BalancePlus Curling Equipment

 

Press Release

October 16, 2015
Barrie, ON

A number of comments have been made about brooms and sweeping recently. BalancePlus needs to clarify some things.

BalancePlus has been selling EQ faceplates since 2010. They are not causing any concerns. In August 2015 we introduced our LiteSpeed broom with EQ+ faceplates. These heads are even easier on the ice/pebble. Neither fabric enables curlers to steer the rock. For that reason several teams asked us to create heads with directional cloth to enable them to compete with teams that were able to steer curling shots by dramatically decreasing or increasing curl and/or reducing speed.

One company‘s product seemed to be leading the way in the development of “directional” heads. Other companies and individuals have also gone in that direction. Whether it was done on purpose or simply by mistake, hopefully all of them will Do The Right Thing and stop using directional fabric.

Anything we do to the ice, after the ice tech lets us on the ice is damaging to the ice. That includes walking, sliding and throwing stones but the worst culprits are brush heads or faceplates. Brushes/brooms need to be able move or remove debris but also impact the pebble to enable the rock to travel farther on its CURRENT path. Brushing/sweeping must not have a major impact on the pebble. It should not be able to have a large influence on the direction of the rock. Certainly they should not be able to slow rocks down.

On October 5th we conducted sweeping/brushing tests. We used our mechanical rock thrower that is capable of throwing nine rocks at a time with the same speed and rotation. We threw two rocks at a time. One was swept and the other was not to enable comparison of the results. We tested a number of combinations of heads from a number of manufacturers. The ice was level, no frost due to low humidity, good pebble and recently sanded rocks that would curl 6 feet if thrown with backline weight. Normal results were achieved with most faceplates/brush heads. Curl was reduced and distance increased. Subsequent throws produced slightly improved results until such time as the pebble was worn down.

When we started to test the heads/faceplates with “directional” cloth the results were surprising.
A rock that should have travelled to the tee line on its own and farther with sweeping, barely made it over the hog line. Rocks that had been curling 6 feet could be made to curl 7.5 to 8 feet. Rocks that had been curling 6 feet could be reduced to zero curl. By altering the sweeping technique to more of a snowplough stroke we achieved even more extreme alterations in direction. Rocks that should curl 6 feet could be backed up 4 feet against the curl. That is a change of 10 feet.
A rock that should curl 6 feet could be swept to a freeze with zero ice or broom given, even with draw weight, by combinations of making it fall and letting it curl.

In the attached videos; also pay attention to the rock on the left of the screen. It demonstrates how much the rock being swept should have curled and in which direction, as they were both thrown with the same turn and speed.

We sent copies of our videos to the organizations that have stewardship over curling. They are working, with numerous groups, toward creating changes and regulations to ensure curling continues to have a great reputation.

We knew these changes would take time. So we took matters into our own hands.

We purchased some material that has more abrasive lines in one direction than the other. That type of material has become known as “directional” because of the feel of the lines in one direction on the fabric, in addition to being able to hear the difference in their height when scratched with a finger nail in both directions on the fabric.  The curler has much more control on the direction of the rock with this fabric.  This tends to happen when you have a variance in the size of the warp and weft that shows up in a diamond pattern on the back of the cloth.

On October 8th and 9th a small supply of “Directional” faceplates, which we designed to fit our LiteSpeed broom, were delivered to a few teams. We provided some basic instructions on how to use them. We also suggested that they not use them unless their opponent intended to use “directional” heads. The purpose was to ensure teams using BalancePlus brooms could affect the path of the rock the same way that other teams were. Those “directional” faceplates did the job that we intended. Other teams were quick to complain. A meeting was called to discuss what brooms should be allowed. Other teams admitted to using directional heads/faceplates that gave them a considerable advantage for as much as 1.5 years. The teams we gave the directional BalancePlus faceplates to have been asked to return them. We don’t intend to make, sell, distribute or give away any more of those heads. Since then most of the elite teams, sponsored by all suppliers (some had been using “directional” heads for a long time, others just recently, and some not at all) are trying to get teams to sign an agreement to stop using “directional” heads.

For the teams that have not credited“directional” material with their improved success:  It will be interesting to see if those teams allow the roles to be reversed for the next two years, by starting to use non-directional faceplates and suggesting to the teams they are playing to use directional brush heads/faceplates against them that are as effective as the brooms they had been using prior to being exposed. Imagine if a successful Major League Baseball team was caught using “corked” bats. Not because it’s against the rules but because it is not the right thing to do.

Some may say that no equipment regulations or sweeping rules have been broken. Those people need to look at the first part of the rule book that talks about integrity. Basically; “do what is good for the game”. It is a complicated issue because there are no rules governing equipment. Teams and associations are concerned that other teams and even countries may still use “directional” heads against teams that are using conventional or non-directional heads.

Some things to watch for that will help you to determine if a team or curler is using a “directional” head:

  • There will be snow or ice on the cloth after sweeping even when there is no frost. That means the pebble is being eroded.
  • The team may have a selection of brooms that are changed or exchanged for specific shots. Remember the question asked on a TV broadcast recently “Where do you want the sharp one”?
  • Only one sweeper will be sweeping. The other will be watching even though the call is to sweep.
  • Draw shots that are heavy are being swept to slow them down.
  • Curlers sweeping on a variety of angles, especially snowploughing, to alter the direction of the rock.

If any of this sounds or looks familiar you are well on your way to knowing which brush heads/faceplates are directional and which curlers have been or are continuing to use them.

Equipment has evolved over the years. Until now, almost all changes have made the game of curling more enjoyable for the participants, viewers and sponsors. This “directional” equipment change has crossed the line. The elite players have put out some statements about how it affects them. But there are greater concerns. It is tarnishing the great reputation of our sport. All Olympic events will be reviewed after the 2018 Olympics. It is possible that the IOC would not want a sport that has one healthy athlete walking up and down the ice just carrying a broom and not using it while the skip is calling for sweeping but only one person sweeps. Everyone wants curling to continue to be an Olympic sport.

Curling has always been governed by a small rule book and a large amount of ethics and morals. Hopefully, that is still the case. Most of the rules do not have penalties which can make them challenging to enforce. It would be great if we can keep it that way. Why is it necessary to reinvent the wheel and create more rules to ensure sweeping is done in the manner that it should and to ensure “directional” heads are not used? Putting a compliance group together and doing all kinds of testing costs money. Sure those expenses could be spread out. But the money needs to come for somewhere. The associations and federations could contribute by reducing other programs. Manufacturers could carry the burden by reducing R&D budgets and/or increasing prices.

Manufacturers need the latitude to develop new products and technology. Future developments may also cross the line of being beneficial to the greater good of curling. But curlers, fans and sponsors will be the final judges regardless of how many rules are in place. Changes affect many levels all the way from Little Rockers to Olympians.

Scott Taylor, ChPC
President – BalancePlus
Level 3 Certified Curling Coach

Video 1 - negative curl (out turn)

Video 2 - freeze with zero ice given (out turn)

Note: the broom heads/faceplates in these videos are not for sale

 

 

 
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