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Curling Etiquette, Part II

Editor: Chris Daffern
Date: 2014-02-10

CURLING ETIQUETTE … the unwritten rules (Part II)

Continuing with a review of the etiquette of curling, let’s now move to the conduct of play and the roles and deportment of the players.


Compliment a good shot. One of the nicest curling traditions is that players and spectators compliment a good shot by either side while not remarking (in a disparaging or disrespectful way), cheering or showing pleasure on a poor shot or a competitor’s misfortune. One of the grating behaviors that has crept into the game in recent years is the high (or low) five for almost every shot. Enthusiasm? Sure. But have some restraint. And yes, from time to time there is a “fluke” outcome from a poorly thrown rock. Stuff happens. Get over it.

Similarly, a player may throw and make what looks like a low percentage shot. If the shot was called, thrown and made, what do you have to whine about? It was a good shot. Instead of complaining, you should be complimenting the player on a great shot. But if you can’t, remember what your mother probably told you when you were growing up: ‘if you can’t say something good about somebody, say nothing at all’.

Despite what you may have seen on television or at the elite level of the game, NEVER slap your broom on the ice, throw things or kick rocks in a fit of anger. That’s simply juvenile behavior; and you may damage the ice or rocks.

Never reprimand a player or make them feel bad about a shot. This includes shows of disgust by skips; e.g. turning your back on the shot before it has come to a stop or is out of play, or “the look” (the angry glare that can melt ice), cursing and obscene gestures. Yes, it can be an emotional game but keep your temper under control. Extremely rarely does a player intentionally try to miss a shot. (‘If you can’t say something good about somebody, say nothing at all’.)

Always walk down the sheet on the sidelines in single file, preferably on the opposite side of the sheet from where the next rock is expected to be played. Stop walking while your opponent is throwing. Once s/he has released the rock, you may start walking again. NEVER intentionally do anything to distract, disturb or interfere with your opponent’s concentration.

Focus your attention on your game. Be ready to sweep when your sweeping assistance is required. Be ready to throw when it is your turn. Don’t be watching other games. Save the chit-chat and idle gossip for after the game. You are a participant, not a spectator. At the same time, be aware and alert to what is going on around you; on your own sheet of ice, on adjoining sheets too, so you are not obstructing another player or in danger of colliding with/tripping another player or being tripped and falling yourself.

Be courteous. Don’t distract your opponent in the hack. Keep your distance. If you are throwing next, you may stand on the backboards but remain quiet and motionless and out of the direct and peripheral vision of the opposition thrower. Don’t walk or run across the ice when a player is in the hack. Don’t gather around the house when an opponent is throwing. Brushers/sweepers should stay on the sidelines between the hog lines on the opposite side of the sheet from where the opposing skip is holding the broom.

Until such time as a stone is released during delivery, team members responsible for sweeping the stone should remain near the sides of the sheet so as not to obstruct the delivering player’s view of the house.

Only skips and thirds/vices may congregate behind the tee line at the playing end of the ice. They should not move or hold their brooms/brushes on the ice while the opposition is preparing to deliver a rock. That kind of behavior is simply poor sportsmanship.

For more on common curling courtesy, see the CCA’s House Call: Courtesies to Remember at www.curling.ca/2010/12/31/house-call-courtesies-to-remember.

Ready Curling:

Be ready. Take your position in the hack as soon as your opponent has delivered his/her stone. You should have cleaned your rock and be ready to receive your skip’s call before your opponent’s rock comes to rest. Keep the game moving; delays detract from the sport. Be prepared to sweep/brush as soon as your teammate releases the rock.

If your team is throwing first, the lead should get in the hack and get ready. Let everyone else clear the rocks out of the house.

Do not pull the opposition’s stones for their next shot. These days, teams often throw their rocks out of numerical order and you may not know what the order is. Also, pulling out rocks creates a tripping hazard. (You’ll still see this in practice, particularly among long-time players. This is “old” etiquette that is now out-of-date and generally frowned upon.)

Skips should keep the game moving by minimizing delays in making decisions. Avoid long conferences. There usually aren’t that many options … draw, guard, raise or take out.

Do not intentionally delay the game to increase your chances of winning.

Slow play is one of the sport’s biggest irritants, particularly since the inception of the Free Guard Zone Rule. While recreational leagues are not playing against the clock to the same degree as the pros, two hours is (or should be) plenty of time for a typical 8 end game. It’s easy to get wrapped up in a game but always remember there are likely curlers waiting to get on for the next draw and the ice team needs time to prep the ice after you get off. For hints on speeding up the game, see the CCA’s postings: www.curling.ca/2011/02/17/house-call-stop-slow-play and www.curling.ca/2011/11/09/house-call-slow-play-is-poison. All players have a role in keeping up the pace of the game. But skips in particular have a special role since they are usually the players determining the strategy and the shot calls. For some tips and tricks about being the very best skip you can be, read www.curling.ca/2011/04/28/house-call-skipping-to-victory.

Communication & Team Collaboration:

If you do not understand your skip’s call, ask your sweepers. You all need to be on the same page.

Curling is not a democracy. Front end players should not provide input on strategy unless asked. Be prepared to contribute when asked but otherwise keep it to yourself. Even thirds need to exercise restraint when it comes to giving advice. Not only does second guessing undermine the skip, it also slows down the game.

Sweepers are responsible for calling sweeping for weight and skips (or vices when in control of the house) call sweeping for line. Effective sweepers develop the judgment to call out the weight to their skip once the rock has been released. Try for at least three calls; the first at the near hogline, the second half way down the ice and the third at the scoring end hogline.  After that, as many calls as you can to accurately convey to your skip where you think the rock will come to rest.

Skips should be answering their sweepers with the line call and telling them to sweep or not.

Unless you are on call and MUST be accessible, do not use cell phones or other electronic communication devices during your game. Preferably, turn them off. Save the texting (and _exting) for another time and place.


The Ontario Curling Association has adopted rules to govern behavior during competitions and a ”Discrimination and Harassment Policy”.  These principles are equally applicable in Club play. “Inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated at any time … (e.g. slamming brushes in anger, willful damage to curling club, hotel or restaurant facilities, offensive and/or abusive language, etc.).” This can include, without limitation, inappropriate language and/or behavior to the point that is offensive and making an obscene gesture that is deemed inappropriate by an official, convenor, etc.

The OCA is committed to creating and maintaining a sport environment which is free from discrimination and harassment on prohibited grounds, including race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, political opinion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age, marital/family status, language and any other discrimination or harassment prohibited by applicable law.

Need more? See the Ontario Human Rights Code, preamble, and section 1 re. freedom from discrimination.

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