Join the nationwide celebration
Curling Day in Canada

Hog line violation

Ian Hamilton

January 23, 2022

When I was 15 years old , in 1966, I was on the high school curling team in Hinton, a small town 50 miles east of Jasper. We had a terrific coach who tried to match us up against adult competition whenever he could. We won the local men’s league championship one year and he liked to take myself and his son (who was the skip) along with him and any other adult along to men’s bonspiels. One of them was the Kamloops Men’s bonspiel that was held in Kamloops in the spring and often had 150+ entires! Curlers like world champion Lyle Dagg and many others often showed up for the week of curling at the Kamloops club and the local arena. We were pumped because, not only did we get to miss school, but we were going to take the train to Kamloops! (Hard to fathom in this day and age I know)

Those were the days of unpredictable ice, straw brooms and the “hog line” rule, which prohibited ANY part of your body sliding over the hog line. It was designed to prevent curlers from trying to slide down the entire sheet (among other things). Being young and adventurous, we always “walked the line” when we curled; sliding out to the extremes and doing everything but actually crossing the hogline. There were nohogline judges, or the fancy rock handle systems we see today. It was an honour system and there were no exceptions!

We ended up playing a team of “older gentlemen” in one came. In retrospect, it was difficult to say how old they were, as a 16 year old lens re-examined 60 yrs later is “fuzzy” at best. This is when I witnessed perhaps the unique hogline system I’ve ever seen. It involved smoke.

Like all young “whippersnappers” we did the obligatory pre game sliding and because no rocks were involved, we slid far over the hog line. Our coach and the other team were quite content to slide 3/4 of the way to the hog line. Then the game began. When I went to throw my first rock I noticed two of the opposition gentlemen sitting on the bench by the nearest hogline puffing on cigars. (Those were the days of smoking and ashtrays (of assorted types) in and on the curling rink. As I slid out with my rock and got close to the hog line, a huge pall of blue smoke came from the bench. It was so big, it looked like it had the potential to give me lung cancer on the spot! My vision was impaired for a brief second and then I heard “you little *###$’s keep away from the line” . I looked up and both gentlemen were laughing. I actually was amused as well.

This hog line monitoring system continued for the whole game, as whenever my friend and I came close, a cloud of purple, rancid “white owl” smoke would belch from the bench. I must say, it was effective, but I have never seen it since that day. Today, we just have to make sure we release the rock in time. No more “smoke bombs”!