They seemed to be just fine at the Brier in Calgary last year.
But there’s something different and unpredictable about the set of rocks when they showed up at Rexall Place for the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings.
Combine that with an ice surface that keens up and minus-30 degree weather and it’s nightmare scenario for both the curlers and the icemakers.
At least that’s the way Kevin Martin sees it.
And even though he came up on the right side of the score against Wayne Middaugh Monday, he still needed to speak his mind about the issue.
“There’s one curled 8-10 inches, one a foot, one 18 inches and then one of Wayne’s curled more than mine ... about five feet,” said Martin. “You want to make them (shots), but how can we? I would have never said this had we lost.
“For the TV audience, it’s very disappointing. They’re seeing guys miss shots they shouldn’t. And I think it’s important everybody realizes why it’s tough out there.”
In any event, the conditions curling’s elites have to play in are not as predictable as they’re used to and it could be affecting the show.
“I guess it’s a matter of having the best set we can for such a big event,” said Martin. “The biggest surprise is that we had these same set of stones at the Brier last year and didn’t have much problem.
“They sand the rocks before each event and I’m not sure what happened, but something’s happened. Maybe it’s the ice, I don’t know. I can’t see how a rock curled four feet in March and this month it’s only curling eight inches.
Middaugh could not argue with Martin’s assessment.
“The rocks are hideous,” said Middaugh. “Those rocks are just worn out. They’re a hideous set of rocks. Across all four sheets, I don’t think anybody will tell you any different.”
Yellow rocks on Sheet A are a particular head-scratcher. Even though Middaugh was tipped off about them by Glenn Howard, who won his opener there on a 10th-end steal, they still drove Middaugh nuts.
Head ice technician Hans Wuthrich is also perplexed about how the rocks’ behaviour has changed.
“We rematched the MCA (Manitoba Curling Association) rocks because we knew how important this event was,” said Wuthrich. “We double-checked all the rocks and there were about eight or nine of them we fixed little imperfections in them, so I just can’t see it.
“Why? I would have no idea because we have all the blueprints of those rocks. If there is a problem with the rocks, we’ll find out. The option would be to change the rocks that are out there.”
Randy Ferbey noticed a combination of factors make this a tricky event.
“We can’t figure it out,” said Ferbey. “There’s some questions on the rocks that are doing different things. The ice keens up real quick. Most misses are because the throws are heavy. It keens up like ice I’ve never seen before.”
It’s a different type of test, this rocky road.
With these types of variable conditions, there’s going to be a premium placed on-ice management by the players.
The skip who can adjust at the right time will likely be the skip who comes out on top.