Tanya Huntley recalls a childhood in Ontario filled with lively tournaments of Crokinole—a Canadian board game in which players flick small chips toward the highest-ranking region on an octagonal board.
Crokicurl—an ice sport that combines Crokinole with curling—adapts the popular board game to a circular or octagonal ice rink, where two opposing teams (comprising one or two players) glide curling stones toward the center of the ice.
Once Huntley—now special event coordinator for the City of Maple Grove—heard about crokicurl’s growing popularity up North, she knew she had to share it with Minnesota recreationists. And last winter, she did—pushing Maple Grove Parks and Recreation to build the first crokicurl rink in the state of Minnesota.
“Already this year, people have been asking, ‘Are you bringing that crokicurl thing back?” Huntley says with a laugh. (Spoiler alert: She is!)
Construction of a crokicurl rink, similar to any ice rink, depends heavily on the weather—is it cold enough to freeze several layers of ice?—but given the freezing temperatures of late, Huntley estimates it will be ready by early January. Families are then encouraged to stop by Central Park (12000 Central Park Way, Maple Grove) at any time to give the sport a try. Curling rocks, and brooms for sweeping away snow, will be available for public use—free of charge. Though last year’s equipment was DIY—using wheels from lacrosse nets in place of curling rocks—this year, they upgraded to new curling rocks.
“Some people think that curling is really hard, that you have to be super balanced or athletic,” Huntley says. “But this is not like curling. … It’s more fun.”
At the commencement of every game, each team receives four rocks. Each colored zone in the rink indicates a different number of points: 20 points for the center circle, 15 for the red zone, 10 for the white, five for blue, and zero if you glide your rock with a little too much force, and it goes outside of the circle. After four rounds, the team with the most points wins.
The sport will also be part of Maple Grove’s Wonders of Winter celebration from 1–4 p.m. on February 4, which also includes horse-drawn wagon rides, bonfires with s’mores, kicksledding and snowshoeing.
SLIDING THROUGH THE STATES
Though Maple Grove’s crokicurl rink is the first in Minnesota, it’s certainly not the first in the country. The sport was first introduced in 2017, after Liz Wreford and her team at Public City Architecture in Winnipeg played Crokinole, and they thought: Why don’t we try to adapt this to an outdoor sport? They drafted up designs and submitted a proposal to Winnipeg’s annual Warming Huts competition—an arts and architecture contest on ice. It was a hit.
“It proved that an investment in public spaces is worth it,” Wreford says.
Minneapolis and Winnipeg really have a lot more similarities, and if we could share that kind of engagement with winter and the idea of the North, I think we could both push ourselves a lot further. Liz Wreford, Public City Architecture
The sport soon spread throughout Canada—especially during the pandemic since it offers competitors adequate social distancing space while playing. Though Wreford has lost count of how many cities currently have a crokicurl court, she estimates over three dozen Canadian towns have integrated some kind of DIY rink.
“It’s definitely relevant to this winter region that we live in,” Wreford says, “and it’s really nice to see a connection between Winnipeg and Minneapolis.… Minneapolis and Winnipeg really have a lot more similarities, and if we could share that kind of engagement with winter and the idea of the North, I think we could both push ourselves a lot further. And it would be great to start working on things to make that happen.”
The sport first migrated from Canada down to the U.S. in 2021, when Recreation Manager Debra Goldbach and City Administrator Mike Golat adopted the sport in Altoona, Wisconsin—about an hour and a half away from Minneapolis.
“It’s just a really great activity for getting your body moving,” Golat says. “In the winter, it’s very social. It’s competitive, but in a friendly way.”
Altoona is also home to the annual U.S. Crokicurl Championship, where players from around the country are invited to compete—no matter their age, experience, or ability. Since the sport is relatively new, no one can really be bad at it, recreationists like Golat say—though curlers certainly have an advantage. The first-ever national champion team included longtime curler Ron Parks and Mike Peplinski. Parks is an active curler in the Eau Claire area, and Peplinski was notably part of the U.S. Olympic curling team at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.
This year’s championship tourney is slated for Saturday, January 28 at River Prairie Park in Altoona.
To find out more about Maple Grove’s crokicurl rink, and learn how to play, visit maplegrovemn.gov.