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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Broomapalooza - part 2


I never thought #Broomgate – or #Broomgazzi – or #Broomapalooza would get the attention that it is getting. This is crazy. I hear it is going to be on CBC national news tonight. Seriously.

I wrote a blog last week calling bullshit on a lot of this – in my usual friendly, joking tone. And it has gone crazy since. I feel the need to write a bit more, especially because I think some of the parties involved ARE NOT acting in good faith, and this seems like the case of one company trying to put another company out of business.

If you are offended by the term BULLSHIT, I suggest that you stop reading now, because I use it about 100 times in this post. There is an industrial level of Bullshit being generated on this discussion, very little of it fact-based, and a lot of it coming from parties that have a direct financial incentive to skew the debate one way.

So let’s talk about a few things:


Here is what I can tell you, as a longtime Hardline user, and a reasonably knowledgeable curler.
Hardline Fabric is NOT DIRECTIONAL. You can talk about the abrasiveness of the fabric – but there are no lines that direct the rock one way or another. Although I have never seen the BP version, I hear that if you rub it one way – it feels different than the other way. So I guess the shag carpet in my parents’ basement would be directional fabric. Or the brush I use to get dog hair off my suit jacket.  A Hardline is not. If you are saying it is – I call BULLSHIT. Show me proof.

I will tell you what I know from experience. A brand new Hardline performs differently until it is worn in. I think this has more to do with the way it fits on the head, or the malleability of the foam. But a brand new Hardline is not particularly effective as a broom. It gets wet. You usually have a bit of snow on the edges. It is not very effective at making a draw go further (which as a skip, is kind of something that I like!). I don’t think it SLOWS DOWN THE ROCK, but I can’t say I have really ever tried. If you are telling me that you can slow a rock down with a new Hardline – I call BULLSHIT. Show me proof.

Here is a pic of a used Hardline head (although admittedly it was was used by an aging skip sweeping 6 feet at a time).

You can see that the edges wear first (note the darkish ring). I think this is what causes the sharpness at the beginning. The “direction” of the fabric has nothing to do with it.

According to my current sweepers, and my longtime lead Mike Kennedy (no – not Mark Kennedy) – the “sharpness’ usually lasted about half a game – then they would return to “normal” and perform like a typical curling broom. I suspect that this sharpness likely makes them a bit more abrasive, so therefore one sweeper using a new head and corner sweeping against the curl could probably make a rock fall. I guess this is the “joystick” effect that everyone is talking about. To be honest, I have seen the same effect with other pads – like Norway pads or even Performance pads do when they are brand new. It is what we used to call “good sweeping”. I suspect that the players have seen this too, as competitive teams playing with Performance-type heads change heads pretty much every game, if not more often to have this effect.

My teams have never really benefited much form this effect with the Hardlines - because we did not see it as a benefit. Maybe I am old fashioned, but I like my sweepers to be able to drag a rock further when I am drawing against 3 in the first end, as opposed to holding a hit straight. I am sure McEwen and Caruthers probably like the fact that they could hold a hit well with a Hardline, but not sure they would always use brand new heads for this reason.  

Gushue took it to another level this year. They allegedly switched pads on different types of shots (although I did not notice in the game I played against them). They would have a brand new "sharp" head on a hit and roll – so they could better manoeuvre the rock with a “sharp” head. I never saw him sweeping to slow a rock down. They switched to older “normal” pads on draws so that they could actually be effective. I agree this seems to be taking things a bit far. So okay – let’s ban the practice of switching heads between shots. One head per game! I think this rule would impact all of ONE team.

As I mentioned, I played Gushue at Cornwall. I did not see his rocks doing anything that unusual. I did not notice if he switched heads. But if people are freaking out – then fine – let’s accommodate with that rule. Let’s ban switching broomheads within a game. He is the only guy doing this anyway.
But should we all agree to ban Hardlines altogether because Gushue pushed the envelope? BULLSHIT.

Balance Plus

So Balance Plus comes out with the Blackhead Directional broom of death that basically destroys the ice to prove a point. People have been sending me the videos of them fudging a rock around the ice – and then say “Hey Mike – here is proof that we should ban Hardlines”. BULLSHIT.

That is like showing me a video of the Atomic Bomb at Heroshima and saying “look at this video – therefore we should ban all firecrackers!” BULLSHIT.

Balance Plus and Team Howard are also shamefully sending emails to their entire curling address book saying that nobody should use or sell Hardlines. (I had it forwarded to me by a friend of mine in Ontario) Call me crazy – but isn’t that libel? I am no lawyer – but maybe you guys should think about that before hitting “send” next time. Especially when you have a direct financial benefit in having your competitors’ products banned. 

I do not accept the impartiality of Balance Plus or their representatives in this discussion. They are shameless broom peddlers, using nefarious smearing tactics to trash one of their competitors and try to put them out of business. Shame on you guys. Stop it! 

They are working to put Archie and Stan out of business, plain and simple - and are getting pretty close to accomplishing their goal. If this stream of bullshit results in a wider ban, or an official rule change, then Hardline is done - and we will all have to switch back to Goldlines or Balance Plusses.

If anyone believes this “integrity of the game” bullshit they are peddling to try to get this accomplished, then my sister has some lovely swampland to sell you in Florida. (BTW my sister really is a Real Estate Agent in Florida – if anyone is looking for a winter condo J

There are some big dollars at stake for the parties involved here – so keep that in mind when you read anything (including this!).


The letter signed by 22 teams is a bit too much for me. Talk about a witch hunt! By my count, out of the 22 teams that signed, 4 are Hardline teams: Laycock, Gushue, McEwen and Caruthers. The other 18 teams basically signed a letter that said YES, “I think we should ban my competitor’s brooms!” The fact that they lumped Hardline in with that Balance Plus MONSTROSITY is BULLSHIT.
And now Balance Plus has put out a Press Release calling Directional Fabric the end of curling as we know it – and saying that Hardlines need to be banned. And for fun they also imply that the Hardline teams have won because of the Directional Fabric.
If I were Mike McEwen or Reid Caruthers, I would be seriously offended by a press release that basically implied that they have won last year because they cheated. I call BULLSHIT here too.

Don’t ask me to sign a Bullshit letter saying that I will play the game with integrity and not use Directional Fabric. 
I always play the game with integrity. And I am pretty sure Reid and Brad and Mike would say the same thing.

If I believed I was cheating by using the Hardlines, I would not use them. I do not need a letter to say that, but thanks Nolan.

So what am I going to do?

Okay – first of all, anyone who ever questions my integrity in this sport can GFY (anybody who wants to know what that stands for can write to me personally!). I have played the game honestly for as long as I have played. If you want to accuse me of cheating – say it to my face. I dare you.

That being said, I like Hardlines. Not because they manoeuvre rocks in some mysterious way, but because they do what a good curling broom is supposed to do: drag my rocks further on draws and hold hits straight when I need it. They are light and fast. I would very much like to keep sweeping with them without being labelled a cheater.

Some teams are saying if you turn a Hardline pad inside-out, then they are okay. In other words they are less effective, but still pretty effective. I think that is what Caruthers and McEwen are doing this weekend in Manitoba – but not sure. My team tried it, and was not enthused with the feel.

I will be playing David Murdoch next week in Gatineau in my first game, who I believe signed the letter. I will be playing with my Hardlines one way or another. Maybe inside out - maybe not.

What has to happen next?

1. IMPARTIAL TESTING!!! The bullshit to facts ratio in this debate is 1000:1 right now. Maybe Curling Canada needs to step in, and please involve the manufacturers. Let’s get some facts before we change rules, or submit to bans. Please do not send me more bullshit videos of magic brooms. The fact that you can put a piece of sandpaper on a stick and destroy the ice to make a rock fall is not proof of anything, other than you have too much time on your hands.

2. Can we stop trying to put Hardline out of business? Archie and Stan set out to make a better broom, not an illegal one. They do not deserve the treatment they are getting. They are not cheaters. They are not scam artists. Can Richard Hart and Team Howard and Balance Plus stop putting out emails calling for Archie and Stan’s head on a stake? Let’s take a deep breath and remember that nobody is trying to ruin curling here.

Last point -

I really hate writing blog posts like this. 
I like writing fun, pithy stories about curling. This is no fun. I am writing this because I believe that Archie and Stan are getting screwed in this broomgate - broomgazzi bullshit. I can’t sit on the sidelines here. 

Plus now I feel like if I show up and play next week in Gatineau with my Hardlines, people are going to point and say “cheater”! I just can’t stand the hypocrisy of it all.

You can say that I am biased – and of course I am. Arch and Stan have been very good to me and my teams (both Mixed and Men's) over the past few years.  But all I am appealing for is for facts and reason to dictate the terms of this discussion, not BULLSHIT and smear tactics. 

btw I  NEVER delete any comments from the section below except for spam - so have at me!


  1. What can I possibly add to this post? Nothing. The actions of BalancePlus and its sponsored teams is obviously a concerted effort at misinformation, intended to remove Hardline from the curling landscape. How ironic that the BalancePlus press release mentioned how curling has always been governed by ethics and morals. They obvious have none.

  2. Thank you, Mike. You have put in words what I have been thinking. When introducing the BS broom, which was never intended to be sold/used, Balance Plus acted in bad faith. Unfortunately, I have just placed an order for our club store, that includes quite a few BP items. In fact, I just purchased a pair of shoes from them. Unless this Broomgate comes to a fair conclusion (by an independent party), I will try to avoid purchasing any BP products for the club or myself, and will discourage members from doing so. I know it's not really going to hurt them, but it's the only thing I can do for now.

  3. Hey Mike,

    In no way do I speak for everyone on the listed teams or have I been the sole person responsible for starting this debate. All this has ever been about is a call to action for our governing bodies to perform meaningful, and I agree independent, testing of all curling equipment so that everyone knows that there is a level playing field. At what point is technology too much and at what point do the athletes on the ice determine the outcome. That's all we want, a definition. All sports have came to a technological advancement age and in all of those situations it has created the need for regulations. We think ours are at that point. Nothing more, nothing else. I would welcome a conversation with you regarding the players perspective when we are in Gatineau, as you named me directly in your post and seem very heated. I challenge you to find one place where we determined or called anyone a cheater. I would love to chat as long as we agree that it is a level headed conversation about all of the topics at hand and not a debate fueled by anger.


    1. I am heartened to see Nolan's post. He responds with equanimity to your bluster not to mention your implied threat of violence. I.e. "Tell it to my face. If you dare."

      Your post by contrast to his has done nothing to further a solution. Instead for reasons that are your own you have gone out of your way to be as inflammatory as possible in a situation that hardly needs gasoline added. Proof that you have spectacularly failed to understand how media works. How the reputation of a sport is perceived by the general public. And how easy it is to damage said reputation when suchlike situations spin wildly out of control.

      Finally. You are logically inconsistent on the only question at hand. Not much of a surprise given the emotional nature of your outburst. I.e. You rightly point out that there has been little to no testing by which to prove that HL brooms offer an unfair advantage. You then go on to say that this absence of proof is proof that they do not. Hardly a compelling argument.

      What is needed in this situation is a breathing period where all of the affected athletes feel that the issue is being seriously and fairly addressed. This is what is happening.

      In this period the WCFAC has put out a very fair and balanced statement. As has Team Canada. A statement that has so far received the endorsement of the very creme de la creme of curling. Not to mention the very best curlers using HL brooms.

      I will leave those at BP and those who use BP products to respond to your invective should they choose to. All I will say is that impugning the integrity of Team Howard is sure to boomerang on you. These players have been around far too long and their reputation for integrity is far too well established for you to do any harm to anyone but yourself by such ill considered words.

    2. 998, 999, 1000. OK, I have cooled down enough to reply!

      Hello Nolan,
      I enjoy watching your curling and appreciate that you are an opinion leader in the sport of curling right now.
      I have to take exception to your position regarding the (contrived) broom head controversy. I
      ts time for the Balance Plus sponsored teams and players to admit they have a financial incentive to support Balance Plus.
      Its time for these same athletes to be crystal clear regarding their position re the Hardline icePad.
      So Nolan - be straight with us - do you support the banning of the Hardline icePad. Yes or no.
      Full disclosure - I know and admire the Hardline crew. I am not sponsored but have used their product for the last 4 years, and recommended its use at several National Seniors and Masters championships. I agree that the icePad can effect the running of the rock for the first game and would support the use of "broken in" icePads. After the first game, they are simply superior to all other brooms without the referred to directional capabilities.
      Lawren Steventon

  4. Thanks Nolan. Did not mean to call you out - I get that you were just the guy who wrote it down! I also get what the players want - and I understand the need for the letter - and I think we are on the same page. I am more heated about some of the stuff going on behind the scenes behind the scenes.
    We can definitely chat in Gatineau! I look forward to it - I will buy the beer.
    I don't do anger-fueled debating!

  5. Mike, great blog and though I'm from BC I think you're bang on with your assessment of what's happening. I play vice for the Stephen Schneider team out of Vancouver (although I live in Vernon ). Our front end uses the HL Icepad and Stephen and I Furgale brush heads on Transformer shafts.

    The HL is an effective sweeping tool but does nothing along the lines that are being claimed. The BP videos are a joke. At 54 I snowplowed like Kelly Sterne with my first Midwestern Gowsell brush back in 1979. I could corner sweep, dump debris and make a rock curl, run straight and even lose its turn on a slow handle.

    It's not so much the broom as the technique but not allowing head changes during a game makes sense. After all, you can't switch back and forth with corn and brush so you shouldn't be allowed to switch brush heads either.

    This past weekend while competing in Kamloops I watched two BC teams accuse the Korean men of cheating with their brooms because of the hype around this non issue. In each case the locals lost and in each case I saw the Koreans do nothing different in their sweeping than the teams they were beating.

    Broomgate, an apropos term, is getting out of hand. Thanks for bring another sane voice calling for calm and proper evaluation of all the issues.
    Jamie Sexton
    Vernon BC

  6. Beeing a small guy in the game of curling, sitting in Sweden, I do like to share the views of the establishment. I have also developed "non Cordura Pads" for my fellow players, though not yet commercially available. They rely on the soft chemical interaction that brings the water molecules to vibrate in a longitudal way on top of the pebbles. Any abrasive action(from the contact surface) will interfere with this "layer" forming effect, so massive mechanical impact will be hard to handle for the team ! Any brooms acting the abrasive way will "sanitize" themselves from the market, so no worries. best regards, Hans in Leksand

  7. "You rightly point out that there has been little to no testing by which to prove that HL brooms offer an unfair advantage. You then go on to say that this absence of proof is proof that they do not. Hardly a compelling argument."

    I hate this garbage. Innocent until proven guilty. Period.

    Also, who is to say that brand new Norway and EQ+ pads aren't just as bad if not worse when the same sweeping techniques are applied.

    I just ordered a Hardline broom and hope Balance Plus gets slammed by other market participants.

  8. Should we start a public shaming campaign against BalancePlus? I also feel like we need to expose them for their bullying behavior, and for knowingly introducing a product that damages the ice.

  9. so....Balance Plus has the best interest of the game at heart....I give you the teams that lost to their one-off experimental brushes at the StuSells......StuSells Junoir Champs,Bailey,McEwen,Bice,Carruthers,Jacobs.......did BP give a second thought to these curlers who paid their entry like everyone else? Or were they considered collateral damage in their experiment??

  10. ....fwiw Team Carey is Hardline (and some of the other 22 teams that signed on later). And, of course I'm sure they'll look at the Norway heads, EQ and the others. Personally I'm not a fan of what BP did. And if you don't like what they did, strongly...then, don't buy their stuff. Simple. However, I think most all of us curlers try to conduct ourselves fairly, rationally and prudently on the ice. It's what the spirit of curling is about. When in doubt....try to find the middle ground and/or default to the safest option. It's what avoids lots of hard feelings and maintains most all of the important facets of our sport.

    So, in this instance...I'm not sure why we have to dig in and take 'Guilty till proven Innocent' or 'Innocent till proven guilty' stances? I think the Norway heads and the EQ's, for the most part, kept an overtly acceptable shape, pad and grit and it wasn't a big change (rightly or wrongly)...and sweepers used them the same way as 'normal heads'. Hardline came up with a completely different structure and sweepers (like Gushue) started showing that 2 sweepers somehow would have a negative effect on the rock and were sweeping one, etc....and it's a drastic change. I see why Hardline is upset...But, I don't see why they (and we) don't all default to the safe route for a bit and let this play out to have some kind of standards/thresholds in place. If they've done all their testing and there's not ice damage....then they're good right? Seems like business will boom.

    I've seen some of their vid's and I've seen the broom at my club (and will take a look at it tonight as well again). The only time I've touched it....there was zero give (like pure plastic under pad cover). I get they have 'less grit'....but, they do say in their promo's that it's a 'secret fabric'...but, if it's a really hard surface and one can sweep faster doesn't it seem logical that it will wear the top of the pebble down faster? I have no idea. I get it doesn't 'score'....but, if Gushue is only using one sweeper on a freeze....what are the physics here?

    So, if we are talking about the 'good of the game' from elite to club level, then it's 100% rational to step back a bit and nip these issues in the bud...get to a perceived level playing field now and get a threshold in place as soon a possible.

    I'll put most of blame the WCF, WCT and Curl Canada and other governing bodies for not being more proactive about equipment issues. While all involved are stewards of the game: players, ice crews, sponsors, equipment makers, etc...they governing bodies can't take that for granted and let 'lord of the flies' rule the day and then jump in late. Seems like take a deep breath here and just let it go for a spell. The players did....and everyone taking sides in a week isn't going to help the sport any.

  11. Just a quick follow-up here. If 'directional' is defined as a pad having a 'grain' that that varies abrasiveness in different angles of pad orientation....then Hardline IcePads are MOST CERTAINLY DIRECTIONAL (contrary to your assertion). Having lines that 'direct' the stone is not the point. Balance plus apparently created one that was really abrasive....but it is the same concept as the IcePad. I ran my fingernail over it tonight at the club and it's most certainly a fine grit sandpaper in one 45 degree direction and nearly smooth in the other. Now that corner sweeping is allowed....Gushue and others are proving that there can be a significant advantage to using sandpaper on a hard (pretty inflexible) plastic head....as opposed to using the cordura on flexible foam.

    In your first blog entry on the subject...I'm not sure why you didn't address John Benton's rational first-hand experience comment on what he and the US Curling Association found when they sat down and tested this head. Given your what you've written....why didn't you simply call BS on him directly? And while Nolan states that you called him out directly and seemed heated....I can't find his name anywhere (so, maybe you edited that out once he called you out?)

    Anyway, what we have here is a detente between players that KNOW there are at least 2 DIRECTIONAL pads out there....and have agreed let some type of commission gather data and make a ruling on it. Abrasiveness and ice wear will be part of that discussion. Great, BP went over-the-top to prove something....don't you think they could find a less abrasive fabric? likely. What if it's 10% more abrasive than HL instead of 30% (or whatever)....it's not the point. It's simply time to figure it out and come up with a direction on the matter (exactly what Nolan said). The players that play the game and play it well....have 'gotten it'. Not sure why it's gotten a lot of people here so irked?

  12. Hello again. First of all I want to clarify that the testing I mentioned was not done by or for USA Curling. Our team just did some work to know what we were dealing with. The stories we had heard were very anecdotal and we needed to see for ourselves. I really think that the discussion has gone WAY OFF THE MARK here. I don't like the way this was handled by anyone and I am dissappointed that Governing Bodies have not given a stronger response on independent testing.


    The elephant in the room here is not really about the fabric or about whether it damages the ice, etc. The biggest question is whether any broom significantly affects the "accepted physics" of the game. Based on the BP video, it appears that it IS possible to create a brush that CAN do this. Whether the HL broom, or any other broom for that matter, falls in this category has yet to be defintively proven. But the mere fact that it CAN be done is what the players are rightly concerned about and the governing bodies should be leading the way on this on behalf of the players.