Inside Curling: Why electronic rock handles are needed for top events

Niklas Edin releases a stone before crossing the hog line during the 2019 BOOST National in Conception Bay South, N.L. (Anil Mungal)

The lack of electronic rock handles in the Calgary bubble has caused a bit of a buzz in the curling world.

Technical difficulties have prevented the "eye on the hog" from being used in major tournaments such as this week's world men's curling championship and the onus is on the players to call themselves out when a hog line violation is committed.

Warren Hansen and Kevin Martin addressed the issue on the most recent episode of the Inside Curling podcast. Hansen noticed some players were taking liberties with the honour system when it came to when they released the rock without the electronic sensors holding them accountable.

“I think it’s human nature,” Hansen said. “There’s nothing there to stop you. You’re thinking about a thousand things rather than where is that line? Or am I coming up to it? Maybe you are thinking, ‘Well, it doesn’t matter. No handles.’ But I think it’s really important whatever is done with this going forward it’s got to be adhered to.”

Although Martin isn't a fan of the electronic handles and said the issue has been “blown a bit out of proportion," he still believes they're needed for some events to keep the athletes honest.

“When you have the electronic handles in play every once in a while, it forces the top curlers to release that rock in time because you’re throwing thousands of practice rocks,” Martin said. “You develop exactly where you release that 14.5-second draw, that 13-second just through the house shot or whatever it might be. You release the rock exactly the same time. ... If you’ve got them occasionally in the big events, great, that’s good enough because the top players will train accordingly.

"I don’t think it’s possible [to release later] because a top curler at the Brier, the Scotties or whatever the case may be, you start the week letting go at the right time but then you start carrying the rock further on a draw? That would mess me up. I wouldn’t make nearly as many shots.”

Check out the full episode of the Inside Curling podcast for more.

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