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Curling tournament introduces new rule that could radically change the game

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Curling, that Olympic sport played on bumpy ice with brooms, isn’t exactly known as the wildest athletic event in the world, but perhaps that’s because it was never played like it was last weekend at the inaugural Everest Curling Challenge.

Sponsored a Canadian funeral planning service, organizers of the three-day event in Fredericton, New Brunswick, said the tournament was anything but somber — and not just because it featured the largest prize in curling history, awarding the winning team $200,000.

“My son came and he said it was like a football game,” said Randy Ferbey, a four-time world curling champion who helped organize the event said Thursday. “That’s kind of what we want to create to bring more fans in.”

To do that, Ferbey and other Everest organizers instituted a few changes to curling’s standard rules, including most prominently, a scoring change that allowed teams to earn two points with a single stone.

Dubbed curling’s “version of [basketball’s] three-point line” by Deadspin’s Matt Sussman, organizers said the rule did more than just increase scoring possibilities — it changed the entire competition.

“It changes the strategy of the game, how you think of your offense, your defense,” Ferbey said, noting it added a lot more suspense to games because of the come-from-behind possibilities.

For those unfamiliar with curling basics, points are scored by the team whose stones lie closest to the center circle of the target after each round, called an end. Each stone situated closer than your opponent’s is worth one point. With the new rule, however, if a team finishes an end and manages to land its stone so that it covers the very center of the target, called the pin, the stone is worth two points.

During the seven games that composed the Everest Curling Challenge, several ends saw the two-point shot come into play. Ferbey didn’t keep an exact count, but reasoned it didn’t matter because the very thought of the possibility of the shot changed the psychology of the game.

“It’s an idea in your head,” he said, noting announcers on Canada’s TSN that broadcast the tournament nationally, brought it up almost constantly with excitement in their voices. “It changes the dynamics of the game.”

“We wanted to implement something different at the event,” the 58-year-old continued, noting the event also moved arena seating closer to the action and featured loud music throughout the games. “I really believe curling has been stale.”

Ferbey, a 45-year curling veteran, said the two-point rule got “overwhelming” positive feedback from the players, who comprised 32 of the world’s top curlers, including several members of Canada’s winning 2014 men’s and women’s Olympic teams, and fans in attendance.

Neither Brad Gushue nor John Epping, the two curlers who captained the teams that reached the final (Gushue’s team won) immediately returned The Post’s request to comment. Fan reaction on social media, meanwhile, varied, with some preferring the sport’s traditional rules while others welcomed the change.

“I like the new rule,” a commenter on CurlingZone.com wrote on a message thread about the two-point rule. “Made [the tournament] more competitive with close games [and] forced teams to be a bit more aggressive.”

“It’s interesting,” another commenter added, “for a meaningless event like this, that is. [It’s] not something I’d ever want to see implemented in other events” put on by World Curling or other sanctioning governing bodies.

Fans won’t have to worry about that, however. World Curling confirmed in an email that it has “no plans” to introduce the rule.

Ferbey, meanwhile, who said he expects to see the two-point rule implemented in other exhibition tournaments, says governing bodies might want to think about making the two-point rule a permanent change for the good of the sport.

“It’s no secret that it’s an older age group that watches curling,” Ferbey said. “We’re trying to attract the younger people and we started doing that a lot here.”

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