Most of us who grew up in a Russian Mennonite home and are now 40 years of age or older are likely familiar with the game of Crokinole. We can recall the sensation of a sore index finger after a series of games and the sting from an errant disc that has become airborne during a particularly enthusiastic round. Likely this game brings family gatherings to mind, where people of virtually all ages participated.
Although many view Crokinole as a uniquely Mennonite game, Wikipedia suggests this is not likely the case. That perception may have sprung from the fact that the game is quite popular among Mennonite and Amish people, perhaps viewed as a more innocent activity than playing cards or dancing.
The game itself appears to have originated in the 1860s, but the first crafted Crokinole board was made in 1876 by Eckhardt Wettlaufer in Perth County, Ontario. Eventually the board was patented by Joshua K. Ingals in 1880 and then manufactured, first in New York and later in Pennsylvania.
While the frames of Crokinole boards can be octagonal, square or round, the World Crokinole Championship games are played on round boards. The Mr. Cockinole website suggests this round shape offers the player a distinct advantage, in that one’s hand is always located in the same position on the rail. Clearly that would be an important aspect when playing for a world championship. The discs used in the game are manufactured to a standard size of 32 mm in diameter and 10 mm in thickness.
The World Crokinole Championship tournament is held in Tavistock, Ontario. The various levels of competition include individuals, teams, junior, intermediate, adult and recreational. There are also competition classes for those who prefer to play with a cue and spare potential pain in the index finger.
In 2006 a documentary film was made about this tournament, interestingly titled Crokinole. The Internet Movie Database gives the film a rating of 7.8 out of 10. Maybe that’s why reviewer Brant Polkowski gave his review of the film the title “Crokinole – The One Flick You Must See.”
The game’s name “Crokinole” is derived from “croquignole,” a word that in France refers to a type of “cookie” and in England to a “biscuit.” Wikipedia also suggests that in Quebec it would indicate a “doughnut-like pastry.” In the Russian Mennonite world, the game is called “kjnipsbrat” — “kjnips” referring to the flicking action of the finger to put the disc in motion, and “bratt” referring to the board itself. The discs are called “kjlatz,” meaning “blocks.”
Several of the employers who recently held Christmas parties in our Village Centre included Crokinole as one of the games of the evening. It’s a great choice for parties as well as family events, in that it’s accessible to all skill levels and allows for quality conversation while playing the game. Both the “kjnipsbrat” game and the “kjlatz” are available at Village Books and Gifts at Mennonite Heritage Village.