Broomgate - Illegal Brush Heads
Fall 2015: The time when the s%#t hit the fan as they say. Broomgate. Brushageddon. Broomhaha. Lots of names, lots of speculation, lots of finger pointing, and lots of confusion.
The foundation for this uproar in the curling world started last season, at least at the elite level. This is when a few top teams switched to Hardline brushes. These were some great teams, who happened to have great seasons, but as the year went on there was more and more talk about how their shots were reacting compared to other team's. They seemed to get by more guards than their opponents. They seemed to hold some hits straighter than it looked like they would be able to half way down the sheet. They seemed to make their rock occasionally fall in a spot where you thought it should be curling.
How was this possible? Well, there are many theories, and there is testing by various federations and associations taking place now, but the main idea is that the fabric on some brush heads is scratching the ice and guiding the rock down the sheet.
Fast forward to the beginning of this season. Several more teams switched to Hardline, and many non-Hardline teams found fabric that acted in a similar fashion. It all came to a head in October at a spiel in Toronto. This is when BalancePlus introduced it's own head that had the ability to manipulate the curl of a stone, only to a much larger degree. Rocks acted in ways that seemed impossible, both with extra curl or negative curl (falling). The game had suddenly reached a point where it was clear that something had to be done to regulate equipment because things were getting out of hand. Curling was no longer about throwing a good stone with regards to line and weight, and guiding it to it's final target. It was now about throwing it in the general ballpark and then sweeping it at the right time, in the right direction, to make the shot.
Stories have changed about the reasons why rocks are acting this way or that, directional fabric, coated materials, and stiffening plates are all terms that are being used. These are up for debate depending on who you talk to on what day, but as I said earlier, the main idea is that tiny scratches are being made in the ice, and depending on how a rock is swept, these scratches make rocks react in ways thought to go against the understood physics of what a curling rock should do.
I won't get into the back and forth between companies about who was right or wrong, or what their motivations were in any of this. It's probably going to get uglier before it's all settled, and there will probably be lawyers involved between companies and federations.
On November 18th, 2015 the World Curling Federation (WCF) issued a moratorium on certain materials and brush design features. Essentially they banned certain products from being used during championship events for the remainder of the season. There are more details in the report (which can be found here: http://www.worldcurling.org/brush-head-technology... but essentially coated fabrics, or brushes with hard material under the cloth are not legal for competition this year. In other words, the BalancePlus EQ+ pad, designed for the BalancePlus LiteSpeed Brush, and the Hardline Icepad can't be used. Homemade brush heads are also banned.
BalancePlus has already switched production of their EQ+ pad to a material that is compliant with the current rules. Hardline has also begun production of a new cover that will be allowed, or the current Hardline heads can be used if the plastic insert is removed and the fabric is turned inside out.
The WCF and other associations are not releasing any names of companies that have approved or disapproved products, probably for legal reasons, but at this time it appears that these are the only two major products affected by the ruling. I will try to keep tabs on this and update as needed. If you happen to have one of these products and plan to play in any kind of championship make sure you do some checking, and feel free to give me a call and I will let you know any information I have on the situation.