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Beyond the Basics: Curling Bonspiels

You recently took up the sport of curling and have several months of play under your belt this season. In last week’s game, you hit the broom nearly 25% of the time, and you now know the difference between a guard and a hit. Can it get much better than this?

2009 Men's Bonspiel Virden Curling Club 2009 Men's Bonspiel
Photo Courtesy of Virden Curling Club

Of course it can! Consider entering a bonspiel! A bonspiel is simply a curling competition, involving several teams, that runs for a single day or over a period of several days. The Brier could be considered the Grand Poobah of bonspiels for Canadian men: provincial champions meet for a week of intense competition to crown a Canadian champion who then goes on to represent Canada at the world curling championships.

But I assure you: you do not need to aim as high as the Brier or the Scotties! Virtually every curling club hosts multiple bonspiels throughout the season which are open to anyone wishing to pay the fee to enter.

Here are but three reasons why you should consider entering a bonspiel.

  1. Facing New Challenges: There is nothing that improves your game like playing against teams you have not met before. Consider this typical scenario: your Tuesday night team has come up against opposition skip Bill and his team every draw over the last three years and you’ve beaten them virtually every time. But who is that John Doe at the other end of the ice? Can he outwit, out-strategize and out-play your team? Is he the next Tiger Woods of curling? It is the thrill of the unknown. Throw those rocks, sweep like mad, and see who emerges victorious!

  2. Learning to Adapt: Playing on ice other than that at your home club can be an eye opener. For example, why is it that the leg drive that places your rock nice and tight to the top of the rings at your home club brings your rock all the way to the hack here at ABC Curling Club? You will quickly discover that you and your team will have
    Calgary Sports and Social Club Comic Con bonspiel Oct 2012 Calgary Sports and Social Club
    Comic Con Funspiel Oct 2012

    to adapt to conditions that are different than those under which you are accustomed to playing, and whoever figures the ice out first will typically have an advantage in the game.

  3. Having Fun: Bonspiels are fun (or at least they should be)! Playing well always feels good but it’s not only about winning – you are NOT going to win every time out. Your entry fee will cover the cost of the games you play and possibly a meal or snacks. There may even be a prize (or a booby prize!). Let’s be serious, though: prizes are not so big that you would contemplate giving up your day job in order to join the curling club bonspiel circuit.

There are many ways to find out which bonspiels are hosted by different curling club. Ask others that curl at your club about bonspiels that they have played in. There is likely a binder, clipboard or bulletin board at your club that holds a stack of flyers from area clubs inviting you to enter their events. Many curling associations also have sections on their website where you can search for bonspiels in your area (and perhaps even beyond it).

What if you are open to a bonspiel but there rest of your regular team is not? Not to worry! Although there may be restrictions on team composition for competitions that lead to provincial and national playdowns, there are typically no (or very limited) restrictions on club level bonspiels. Normally, it's fine even if all four players come from different clubs. Of course, if you’re not sure, just call and ask!

There is a bonspiel out there for everyone: men, women, open (i.e. comprised of any combination of both men and women), all ages (from little rocks up to seniors), and even events for those who throw using a “stick”.

TCA Goldline Men's Bonspiel

TCA Goldline Men's Bonspiel 2012If you happen to live in the Greater Toronto area, one of the men’s bonspiels that you should consider entering is the TCA Goldline Men’s Bonspiel! This event is now in its 118th year and nearly 300 teams in 3 divisions (open, senior and senator) register to play every year (with any luck, we can break the 300 mark this season!).

This year’s event runs from January 12, 2013, through January 19, 2013, with finals to be played at Richmond Hill Curling Club. Registration deadline is December 5, so sign up now.

You can enter at and detailed information is available at

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