Scoring an eight-ender. It’s a curler’s dream. It is harder to accomplish than a golfer’s hole in one, due to all the factors in play. Likewise it is harder than a dart player or an archer firing eight bullseyes in a row.
Brady Waffle didn’t want to say anything when he saw the factors starting to align, in a recent match up at the Quesnel Curling Club. His rink mates – wife Jamie Waffle, Penny Yamamoto and husband Shane Yamamoto – also kept their mouths shut. Some superstitions aren’t worth testing, in the heat of competition. You don’t utter the word “shutout” when a goalie is blanking the opposition, you don’t say “no hitter” when a pitcher is sitting down every batter, the cast and crew won’t say “Macbeth” while producing Shakespeare’s classic Scottish play, and you never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table. There’ll be time enough for counting and recounting when the dealin’s done.
But the rest of the curling club was taking notice and keeping an eye on things, and when it was indeed over, even their opponents set aside competitive emotions to marvel at what just happened. They even took the pictures of the foursome with all their yellow rocks in position.
For those unfamiliar with the sport, each curling game is comprised of eight to 10 ends (the equivalent of an inning). In each end, teams of four take turns sliding eight rocks per side down the ice, trying to get as many as possible inside the house (the target at the far end) and ideally as close to the button (the bullseye) as possible. The strategy includes deliberately letting some rocks fall short, to block the opponents’ next rocks, while sliding some rocks particularly hard to bang your opponents’ rocks out of the way.
When all 16 rocks have been handled (two rocks per player), the points are given to the team with the most rocks inside the house, but only measured in a radius from the button to the first opposing rock in the house.
“Laying eight” or achieving a “snowman” happens when one team somehow gets all eight of their stones inside the house without a single opponent’s stone between your first and last of the eight.
Waffle, the team’s skip, said he once laid seven at a match in Wells, but this was the first time in his 30 years of curling that he had ever accomplished the complete snowman.
It was as much to do with his opponents’ bad luck, he said, as it was anything he and his teammates did. “They were hitting our rocks, but instead of pushing them out, they just got bumped deeper, and then their rock would roll out,” Waffle said.
He stressed that it was only one end. You can quite possibly have an eight-ender and lose the game, or theoretically have the other team score one on you the very next end. It’s a democratic sport that way.
In true Canadian fashion, the Waffle rink kept the feat to themselves, not wanting to disrespect their opponents, but word got out. The event was a treat for the curling fan, however, and anything that shows curling in a positive light is a good thing in Waffle’s eyes. He is on the local curling association’s board and is hopeful the local numbers will climb, coming out of pandemic lockdowns.
For people wanting some recreation out of the house, curling is a sport that has a lot of built-in welcome for those who have never or rarely tried it.
“Friday nights is a fun league. We have music playing, everything is casual, we go for drinks afterwards because it’s a Friday, and that seems to be growing, and that’s where people will come from for moving into other nights of the week as people develop their skills and get to know each other,” he said. “The ice conditions here are just excellent. It used to be just Prince George would get recognized for ice conditions, but now, here, teams from the coast and Kamloops and other places are coming in and the feedback is our ice is really good.”
The ice maker is Dave Plant, who is also the Quesnel Curling Club’s coordinator. Contact him, said Waffle, if you’ve ever wanted to try curling out (250-992-5813). He can arrange a dry run for you, and knows a lot of the team details if people need spare players. Beginners are encouraged.
Perhaps one day, you, too might find the rocks rubbing the right way for an eight-ender.
The odds of it happening to a curler are difficult to fathom. It’s not like the hole in one scenario where as soon as a golfer hits the ball, it is either in or it’s not. According to Golf Digest, the odds of a hole in one are 12,000 to one.
One could find out, as CBC did in 2011 when it happened in Ontario, that it occurred in that province about 37 times a year among their sanctioned clubs. There are about 200 clubs in Ontario. Knowing how many ends got played per club per year is imprecise, but the number is huge.
Besides, that would only give you the odds of it being seen by an omniscient audience. That calculation does not drill into all the factors involved in any given curling team getting set to slide their first rock at the start of any given end: eight players, 16 rocks thrown in alternating fashion, rocks that hit each other, curl around each other, sail through, come up short, all potentially about to get moved by the following rock, protectionism, aggression, sweeping, counterattacking… it’s like trying to compare checkers to Texas Hold’em, or a raffle to the 6-49 lottery. The variables are staggering.
The most famous eight-ender to date was when Team Switzerland scored one against Team Denmark – both rinks listed in the global Top 20 – during the 2021 World Women’s Curling Championship held in Calgary. It is the only snowman ever accomplished in either the men’s or women’s world championships.
Curling Canada, via Curl BC, officially recognizes an eight-ender with commemorative pins and certificates, if the immaculate snowman occurred under a member club’s auspices. Quesnel is a member club.