Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Most Common Rule Violation

It's rule 11 (2) in the Canadian Curling Association rule book. For the rest of the curling world it's rule 7 (b) in the World Curling Federation rules. The wording is slightly different between the two rule books but the meaning is the same and could not be more clear. A stone may not be swept/brushed unless it is in motion. But, even with its clarity, the rule is broken by the vast majority of curlers and it's done so quite unintentionally (there's no accusation here that anyone is intentionally breaching a rule).

I hope I've peaked your interest at this point. Some who know me well have already guessed the scenario in which this rule is violated. If you are still in the mystified category here's the situation.

Your team is about to attempt to move, or more likely, remove an opposition stone or stones. The skip has determined the ice & weight for the shot and has retreated to the delivery end of the sheet. The third decides to brush the potential path of the target stone(s) and proceeds to do so. That's where the rule violation occurs! Why? There are no stones in motion! And, to make matters worse, if that opposition stone is in front of the tee line, that well intentioned third is violating a second rule which in essence states that an opposition stone must have reached the tee line before it can be brushed (& only then by the player in charge of the house [skip or third]).

I have yet to see an official step in to ask the skips & thirds to desist from violating these rules in a "players' meeting" prior to an event.* We need to clarify this situation by adding something to the rule book to allow this practice or to educate the curling community to stop doing this. This post is to educate. I'll leave it to the sport governing bodies to decide to allow this practice and amend the rules or enforce the rule(s).

I take the rules of our game for what they are and in this case, skips & thirds on teams I coach do not violate this rule at my request.

Before I'm inundated by comments from readers who remind me that's it's no big deal and everyone does this, I'll reply that if a game and its rules, regulations & procedures are to have the desired impact on the integrity of the sport, its practitioners need to abide by all of them, not just the ones that are most convenient, turning a blind eye to those they arbitrarily feel not worthy of compliance.

In the rules for general play, rule 18 (3) allows for decisions to be made that are not covered in the rules per se so that equity is maintained. I'm sure that's the feeling among most curlers that brushing the potential path of stone from the house maintains that equity since no one save me, gets his/her nose out of joint but perhaps I'm not alone, just the one to draw attention to the situation. Let's remove the ambiguity!

Yah, you're right, I'm old school!

And, while I'm on the topic of rules, there are two that I feel need to be changed. The first is brushing opposition stones. I feel the only stones a team should brush are there own. No more brushing opposition stones anywhere! If there's a measure of discord between curling teams it's almost always because of the congestion in the house as players from opposing teams attempt to brush the stones belonging to the opposite team. Why create a situation where hard feelings result?

Second, when a team scores, the opposing team should have the option of delivering the first or second stone of the next end.# As with so many sports where there's a "possession factor" (i.e. which team is on offence or to say it another way, which team is in possession of the ball), when one team scores, "possession" goes over to their opponent. It's a balance of offence and defence. If you pause here and consider most team sports, that back-and-forth of offence and defence keeps the playing field level. I know, I know, who in their right mind would choose to give the team that just scored, last stone "advantage" on the ensuing end? Well, I might, if conditions where such that delivering the first stone of the next end was perceived by my team as advantageous (the four rock rule protects both stones in the free guard zone of the team that delivers the first stone of the end and only one belonging to the team that delivers the second stone of the end). Heh, we've all muttered the words, after having a succession of ends stolen upon finally scoring, "Well, we finally got rid of that last stone disadvantage!" I know the words were likely spoken in gest but perhaps they were not. What's the harm in letting the scored upon team decide who plays the first stone of the next end?

Methinks the comment box will see some activity!

* I do know of one chief umpire who when this rule violation was pointed out did ask the skips & thirds to not brush potential exit paths. As coaches, we're best suited to ensure that all the rules of the game are honoured.

# I think it's ludicrous that in skins play, the team that has been scored upon is forced to take last stone in the next end (which means that to win the skin, it must score at least two points). If ever there was a time to allow the scored upon team to choose, this would be it!


  1. What about the ritual of cleaning the path prior to your team delivering a shot? Most elite front ends do this religiously.

    1. I'd say that's ok as it isn't sweeping a stone. But it does raise (tiny) questions about altering the ice surface (older curlers will remember 'breaking out the corn brooms' to litter the ice and try to change the conditions before the practice was stopped by making player use one sweeping device for the whole game)

  2. If we look at a rule change, and I think this is what we need, then either team must be allowed to clean the ice between when all stones stop moving and when the next player enters the hack to deliver their stone.

    This allows for the removal of junk on the ice (which we all know happens).

  3. If we get technical about it, the player isn't sweeping the stone, but cleaning the ice of debris, which I believe isn't against the rules.

  4. So I was given the information at various Officials Briefings that lightly clearing the surface of the ice of potential shmutz is not "sweeping a stone", and as such is allowed basically upon demand. It's roughly equivalent to removing a leaf on the green that is in the path of your putt. It's in the best interest of the sport to minimize picks, and that level of cleaning does that, in theory at least.

  5. What is the consequence of the opposition player sweeping in front of the tee line such as by the Swedish Skip against Koe in today's world playoff. Should the offended stone be returned to it's original position. There is a situation that begs rule book clarification. [consequence]
    March 5, 2014