A curling league is a competitive structure of curling competition that allows curling teams to compete against multiple other teams over the course of a season. Although this format of play exists in many small-scale recreational clubs, there are very few formal national or international curling "leagues."
That being said, there are many professional curling tournaments, known as "bonspiels," that allow many teams to compete over the course of a weekend. The word bonspiel itself may be derived from the Dutch words "bond" (league) and "spel" (game). Some bonspiels are also referred to as "cashspiels" if they offer a monetary prize for winners.
Bonspiels are put on regularly by big and small organizations in countries with typically cold winter climates; such as Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Scotland, Switzerland, the United States, and many other European countries. This is because bonspiels were traditionally held on lochs that would freeze over in the winter, although modern technology allows indoor ice rinks to host bonspiels throughout the calendar year. There are now over 60 member associations in the World Curling Federation from nations all across the world.
The most popular curling competitions are the Men's and Women's World Championships, although the Winter Olympic Games and other bonspiels can rival the World Championships in popularity. The World Curling Tour also provides long-term enjoyment for curlers and curling fans with numerous events across over half the calendar year.
The World Curling Tour is divided into separate events bonspiels and includes six to seven "Grand Slam" events, similar to the format of professional golf or tennis competitions. The biggest of these bonspiels is the Champions Cup, one of the last competitions included in the Tour.
Starting a curling league first requires starting or joining a curling club. As a growing sport, the expansion of curling is certainly happening all around the globe. The bonding and communal nature of curling overall promotes the spread of the sport to as many places as possible. For example, USA Curling encourages growth by providing free resources on how to create and grow a club through the World Curling Federation. The WCF has its own qualifications for the building, ice rink, and much more.
The most difficult part of starting a curling club is raising the funds to do so. The Potomac Curling Club Build, which was suggested by USA Curling as a good model for how to build a successful curling club, had over 2,000 members before trying to make a physical building club, which cost over $1 million for a four-sheet club.
Completing large amounts of paperwork and making sure the project managers are all on board are two more crucial components of getting a curling club off the ground. There are a lot of permits that need to be in place, as well as a large consistent time commitment from multiple people.
Once the club is up and running, organizing structured competitions and collecting entry fees are the only steps left to making a league!
Because curling competitions generally take the form of tournaments or bonspiels, these are often played over the course of a weekend. Competitions that are part of longer events, such as the Olympics, can take about a week or 10 days to complete, depending on the event's scale of competition.
The World Curling Tour, a rolling league that includes about 50 events per year (for the men's discipline alone) and events spanning around 40 weeks, from August to May. Each of these events has a purse for the winners, but similarly to golf, some players may choose not to compete in smaller events. There are also women's and mixed doubles competitions on the World Curling Tour that follow similar calendars with slightly fewer events.
Lower-level curling leagues will have shorter seasons, with length of competition varying based on breadth of competition-although the general time frame for curling competitions is inside fall to spring. The World Curling Tour Grand Slam bonspiels typically take place between October and April.
This is due to the high costs of operating a club on the organization's end. Curling equipment is very expensive to supply, as stones, brooms, and other items have to be specially made for curling. The ice itself also has to be painted in the correct manner for curling use. Renting ice time itself can also be very expensive, depending on the location.
Players may also be required to purchase their own equipment, depending on the club. The best professional players may make enough money through curling to fund their own clubs and/or equipment, but most clubs often rely solely on fees and donations from amateurs to run their leagues and tournaments.
The World Curling Tour is the premier yearly competition for curling. The World Curling Tour includes several Grand Slam events for both men's and women's competitions that have larger payouts of over $100,000 each.
Another popular international curling competition is the World Championships, which include separate competitions for men's, women's, mixed, mixed doubles, junior's, senior's, and wheelchair curling teams. In world championships, teams from different nations compete in Swiss-style tournaments to determine winners.
Separate national championships exist in nations throughout the world for many levels of skill, gender, and age. These are hosted by national curling federations.
One esteemed curling competition is the Brier (currently branded as the Tim Hortons Brier), the Canadian men's curling championship. Although it is only a national competition, the Brier often draws larger crowds than World Championships-even though the winner of the Brier moves on to the World Championships. The women's counterpart is known as the Tournament of Hearts.
Other notable curling competitions include the Winter Olympic Games (played every four years), the Manitoba Curling Association Bonspiel, and the Grand Match in Scotland.