the ice "board."

Scoring that shot will earn you the top score of 20 points. If your rock doesn't reach the button, your opponent's next shot will be an attempt to bump it out of the way and land theirs closer to the centre.

Teams of one or two play in one of four "quadrants" and the winner is the team with the highest score after the round.

Mercier said she shares the affection Canadians have for the two games that make up crokicurl.

She said crokinole is a competitive sport in her family.

"It's just so satisfying … when your little checker goes in the hole," said Mercier. "My dad and my brother are really good."

She said the great thing about crokicurl is that it is a relaxed activity to do in the winter.

For me, it was a great way to get a feel for curling in a casual setting — and it made me wish I'd tried it earlier.

A young crokicurler shows the CBC's Alicia Bridges how it's done. (Don Somers/CBC News)

"This is not an intense game," said Mercier.

"This is a game for the community to come out and enjoy so we just want everybody to come out because no one is an expert at this game.

Weather dependent, organizers hope to keep the game running until the end of February. For those who find they have a talent for the mashup game, a tournament is planned for late February.