Curling in ScotlandScotland is the home of curling. The game was probably invented in late medieval Scotland, with the first written reference to a contest using stones on ice coming from the records of Paisley Abbey, Renfrew, in February, 1541
Royal Caledonian Curling Club
Phone: +44 (0) 131 333 3003
Fax: +44 (0) 131 333 3323
The Royal Caledonian Curling Club (RCCC) is the mother club of the sport of curling, and the governing body of curling in Scotland. The RCCC was founded on 25 July 1838 in Edinburgh, and granted its royal charter by Queen Victoria in 1843, after she had witnessed a demonstration of the sport played on the polished ballroom floor of Scone Palace the previous year.
The body is based at the Royal Highland Showground, Ingliston, Edinburgh.
The objective of the RCCC is "To unite curlers throughout the world into one Brotherhood of the Rink", and today the Royal Club has branches and affiliated associations and clubs in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, the United States and Wales.
World Curling Federation
O’Lord wha’s love surrounds us a’,
And brings us a’ the gether,
Wha’ writes your laws upon oor hearts,
And bids us help each ither.
We bless Thee for Thy bounties great,
For meat and hame and gear,
We thank Thee, Lord, for snaw and ice,
But still we ask for mair.
Gi’e us a hert to dae whit’s richt,
Like curlers true and keen,
To be guid friends along life’s road,
And soop oor slide aye clean.
O Power abune whose bounty free,
Oor needs and wants suffices,
We render thanks for Barley Bree,
And meat that appetises.
Be Thou our Skip throughout life's game,
An' syne we're sure to win,
Tho' slow the shot and wide the aim,
We'll soop each ither in.
World Curling FederationThe World Curling Federation (WCF) is the world governing body for curling accreditation. It was formed out of the International Curling Federation (ICF), when the push for Olympic Winter Sport status was made.
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Perth PH2 8NN,
Tel: 44 1738 451 630
Fax: 44 1738 451 641
The ICF comprising the associations of Scotland, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, and the United States, after the success of the Scotch Cup series of world championships held between Canada and Scotland. In the wake of its formation, it sanctioned the World Curling Championship.
The WCF currently sanctions the World Junior Curling Championship and the World Curling Championship (senior division) for men and women.
The World Curling Federation (WCF), the governing body for international curling, originated as a committee (formed in Perth, Scotland in March 1965) of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, and became an independent organisation in 1982. The WCF officially recognises the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, as the Mother Club of Curling. The WCF is still based in Perth, although for a brief period between 1994 and 2000 it too was based in Edinburgh with the mother club.
Curling is a game played on ice with granite stones; in this picture, four curling sheets are shown
The game was probably invented in late medieval Scotland, with the first written reference to a contest using stones on ice coming from the records of Paisley Abbey, Renfrew, in February, 1541. Two paintings (both dated 1565 by Pieter Brueghel the Elder depict Dutch peasants curling (Scotland and the Low Countries had strong trading and cultural links during this period, which is also evident in the history of golf).
The word curling first appears in print in 1620 in Perth, Scotland, in the preface and the verses of a poem by Henry Adamson. The game was (and still is, in Scotland) also known as "the roaring game" because of the sound the stones make while travelling over the pebble (droplets of water applied to the playing surface). The word derives from the Scots language verb curr which describes a low rumble (a cognate of the English language verb purr). The word does not take its name from the motion of the stones, which due to their deviation from a straight-line trajectory are said to curl.
In the early history of curling, the rocks were simply flat-bottomed river stones which were sometimes notched or shaped; the thrower had little control over the rock, and relied more on luck than skill to win, unlike today's reliance on skill and strategy.
Outdoor curling was very popular in Scotland between the 16th and the 19th centuries as the climate provided good ice conditions every winter.
Scotland is home to the international governing body for curling, the World Curling Federation, Perth, which originated as a committee of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, the mother club of curling.
Today the game is most firmly established in Canada, having been taken there by Scottish emigrants. The Royal Montreal Curling Club, the oldest active athletic club of any kind in North America, was established in 1807. The first curling club in the United States began in 1832, and the game was introduced to Switzerland and Sweden before the end of the nineteenth century, also by Scots. Today, curling is played all over Europe and has spread to Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and even China and Korea.
The first world curling championship in the sport was limited to men and was known as the "Scotch Cup" held in Falkirk and Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1959. The first ever world title was won by the Canadian team from Regina, Saskatchewan, skipped by Ernie Richardson.
Curling has been an official sport in the Winter Olympics since the 1998 Winter Olympic Games. In February 2006, the International Olympic Committee retroactively decided that the curling competition from the 1924 Winter Olympic Games (originally called Semaine des Sports d'Hiver or International Winter Sports Week) would be considered official Olympic events and no longer be considered demonstration events. Thus, the first Olympic medals in curling, which at the time was played outside, were awarded for the 1924 Winter Games with the gold medal won by Great Britain and Ireland, two silver medals by Sweden and the bronze by France.
During each round of play, called an end, each player slides two stones along the surface of the ice. Play alternates between teams, each throwing one stone on their turn. The person throwing the stone influences where the stone stops by the amount of force used, called the weight, the spin (turn), and the direction of the throw. Additionally, the final position of the stone is changed by sweeping or brushing the path in front of the stone to reduce curl and increase distance. Once all the stones have been thrown during an end, the score is determined and the play reverses direction back to the other house.
The players are known as the lead, second, third and skip, and traditionally throw stones in that order . The skip acts as the team’s captain, determining the position played by each player, strategy during the game, holding the broom in the house as a target for the shooters, and representing the rink. However, there is nothing in the rules to say where in the order the skip plays and in recent years the skip has thrown second or third stones on some teams.
The basic goal of each end is to have your curling stones nearer to the center of the target once all the stones from both teams have been thrown for that end. Therefore, the maximum number of points a team can earn per end is eight, though this is extremely rare because only the closest stones belonging to one of the two teams are counted. Strategies used during play, such as blocking (guard) and hitting rocks to reposition them (bump) or remove them from play (take-out) lead to lower scores. The term draw is used to describe a shot that comes to rest in the house without making contact with another stone. To peel means to remove both the target stone and the shooter's stone from play. For more information, see Types of shots below.
To help ensure the stone lands where intended, the skip stands in the house and indicates to the player throwing where to aim given the desired effect of the shot. The other two players sweep in front of the rock. Once thrown, players may not touch a stone while it is moving, so sweeping is the only way to influence the stone once thrown. Games, called matches, usually last eight ends, though in competitive curling there are usually ten ends and some recreational games last six ends.
The playing area in curling is shown here. Rocks must land between the hog line (bottom of photo) and the back line (behind the rings) and between the boards or out lines (on the sides).
The curling arena is a sheet of ice 146 feet (45.5 m) long by 15 feet 7 inches (4.75 m) wide, carefully prepared to be absolutely level so as to allow the rocks to glide with as little friction as possible. A key part of the preparation is the spraying of fine water droplets onto the ice, called pebble. Due to the friction between the stone and pebble, the stone turns to the inside or outside, causing the stone's path to 'curl'. The curl changes during a game as the pebble wears out.
Occasionally, small ice crystals, "ice picks", will bond on the bottom of the stone (called the "running surface"), which increase friction and change the stone's path. As the pebble wears down, more ice picks develop, especially if the water is not treated to remove excess minerals.
Players must push out of the hack to deliver their stones. Which foot they use is determined by whether they are left- or right-handed.
On the sheet, a 12 foot (3.7 m) wide set of concentric rings, called the house, is painted near each end of the rink. The centre of the house is marked by the junction of two lines that divide the house into quarters and is known as the button. The two lines are the centre line, which is drawn lengthwise down the centre of the sheet, and the tee line, drawn 16 feet (4.9 m) from the backboard and parallel to it. Two other lines, the hoglines, are drawn parallel to each backboard and 37 feet (11.3 m) from it.
The rings that surround the button are defined by their diameter as the four-foot, eight-foot, and twelve-foot rings. They are usually distinguished by colour. The inner rings are merely a visual aid for judging which stone is closer to the centre; they do not affect scoring; however, a stone that is not at least touching the outside of the 12-foot ring (i.e. more than 6 feet from the centre) is not in the house and therefore does not score (see below).
Twelve feet behind the button (therefore 4 feet from the backboard), the centre line is crossed at right angles by the hack line. The hack is a device used to provide traction to the curler making a shot; the curler places the foot he or she will push off with in the hack. On indoor rinks there are usually two fixed hacks, rubber-lined holes, one each side of the centre line with the inside edge no more than three inches (7.6 cm) from the centre line and the front edge on the hack line. A single moveable hack may also be used.
Graphical depiction of a curling sheet
The lead, or first, throws the team's first two stones of an end, and sweeps for the other team members. Strategically, the lead usually has similar shots from end to end, usually throwing guards or draws.
Depending on the tradition, the lead may flip a coin with the opposing lead to determine who will have last rock advantage at the beginning of a game. The winner of the toss has the option to pick either last rock, or the colour of the rocks they wish to play with. In major tournaments, these decisions are usually made beforehand.
The second throws the team's third and fourth stones and sweeps for all other players.
Also called the vice-skip, vice or mate, the third throws the team's fifth and sixth stones, and usually sweeps for the second and the lead. The third usually assists the skip in his or her duties. When it is the skip's turn to throw, it is usually the third who holds the broom for the skip.
After each round of play (or "end"), the thirds for both teams must reach an agreement about which team scored and how many points. If there is a disagreement, or uncertainty, the thirds may measure the rocks to see which ones are closer. At this time, only the thirds are allowed in the house. In major tournaments, the scorekeeping is left to an official. Depending on the tradition, when the third's team scores, the third will record it on the score-board.
The skip is the captain of the team and determines strategy. Based on the strategy, the skip holds the broom indicating where the player throwing must aim ("calling the shot"). When it is the skip's turn to throw, the vice-skip (usually the third) holds the broom. The skip usually throws the last two rocks of the end, however some teams have the skip throwing in other positions.
The skip rarely does any sweeping, except in the house and behind the tee line. The skip is required to stay out of the playing area when it is the other team's turn, but he is allowed to sweep stones in motion behind the tee line as a result of their shot. (In International rules, the skip, when he or she is not throwing, is the only player allowed to sweep their opponent's stones behind the tee-line.)
The "fourth" refers to the thrower of the last two stones in each end for a team if that player is not the skip. That is, if the skip does not play last rocks in each end, the last player to throw is known as Fourth.
Curling shoes: The slider shoe (center), with its thin Teflon surface, is worn during delivery to slide on the ice; a slip-on gripper (left) is worn over the slider at other times; the other shoe (right) has a rough surface to give traction on the ice.
When curling, players need to wear specially designed shoes. The sole of one shoe has a thin strip of Teflon or another type of smooth surface, called a slider. Inexpensive sliders can be purchased and attached to any shoes by means of an elastic strap. This enables curlers to slide out of the hack when delivering a rock. Left-handed curlers wear this shoe on their right foot, while right-handed curlers wear it on their left. The other shoe has a thin layer of rubber to maximize traction on the ice. Another piece of footwear is the gripper, which can slide on and off the shoe with the slippery surface. This is also usually made of rubber. This piece of equipment is needed when a player is sweeping, and needs traction with both feet.
Brooms (or brushes)
The curling broom is used to sweep the ice surface in front of the rock. Aggressive sweeping momentarily melts the ice, which lessens friction, thereby lessening the deceleration of the rock, while straightening the trajectory of the rock. The broom can also be used to clean debris off the ice. The skip will also hold a broom at the opposite end of the rink from the delivering player to show the deliverer where to aim the rock.
In earlier days, brooms were made of corn strands and were similar to household brooms. Brushes were used primarily by elderly curlers as a substitute for corn brooms. Today, brushes have replaced traditional corn brooms at every level of curling, but are universally referred to as brooms. Brooms are also used by some curlers as a balancing aide during delivery of the stone.
Curling stone (or rock)
The curling stone, or rock, weighs a maximum of 44 lbs. (19.96 kg) and is fitted with a handle on top allowing it to be rotated as it is released. If the handle is rotated across the body (clockwise for a right-handed thrower, counter-clockwise for a leftie), the shot is said to be an in-turn, and if rotated away from the body (counter-clockwise for a right-handed thrower, clockwise for a leftie), it is an out-turn. The handle may also contain circuitry for detecting hog line violation.
The bottom of the rock is not flat, however, but concave with the actual surface in contact with the ice ("running surface") being only ¼ to ½ inch (6 to 12 mm) wide along the rim of the concave bottom. This narrow running surface allows the pebble applied to the ice to have an effect on the action of the rock. On properly prepared ice, the rock's path will bend (curl) in the direction the front edge of the rock is turning, especially toward the end of its delivery. The degree of curl depends on several factors, including the preparation of the ice and the flattening of common paths to the house during the game. Ice on which the rocks curl well is said to be swingy.
The Scots in particular believe that the best quality curling stones are made from a specific type of granite called "Ailsite", found on the Ailsa Craig, an island off the Ayrshire coast. Most curling stones are made from this granite. Because of the particular rarity of Ailsite, costs for curling stones can reach as much as $1500 (USD) for Olympic grade stones. Many curling clubs use a lower grade stone that can be upwards of $500. Very informal neighbourhood curling clubs with limited resources may make cylindrical "curling stones" out of concrete-filled cans.
The curling stones used at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino were provided by the Garn For granite quarry at the Yr Eifl mountain on the Llŷn Peninsula in North-West Wales.
A special handle for stones, called "Eye On The Hog", has recently been developed, which integrates electronics to ensure the stone is released before it crosses the hog line. The handle is coated in metallic paint; the circuitry detects the relative charge of the thrower's hand contact to determine if they are still in contact, and a linear field is established at the hog line to indicate its location to the internal sensor. Lights at the base of the handle indicate whether contact was sustained past the line or not. Not only does this remove the chance for human error (eliminating the game's most frequent cause of controversy), but it means there is no need for hogline officials as well. It is finding use in curling clubs and high-level tournaments (including the 2006 Winter Olympics) alike.
Although the rock is designed to be delivered by players grasping the handle as they slide down the ice, a special "delivery stick" may be used by players incapable of delivering the rock in this fashion. Such a stick is designed to attach to the handle so that it can be released without requiring the player to place a hand on the handle in a crouched position. This allows the game to be played by players with disabilities, as well as those unable to crouch comfortably. According to the Canadian Curling Association Rules of Curling, "The use of a curling aid commonly referred to as a 'delivery stick' which enables the player to deliver a stone without placing a hand on the handle is considered acceptable."
It is not uncommon at any level for a losing team to terminate the match before all ends are completed if it believes it no longer has a realistic chance of winning. Most competitive tournaments require eight ends to be completed before allowing a losing team to concede in this manner. Competitive games will usually end once the losing team is "run out of rocks" - that is, once it has fewer stones in play and/or available for play than the number of points needed to tie the game in the final end.
In international competition each side is given 73 minutes to complete all of their throws. Each team is also allowed two 60 second timeouts per ten end game. If extra ends are required each team is allowed 10 minutes of playing time to complete their throws during the extra end. One added 60 second timeout is allowed in each extra end.
When throwing the rock, you must release it before reaching the near hogline (players usually slide while releasing their shots) and it must cross the far hogline; otherwise the rock is removed from play.
While the first three players throw their rocks, the skip remains at the far end of the ice to guide the players. While the skip is throwing, the third takes this role. Thus, each time a rock is thrown, there is one player throwing the rock, and another player at the far end.
The two remaining players, equipped with brooms, follow the rock and assist in guiding its trajectory by sweeping the ice before the rock. Sweeping causes the rock to decrease its curl but travel a greater distance. The sweeping players combine directions from the skip and/or the thrower with their own instincts for the weight of the rock, as well as extremely precise timing, to guide the rock into the appropriate position. Often when giving instructions, the thrower or skip will yell "HARD." They are referring to the amount of pressure the sweepers should use to sweep the ice. Teams confer between throws to determine where they will attempt to place the next rock.
Delivering the rock
The process of throwing a rock is known as the delivery. While not mandatory, most curlers deliver the rock from sliding out from the hack. When sliding out, one must start with one shoe (the one with the non-slippery sole) against one of the hacks (a position referred to as being in the hacks). For a right-handed curler, this means starting from the left hack, and vice versa for a left-handed curler.
When delivering the rock, it is important to remember that the momentum behind how much weight is applied to the rock depends on how much leg drive the delivery has. It is usually not wise to push the rock with the arm, unless absolutely necessary. When in the hack, one must crouch down with the body lined up and shoulders square with the skip's broom at the other end. While in the hack, one may hold a broom out for balance. Different curlers hold their broom out in many different fashions. The broom is held in the hand opposite from the rock, and should be positioned so that the non-sweeping side of the broom is against the ice. This prevents drag which would be caused by the soft head of the broom dragging against the ice.
Before any delivery is done, it is important to ensure that the running surface of the rock is clean, and that the area around you is clean as well. This is achieved by wiping the running surface of the rock with either your hand or with the broom, and then cleaning the area around you with the broom. The reason for this is that any dirt in the area or on the bottom of a rock could alter the trajectory of it and ruin the shot. When this happens, this is called a "pick".
After cleaning the rock, the next step is to know what rotation, or turn, to put on the rock. The skip will usually tell the thrower this information. The thrower will then place the handle of the rock generally at either a "two o'clock" or a "ten o'clock" position. When delivering the rock, the thrower will turn the rock from one of these two positions toward the "twelve o'clock" position before releasing it. A rock turned from ten o'clock to twelve will spin clockwise and curl to the right, and a rock turned from two o'clock to twelve will have the opposite effect. A generally desired rate of turn is about two and a half rotations before coming to a rest.
Once the thrower knows the turn to give the rock, the thrower will place the rock in front of his or her toe in the hack. At this point the thrower will then start his or her delivery. This begins by slightly rising from the hack, and moving the rock back to one's toe. This is the beginning of a pendulum movement that will determine the force given to the rock. Some older curlers will actually raise the rock in this backward movement, as this is what they are accustomed to. The forward thrust of the delivery comes next. The thrower moves his or her slider-foot in front of the other foot while keeping the rock ahead of him. The thrower then lunges out from the hack. The more thrust from this lunge, the more power or "weight" the rock will have. When lunging out, the gripper-foot will drag behind the thrower. When lunging out, it is important to push as precisely as possible in the direction of the skip's broom at the other end, so that the "line" of the rock is accurate. The rock should be released before the thrower's momentum wanes at which point the thrower imparts the appropriate curl, keeping in mind the stone should be released before the first hog-line.
The amount of weight given to the rock will also be told to the thrower by the skip at the other end. This usually occurs by the skip tapping the ice with his broom where he or she wants the rock to be delivered. In the case of a take-out or a tap, the skip will tap the rock that he or she wants removed or tapped.
It should also be noted that with a more skilled skip, where he wants the rock to land will not always be the exact place he holds the broom if the skip expects the rock to curl. When the rock is delivered accurately at the broom, it will curl towards where the skip wants it to land.
The curling stone or rock is made out of granite. When a rock is delivered, it is important that there be two players following the rock so that they are ready to sweep its path if needed.
Sweeping is done for two reasons: to make the rock travel farther, and to make the rock travel straighter (curl less).
When sweeping, pressure and speed of the brush head are key to slightly melting the pebbled ice in the path of the rock.
One of the interesting strategy aspects of curling is knowing when to sweep. When swept, a rock will always travel both farther and straighter. In some situations, one of the two is often not desirable (for example, a rock may have too much weight, but needs sweeping to prevent curling into a guard), and the team must decide which is better: getting by the guard but traveling too far, or hitting the guard.
Much of the yelling that goes on during a curling game is the skip calling the line of the shot. The skip evaluates the path of the rock and calls to the sweepers to sweep as necessary to hold the rock straight. The sweepers themselves are responsible for judging the weight of the rock and ensuring the length of travel is correct.
Usually, the two sweepers will be on opposite sides of the rock's path. Grip of the broom is vital - one hand grips the top (non-brush end) of the handle while the other grips the handle close to the head of the broom so that as much pressure as needed may be applied while sweeping, though the precise amount of pressure may vary from relatively light brushing to maximum-pressure scrubbing. It is important to never to touch the rock while sweeping (touching the rock results in "burning" it, and the opposing skip may opt to have the rock removed from play).
Sweeping can be done anywhere on the ice up to the "tee-line", as long as it is only for your own team's rock. Once your team's rock crosses the tee-line, only one player may sweep it. Additionally, when an opposing rock crosses the tee-line, one player from your team is allowed to sweep it. This is the only case that a rock may be swept by an opposing team member. In international rules, this player must be the skip, or if the skip is throwing, then the third.
Types of shots
Essentially, there are two kinds of shots in curling, the draw and the takeout. There are many variations of these shots, however. Draws are shots in which the stone is thrown only to reach the house (or in front of the house - when the rock is called a guard), while takeouts are shots designed to remove stones from play. Choosing which shot to play will determine whether the thrower will use an in-turn or out turn, for a right-handed person, the clockwise and counter-clockwise rotation of the stone, respectively. Possible draw shots include guard, raise, come around, and freeze. Takeout shots include peel, hit and roll, chip and hack. For a more complete listing look at the Glossary of curling terms.
Free guard zone
Until four rocks have been played (two from each side), rocks in the free guard zone (those rocks left in the area between the hog and tee lines, excluding the house) may not be removed by an opponent's stone. These are known as guard rocks. If the guard rocks are removed, they are replaced and the opponent's rock is removed from play. This rule is known as the four-rock rule or the free-zone rule; some people and leagues play with a three-rock rule, where the rule is in place until three rocks are played.
This rule, a relatively recent addition to curling, was added in response to a strategy of "peeling" opponents' guard stones (knocking them out of play at an angle that caused the shooter's stone to also roll out of play, leaving no stones on the ice). Skilled teams leading a game would employ this strategy to prevent their opponents from "stealing" an end (scoring without having the last rock, or hammer) by placing guard stones and later trying to draw around them and using them for protection. The team with the hammer could peel rock after rock, which would blank the end, keeping the last rock advantage for another end. While a sound strategy, this made for an unexciting game.
Last rock (or Hammer)
The last rock in an end is called the hammer. Before the game, teams typically decide who gets the hammer in the first end by coin toss or similar method. (In tournaments, this is typically assigned, giving every team the first-end hammer in half their games.) In all subsequent ends, the hammer belongs to the team that did not score in the preceding end. In the event that neither team scores, the hammer remains with the same team. Naturally, it is easier to score points with the hammer than without; in tournament play, the team with the hammer generally tries to score two or more points. If only one point is possible, the skip will often try to avoid scoring at all in order to retain the hammer until the next end, when two or more points may be possible. This is called a blank end. Scoring without the hammer is commonly referred to as stealing, or a steal, and is much more difficult.
After both teams have delivered eight rocks, the team with the rock closest to the button is awarded one point for each of its own rocks that is closer than the opponent's closest rock. Rocks that are not in the house (further from the center than the outer edge of the 12-foot ring) do not score even if no opponent's rock is closer. A rock is considered in the house if any portion of its edge is over any portion of the 12-foot ring. Since the bottom of the rock is rounded, a rock just barely in the house will not have any actual contact with the ring, which will pass under the rounded edge of the stone, but it still counts.
The score is marked on a scoreboard, of which there are two types. One is the baseball type scoreboard, which is usually used for televised games. On this scoreboard the ends are marked by columns 1 through 10 (or 11 for the possibility of an extra end to break ties) plus an additional column for the total. Below this are two rows — one for each team. The number of points each team gets in an end is marked this way.
The other form of scoreboard is the one used in most curling clubs (see photo). It is set up in the same way, except the numbered row indicates points, not ends, and it can be found between the rows for the team. The numbers placed are indicative of the end. If the red team scores 3 points in the first end (called a three-ender), then a one (indicating the first end) is placed beside the number three in the red row. If they score two more in the second end, then a two will be placed beside the five in the red row indicating that the red team has five points in total (3+2). This scoreboard works because only one team can get points in an end. However, some confusion can exist if no team gets points in an end. This is called a blank end and the end number usually goes in the furthest column on the right in the row of the team who has the hammer (last rock advantage).
Conceding a game
When a team feels it is impossible or near impossible to win a game, they will usually shake hands with the opposing team to concede defeat. This may occur at any point during the game, but usually happens near the final end. When a game is completed by playing all ends, both teams also shake hands. This is often accompanied by saying "Good game!" Hands are also shaken before the game, accompanied by saying "Good curling!" to the opposing team. In the Winter Olympics, a team may concede after finishing any end during a round-robin game, but can only concede after finishing eight ends during the knockout stages.
Most decisions about rules are left to the skips. However, all scoring disputes are handled by the third, or vice-skip. No players other than the third from each team should be in the house while score is being debated. In tournament play the most frequent circumstance in which a decision has to be made by someone other than the third is the failure of the thirds to agree on which rock is closest to the button. An independent official then measures the distances using a specially designed device that pivots at the center of the button. When no independent officials are available, the thirds measure the distances.
Curling is particularly popular in Canada. Improvements in ice making and changes in the rules to increase scoring and promote complex strategy have increased the already high popularity of the sport in Canada, and large television audiences watch annual curling telecasts, especially the Scott Tournament of Hearts (the national championship for women), the Brier (the national championship for men), and the women's and men's world championships.
Despite the Canadian province of Manitoba's small population, teams from that province have won the Brier more times than teams from any other province. The Tournament of Hearts and the Brier are contested by provincial and territorial champions, and the world championships by national champions.
Curling is the provincial sport of Saskatchewan, home of one of the most famous curlers, the late Sandra Schmirler, who led her team to the first ever gold medal in women's curling in the 1998 Winter Olympics. When she died two years later from cancer, over 15,000 attended her funeral.
The ice in the game may be fast or slow. If the ice is fast, a rock will travel further with a given amount of weight on it. The speed of the ice is measured in seconds. This measure is the amount of time that a draw to the button will spend moving before it comes to a rest. If the ice is slow, the rock will have to have more weight in order to reach the button and would reach the button more quickly. Thus, the speed of the ice (in seconds) is lower than if the ice is fast, in which case the rock would have to be thrown more slowly and would take longer to get there.
Addtionally, the weight (speed) of an individual rock can also be measured in seconds. This time is the time the rock takes to cross first one hogline and then the other. If this number is lower, the rock is moving faster, so again low numbers mean more speed. The ice in a match will be somewhat consistent and thus this measure of speed can also be used to measure how far down the ice the rock will travel. Once it is determined that a rock taking (for example) 9 seconds to go from hogline to hogline will stop on the button, the curler can know that if they can match that time with later stones, they can throw stones that will stop near the button.
In the early days before rock size was standardized, curlers chose to throw big or small rocks depending on the shot being made.