01/11/2012 07:05 EST | Updated 03/12/2012 05:12 EDT

European and Asian curlers must go booze-free at Continental Cup

LANGLEY, B.C. - The team representing Europe and Asia at this week's World Financial Group Continental Cup of Curling has adopted a no-booze rule.

"We have informed the teams that, when you're leaving your home country, we won't have any alcohol until the last rock is played," said Team World coach Peja Lindholm of Sweden.

Drinking has been banned since Team World, represented by rinks from China, Scotland, Sweden and Norway, arrived here at the beginning of the week. Team North America, a squad that includes Canadians and Americans, has no plans to invoke a similar rule.

"We would like to make a statement here that it's important we make sure we're a professional sport," said Lindholm, who has won three Continental Cups as a player and another one as a coach. "Of course, we should also be a social sport, but social and alcohol shouldn't be a parallel."

Curlers have long been known to share a pint of beer or other alcoholic beverages after matches in the sport which is considered highly sociable. The new rule comes after Team North America shellacked Team World 298-102 in the 2011 event staged at St. Albert, Alta. The North American victory was secured a day before the four-day event concluded.

Norwegian skip Thomas Ulsrud said the feeling was Team World socialized too much last year.

"This will be the first week our team only drinks soft drinks for a whole weekend," said Ulsrud. "I guess it's going to be a new experience for us as well. We'll see how it goes. Maybe we'll be even better."

Similar to golf's Ryder Cup, the non-traditional event includes men's, women's, mixed doubles, singles and skins competitions. The team that earns the majority of 400 possible points is declared the winner.

Lindholm said his team's alcohol consumption has not been a problem in the past. But he wants to take the event another step and ensure his team is taking it seriously.

"We've seen players that haven't been really, really sharp for every shot, and that's not professional," he said.

Team World captain David Hay of Scotland said it would be disrespectful to the event's sponsors not to be 100 per cent fit and ready to play. The team will have plenty of time to celebrate after the event concludes Sunday.

The rule is nothing new for British curlers, he added. They have been subject to strict guidelines on drinking since curling became an Olympic sport. It was first a demonstration sport in Calgary in 1988 and became a full-fledged Olympic sport in 1996 at Nagano.

"Alcohol is not part of the high-performance program (for any sport) in the U.K.," he said. "You can drink alcohol if you want, but you ain't going to be funded."

Still Team North America curlers, who welcome the event as a rare opportunity to be teammates, and get better acquainted with, their usual competitors from Canada and the U.S., find the rule harsh. Defending Canadian women's champion Amber Holland of Kronau, Sask., said she has not seen a no-alcohol rule since her junior days.

"We're all adults here," said Holland, who still plans to drink rum after competitions. "So I think everybody has to test their judgment on what they have to do off the ice to best perform on the ice."

Three-time world champion Glenn Howard of Coldwater, Ont., said he does not agree with Team World's decision. Contending the rule is another angle to get Team World to play better, he said adult curlers should be able to manage themselves and figure out what they have to do to win.

"I don't get it," said Howard. "I'm so old school. If you want to have a drink, go have a drink. Come on. We've got to have some fun out here."