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Curling Etiquette, Part III

Editor: Chris Daffern
Date: 2014-02-11

CURLING ETIQUETTE … the unwritten rules (Part III)

Curling is a team game.  That may sound simplistic but every shot of every game requires the skills of the rink/team as a whole.  Every stone that travels down the ice has had some input from each member of the rink.  While one player throws, two more sweep (or brush).  At the other end of the ice, the fourth player decides where the rock is to be thrown and tells the sweepers/brushers when to put their brushes on the ice.  In fact, curling may be the most cooperative team sport ever, unlike other team sports when the action focuses on a single player.  Curling is different.  All four team members contribute to the outcome of every stone that’s delivered.  Each player has a job to do in order for the rink to have a chance to win. (from Curling for Dummies, by Bob Weeks)

Each team member must know the role he is playing and be willing to play it.  The lead should want to play lead and understand what that position requires.  The same is true for the second, third, and skip.

Part III of Curling Etiquette starts with each player’s role as part of the team. Here are the fundamentals: 

Lead: The lead throws the first two rocks of the end and then sweeps the next six. The lead must be very good at throwing guards and a strong sweeper.

Second: The second throws the third and fourth stones of the end and should be strong at playing takeouts. The second sweeps the first two stones and then the final four of the end. The second and lead need to be in sync when sweeping together; for brushing position (i.e. which brusher is closest to the rock and which one is further ahead), for which side of the running stone each will take, and for judging the weight of the delivered stone. (For more on the role of the Second, see www.curling.ca/blog/2011/04/14/house-call-second-to-none.)

Third: The third (or mate or vice), who throws the fifth and sixth rocks of the end, must be good at all shots, but especially draws. It is her job to set up the shots that will be thrown by the skip and to help her discuss the strategy of the final two stones of the end. The third also measures the rocks in play (if necessary, after all rocks have been played by both teams) at the conclusion of each end of play and the winning third posts the score for each end.

The third is the heart of every team. The go-between the skip and the front end. A jack of all trades; the third needs to throw hits and draws with ease, understand the ice and strategy and be able to sweep like heck whenever required. You can be incredible in this position: see www.curling.ca/blog/2011/04/21/house-call-third-third-third-is-the-word.

Skip: The skip is the captain of the team and decides the strategy. It’s the skip’s job to tell the other players where to throw their shots and when to sweep for line. Typically, the skip also throws the last two shots of the end. He or she must be good at all types of shots. A good skip lives and breathes for the pressure but also likes it when they just need to throw a guard for their last shot.

Be strong and decisive. Know your team; their strengths and weaknesses. Observe your opposition and learn their strengths and weaknesses and use this knowledge to your advantage. Be supportive of your team. Don’t be the skip who berates her players. Trust me, they beat themselves up enough when they don’t make a shot. Above all, don’t be the “skip from hell”. Chances are you have played the game for a number of years. You may be a long time member of your club and are looked upon as a leader there. So act like a leader. Welcome and help develop new members/new curlers and encourage them to come back next season. Nothing turns off a new curler more than being forced to play in front of the “skip from hell”.

For more hints see the article at www.curling.ca/2011/04/28/house-call-skipping-to-victory.

Bob Weeks writes: “The two most important rocks in an end of curling are the eighth rock, thrown by the skip, and the first rock thrown by the lead. The first stone sets up the entire end. It determines how the end will be played, whether defensively or offensively, and often plays a part in the final score. When you play your next game, take note of how many times a lead stone remains in play at the conclusion of the end. You might be surprised to see how vital those first two rocks can be – even after the other six have been thrown.”

For that reason, the lead is a very important part of any curling team. Nothing drives experienced skips to distraction more than the player who doesn’t get it – who is heard to say that he or she is JUST the lead - as if to excuse not understanding the reasons why a particular shot is being called for or the importance of rock placement from the very first stone of the end, or simply to excuse not paying attention. Remember, you are a participant, not a spectator.  You have the power to make an incredible difference on your team by being the best lead you can be. For tips and tricks to making yourself invaluable in this position see the CCA article at www.curling.ca/blog/2011/04/07/house-call-be-a-better-lead.

Regardless of your position on the team, you can learn something from every shot thrown by both teams. Watch your own shots until they come to rest or are out of play. Watch the shots that are delivered by your opposition – until they have come to rest. You will learn when the ice speed begins to change (it may get faster or slower) and adjust your delivery accordingly. You will become more adept at observing the accuracy of the stone from its release to the target at the far end of the ice, what is called the line of delivery. You will begin to appreciate the “line”, the arc the rock makes as it moves down the ice to its target (and why some skips may sound panicked!) and where the rocks break, i.e. really start to curl.

As you learn more and gain confidence in judging weight and reading line calls, the game will become more meaningful and enjoyable. But only one person should really be calling sweeping for line. And that person should be the player (usually the skip, sometimes the vice) who is in charge of the house. The person in the house has the best view of the line and the rocks in the house.  

With that preamble, here are some more specific Etiquette “rules”:

Your team’s Lead (or Second) should place your Skip’s rock in front of the hack to help speed up the game.

Skips/Vices: When sweeping your opponent’s rock behind the T-line, you must never pre-sweep (i.e. warm up) the ice. Only start sweeping once the leading edge of the rock has actually reached the T-line.

Wait for the score. Vices should be the only players in the house when the score is being counted. All other players wait beyond the hog line or on the backboard until both Vices have agreed on the score and have signaled to the other players they may move into the house to clear the rocks. The two skips should be at the far end of the ice ready to start the next end of play.

If the Vices are unable to determine which rock is counting they must use a measuring device specifically made for measuring curling stones. NEVER USE YOUR BROOM, FOOT OR OTHER APPARATUS. The Vice of the team with the hammer (last rock) for the next end should return the measuring device to its place.

This may be arguable but if the score is very one-sided in your favor, it is not necessary to continue posting your score until the opposing team wins an end. Of course, you need to know and recall, and both teams must agree on, the score at all times. Otherwise, when in doubt, Vices, post the score after each end. (In this writer’s opinion, best practice is to post the score after each end and courtesy is to post the score after the second rock of the end has been delivered. Having said that though, don’t intentionally embarrass your opposition. Remember, whatever goes around, comes around, -  eventually.)

In club league play in particular, and you will often see this in bonspiels too, (unless ends won and total points scored factor into the standings) when the game is mathematically or realistically out of reach, the losing team is expected to concede the game.

If you or your team have reserved ice time for practice or have the opportunity to play a game at a time other than regularly scheduled, and for whatever reason you must cancel or postpone, always let the club office and/or ice technician (according to your local protocol) know as soon as possible. Someone else may wish to use that time slot or the ice team may not need to prep that sheet of ice.

If you are the skip, expect to contact each player on your team before the start of a new schedule or round of competition. Generally the club or league convenor will email or call with draw times but the usual practice is to just call the skips. It is your job to tell your teammates the draw times.

Vices (usually the winning Vice, otherwise either team’s vice), ALWAYS mark your win, loss or tie on the draw board or hand in a score card. The people who add up the points at your club, be it employees or (most likely) volunteers, ARE NOT PSYCHIC. If you don’t mark up your W/L/T someone will have to chase you for the score or they won’t bother chasing you and the game will be deemed to have been defaulted. Neither team will get any points. In some clubs or leagues, the practice is to count negative points for a defaulted game.

Despite what you may see on some televised curling, keep the swearing, smack talk, broom bashing, rock kicking, and other less than stellar behaviors under control (better yet, under wraps). Yes, this is competition, and yes, it can get spirited. No, it’s not an afternoon tea party. It can be loud on the ice and namby-pamby whispers won’t cut it. So, yell a bit. It can be an excellent stress reliever. Sure we (or many of us anyway) can get carried away but here’s what Kim Perkins, Curling Professional at the Calgary Winter Club wrote in her blog on the CCA website at www.curling.ca/blog/2013/03/06/a-word-about-swearing-smack-talk-broom-bashing...:

“I’m not innocent; I’ve muttered some curses after a big miss that would make a trucker blush. But honestly those moments of belligerence never made me proud and they didn’t get me the shot back either.”

On the ice, we’re teammates and opponents, throwing rocks in an effort to dominate each other in healthy, respectful competition. But off it? We’re all just friends. So yes, compete, strive to win, but above all else, HAVE  FUN!



Imagine if everyone respected their teammates and opponents in life, shook hands after every confrontation and bought each other a drink. Imagine if we all stood still while others were concentrating on their life’s work, offering encouragement, not distraction. Imagine if we celebrated our opponents’, as well as our own, accomplishments.

No, it’s not a perfect world, but it could be. And it is – on a sheet of curling ice.   

By Jean Mills, Globe and Mail, November 2, 2002




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