Curling has long been billed as a sport that you can play while drinking. While that’s true, and it’s not unheard for recreational and competitive players to have a beer during a game, it’s definitely not true that you can play the game drunk, or at least play it well. That was proven in Alberta this past weekend, when a team was ejected from a tournament for being too soused—by lunchtime on Sunday.
The team of Jamie Koe, Ryan Fry, Chris Schille, and D.J. Kidby were disqualified from the Red Deer Curling Classic during their fourth game, an elimination game, when their behavior forced the manager of the curling facility to give them the heave-ho after numerous complaints. Not only was the squad reportedly drunk, but they caused damage to the locker room throughout the weekend, smashed their brooms into the ice, and kicked stones—all curling no-nos. They were banned from this tournament in perpetuity.
With a hat tip to David Sciacero, who flagged the video, here’s a spoken account of what happened. A disembodied voice says Team Koe arrived at 11 a.m. and had “30, 40 empty bottles of beer, and they were doing shots. Then they went out there completely drunk and played. Kicking rocks, throwing brooms, got disqualified. Other teams were saying ‘we do not even want to play here any more if they are allowed.’ So they said, ‘Team Koe disqualified,’ and they’re never allowed to play here again.”
Curling tournaments, also known as bonspiels, can be raucous events where alcohol flows freely. Behavior typically doesn’t get out of control, but like any drinking establishment, a club will have an occasional sloppy drunk, and that person will have a cab called for them. It is much rarer in competitive bonspiels on the World Curling Tour like this. The Red Deer event has a $35,000 purse with the winning team estimated to take home $10,000.
Now that everyone’s sobered up, the curlers are sorry for what they did. Fry, who spared for Team Koe but won a gold medal in 2014 for Canada and still curls with the team skipped by Brad Jacobs, told CBC’s Devin Heroux, “I allowed myself to lose control” and that “the committee was right to disqualify us.” Jacobs is currently ranked fifth in the world and won a Grand Slam of Curling tournament last week. It’s doubtful the incident will have much impact on his standing with the team, though Fry has long been the target of rumors that he may leave the team at some point since he is the only one of the four who does not live in Northern Ontario.
Koe, who seemed to be over it when he tweeted a picture of himself at the Oilers game Sunday night, issued a statement today:
Schille was at first less apologetic on Twitter. His now-deleted tweet yesterday read, “Red Deer classic, a spiel that lets Bottcher buy a team out of the event to play and kicks another out for funding the bar!” (Brendan Bottcher’s team, ranked eighth in the world, is the defending champion of the Red Deer Classic.) But today, Schille made an apology similar to Koe’s:
Koe and Schille have carried reputations within the community for being legendary drinkers at any event. Koe, the younger brother of Olympic curler Kevin Koe, is most known for being a longtime participant of The Brier (the Canadian men’s curling championship) representing the Northwest Territories. His teams typically win only a few games and have qualified for the playoffs once in 12 trips. Jamie’s twin sister Kerry once said he was the most popular person at “The Patch,” the Brier’s official party tent where fans and athletes mingle.
Schille was involved in an incident in 2013 when an official ejected him for cursing during the Saskatchewan provincial championship, leaving his team to play out the rest of the game with only three players. And while alcohol wasn’t involved there, it underscores what the curling community does and doesn’t accept. Curling and drinking will be forever enmeshed for as long as hops and rocks exist. If you can handle your liquor, great: Drink away and give the local club some bar revenue. But when it turns to unruly behavior, it makes a very polite sport extremely uncomfortable for the competitors and the onlookers. In this case it’s being piss drunk on a Sunday afternoon in Alberta.
Matt Sussman is a sort-of-competitive curler from Ohio who is ranked higher than Jamie Koe (at least for now). You can follow him on Twitter at @suss2hyphens.