Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Boomerang broom sweeps curling nation

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The founder of Asham Curling Supplies has taken a page from ancient Egyptians and indigenous Australians in developing his latest innovation for the roaring game.

Arnold Asham, president of the Winnipeg-based company, has just launched a new curling broom with a brush shaped like a boomerang.

"It's going to revolutionize the game," he said. "Now the debris (on the ice) goes to the side. And with a boomerang shape, two brooms fit right together and you can get closer to the rock, which makes for better sweeping."

The squares and edges on the boomerang broom will break the pebble down faster than traditional push brooms, he added, enabling sweepers to bring a rock 60 centimetres farther down the ice, particularly early in a game, and four metres farther than the corn brooms of years ago.

A number of big-time curling teams have already tested the boomerang brooms or used them in competition. Former Olympic gold medalist Brad Gushue's team used them in Newfoundland and Labrador's recent provincials, former Manitoba champion Randy Dutiaume's front end is using them and Jeff Stoughton's team, which qualified for its eighth trip to the Brier last week, has experimented with them.

Steve Gould, Stoughton's lead, said he's a fan, but admits there will be a learning curve for most sweepers as they get used to the boomerang shape.

"It works as a snowplow. You can definitely get the debris better and you can create a lot of friction," he said.

Whenever Asham tunes into Olympic curling coverage from Vancouver, there's a good chance he'll see some of his equipment on television. The company sponsors Canada's women's team, led by Cheryl Bernard, the men's and women's teams from Denmark, the Chinese women's team and the men's team from Norway. Asham does not produce the Norwegian men's crazy pants, which have received international media attention, but he was asked to.

"You'd have to order enough material for 4,000 pairs of pants. We couldn't do it, so they went to Loudmouth Golf, the same company that supplies (golfer) John Daly. We're hoping to bring a few dozen pairs in to sell before the Olympics are over," he said.

Asham also sponsors Stoughton's team and the newly-crowned women's national champions from Manitoba, skipped by Jennifer Jones.

This wouldn't be the first time Asham's inventions have had a game-changing impact on curling. Back in 1977, his newly-minted company launched the Red Brick Slider, which enabled curlers to slide further when delivering a rock because of the ribs across the bottom of their shoes.

"It was faster than anything on the market. Before it came along, a person had to release the rock and stop before the hog line. After, because they were so fast, you still had to release the rock before the hog line, but you could slide as far as you wanted," he said.

Asham intends to patent the boomerang broom and he's expecting it to bring in $750,000 in sales over the next two years.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 19, 2010 A5

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