As with other sports such as basketball and football, curling also has a professional competitive league which is known as the World Curling Tour. This professional league is relatively new, having been established only in 1992, but has experienced tremendous growth just like the entire sport of curling.
The World Curling Tour is currently sponsored by Asham which is a major manufacturer of curling equipment. The Asham World Curling Tour, as it is currently known, consists of 16 to 20 weeks of competitive curling events all over the world. There are separate divisions for men and women. Most of the events are staged in Canada, however there are generally five events held in the United States each year. Each of these events are similar to traditional bonspiels where teams compete against each other for 2-3 days to crown a champion. The winning team of each event receives a cash prize which varies depending upon the event but can reach upwards of $100,000.00.
The Asham World Curling Tour has been influential in several ways to the sport of curling and its evolution. First, many of the events are televised, primarily on TSN which is basically Canada’s version of ESPN. This helps curling’s overall exposure. Second, the Asham WCT provides the elite teams of the world an opportunity to compete against other top tier level teams so that they can keep their skills sharp year round. Finally, the Asham WCT has been on the forefront of advancing the pacing and rule developments in curling. For example, the WCT instituted a “thinking clock” which only counts time of the game until the stone is thrown. So instead of having a traditional 73 minutes per team to complete a game including the time when the stone is moving down the ice, in the WCT each team gets 40 minutes of “thinking time” to plan out shots but there is no clock as the stone moves down the ice. This experiment might one day become the standard in the entire sport of curling at all levels, including the Olympics. The WCT also has added an extra stone to the free guard zone, meaning the first 5 stones instead of 4 cannot be taken out of play if in a guard position. This means the team with the hammer gets an extra free guard stone which often allows for higher scoring games.
The WCT is indeed improving the sport of curling for all involved. For event lists, check out the official website at: www.worldcurl.com.