“We’ll walk off the ice, and they’ll go, ‘Why did you play that shot?’” Mr. Sargon, 30, said.
They nitpick because they care. That became clear to Mr. Sargon a few weeks ago when he joined Mr. Hood at a curling tournament in Okotoks, about 25 miles south of Calgary. As soon as their match began, Mr. Sargon and Mr. Hood realized that they had their own fan club. Fourteen residents, armed with bag lunches and homemade signs, had made the trip via charter bus to cheer them on in a loss to a team led by Mike McEwen, one of the top curlers in Canada.
“They put on a great show,” said Linda Smith, 74, who had a front-row seat. “I mean, Mike McEwen could’ve really whipped them.”
‘Playing Against the Big Boys’
On a recent weekday morning, the New Zealanders piled into their official vehicle, a 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan with more than 98,000 kilometers on the odometer, for the short drive over to the curling club for a practice session. Mr. Hood, the team’s skip, or captain, got behind the wheel.
After some light stretching, the team took the ice wearing matching sweatshirts that read, “Team Hood: A Bunch of Kiwis Trying to Fly.” Greeted by a series of 1980s power ballads that blared from the club’s speakers, they began to work on their throws.
For those unfamiliar: Curling is a winter sport that involves pushing heavy granite rocks down a long sheet of ice toward a target. And while it is hugely popular in Canada, curling does have some historical ties to New Zealand. Miners from Scotland brought an outdoor version of the game with them to the country during the gold rush of the 19th century, and it has persisted as a popular activity whenever the ponds on New Zealand’s South Island are cold enough to form a thick slab of ice at the surface.
“It’s more of a traditional game,” Mr. Hood said. “There’s a bit of drinking. The skips are grumpier.”