What is Crokinole? Canada’s lesser-known sports, games and pastimes

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I’m sure you know that Canadians love hockey and other winter sports. You may even be aware that lacrosse is the national summer sport and that basketball was invented by a Canadian. But have you ever heard of crokicurl, crokinole or pitchnut?

Read on to know more about lesser-known pastimes, sports and games in Canada:

Crokinole

More than a board game, Crokinole aficionados consider it a sport. Just like billiards (but without the stick and balls), it requires good eye-hand coordination. The object of the game is to flick discs into the centre hole of the board or into “higher value fields”. Crokinole can be played by two to four players. According to Wayne Kelly, author of the Crokinole Book, the earliest known crokinole board was made in 1876 by Ontario craftsman Eckhardt Wettlaufer.

Interested in playing? Watch this video:

Crokinole Rules & Play, The Retired CPO

Crokicurl

A unique game invented by Winnipeggers, crokicurl is a combination of crokinole and curling. It is played on an octagonal ice surface using junior curling rocks. The rocks are made of hard plastic that weigh half as much as a normal curling stone. Two teams play, facing off in groups of one or two. The goal is to accumulate the highest points by sliding the rock into the centre called the “button,” and having their other rocks poised in high-scoring positions. Invented by Winnipeg architects Liz Wreford Leanne Muir, Crokicurl debuted at The Forks, just outside of the market in winter 2017.

Here is a video from CHVN Radio on Crokicurl:

Curling

Curling is more widely-known and popular in Canada. It is also an Olympic sport. The object of the game is to get your stones (circular objects made of polished granite stones) closest to the “button” which is the center of the “houses” (the target that looks like a bullseye at each end of the playing surface). The stone is pushed and once it is sliding, other team members ensure that the stone gets to the target by sweeping the surface with brooms. The brooms eliminate “pebbles” or water droplets that turn to ice and cause the stones to “curl” or move away from their path. Curling has Scottish roots, but it has developed into the totally unique Canadian sport that it is today.

Pitchnut

This is a fast, finger-flicking game played on a board. The board is a square of about 28 inches. It is of French-Canadian origin and is mainly a variation of pichenotte, which in turn comes from the game carrom from India or Sri Lanka. Two to four people can play. The object of the game is to sink your pieces which are small discs, and the “poison” which is equivalent to the eight ball in pool. Sinking the poison must come after sinking your pieces, otherwise, you lose. The pieces are struck with a large shooter, which is a bigger circular disc. This disk is moved by by flicking, using the index and middle finger. Games usually last around five minutes.

Bandy

Largely overshadowed by the more widely played ice hockey, Bandy is a team sport that has similarities with ice hockey, field hockey, soccer, and football. It is the world’s second most popular winter sport.

Bandy is played on a rink equivalent to the size of a soccer field – 350 feet long and 180 feet wide. Teams having 11 players each hit a ball, not a puck. Just like in hockey, the object is to get the ball to the net or goal. However, bandy goalies do not use a stick to stop the ball. They use two catching gloves to prevent a goal. Also, since body checking and fighting are not allowed, it is less physical, although players can make shoulder to shoulder contact when fighting for the ball. Another difference is that bandy players must skate faster than hockey players because of the bigger rink. In 2017, Team Canada won the world championship medal for bandy in the B-side world championships held in Sweden (Total euphoria as Team Canada brings home world cup for bandy).

Skeleton

Luge, skeleton, and bobsleigh are the three Olympic sliding sports. These sports do not originate from Canada but many Canadians naturally excel in these events because they are winter sports. Skeleton is similar to luge. A luge is a one or two-person sled that players race down on an icy track with. The rider is facedown and races headfirst. This Olympic sport is done on a steep and treacherous ice track and involves breakneck speed. Meanwhile, skeleton is considered the world’s first sliding sport. The first organized competition for it was held in the late 1800s in the Swiss village of St. Moritz. It debuted in the Olympics in 1928 (watch the video below to get an idea of how this exciting sport is played).

Beginner’s Guide To Skeleton | 90 Seconds Of The Olympics
 
Article updated November 28, 2023.
 
Sources: Crokinole.com; Ever heard of Crokinole? The ‘sport’ has a small but passionate following, Alina Simone, PRI; No joke-i-king! Crokicurling is a thing, Randy Turner, Winnipeg Free Press; What exactly is curling?Ethan Trex, MF; Bandy: The other ice hockey, Eric Converse, The Hockey Writers; Pitchnut.com; and Winter Olympics: Skeleton, Gerry Brown and Christine Frantz, infoplease. All sites accessed Feb 9, 2017.

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