Everybody’s talking about the tick shot. Seriously, I can’t walk down the road without people saying “tick shot this” and “Lisa Weagle that.”
There have been some attempts to try and ban or limit the power of the tick shot, and it seems like an elite curling problem only, because I know a fair few rec league curlers who routinely wreck on the center guard. Anyway, this isn’t about the tick shot. Guaranteed. This is about another rule that has never made sense and should go away.
From the official WCF rules of curling, section R7(e):
No player may ever sweep an opponent’s stone except behind the tee line at the playing end, and may not start to sweep an opponent’s stone until it has reached the tee line at the playing end.
Behind the tee line at the playing end, only one player from each team may sweep at any one time. This may be any player of the delivering team, but only the skip or vice-skip of the non-delivering team.
Sweeping a stone six feet does make a difference—maybe a few inches, and sure that can be the difference between a point and a steal, but from the moment I learned the rule, through when I taught the rule to others, I struggled with the “why.” And if I struggle with the “why,” then I question its utility.
The earliest historical record of curling rules is generally agreed to be the 1838 “Rules of the Game” by the Royal Caledonian Curling Club. It was a set of 19 rules. We would be nowhere in the sport without these rules, and admittedly they have changed. At some point the “hog line” used to be called the “hog score,” for example. The 12th rule addresses sweeping i.e. brushing, including this item: “The player’s party may sweep when the stone has passed the further hog-score, his adversaries when it has passed the tee.”
So the legality of the non-throwing team being engaged in a shot has been around for nearly 200 years.
There are numerous examples of when an overzealous skip or vice-skip swept the wrong color stone as it was twisting out of play. One of the best examples was in the 2014 world men’s semifinal between Canada and Sweden.
Swedish skip Oskar Eriksson swept a Canadian stone that went sideways on the tee line, but then spun up above the tee. He continued to brush it for a few feet. Per the rules, Canada skip Kevin Koe was allowed to place it where he wanted, and moved it from out of the house to just biting, resulting in a loud murmur from the crowd, because curling crowds are just the best.
So here’s my proposal on the sweeping rules. Get rid of rules E and F. That means the throwing team can sweep any stone they want, with as many sweepers as they want. The non-throwing team can’t sweep, ever. The non-throwing team can watch the shot, and that’s it.
This would also get rid of sweeping rule G, which outlines the right of way for sweepers behind the tee, and some of B, which outlines that each team can sweep their own stones in play that are set in motion.
It’s going to take some getting used to, especially the non-throwing team staying out of the way. Although our club, and many of us, implemented this practice for the purposes of distancing during the pandemic. It took some willpower to restrain sweeping six feet, but we adapted, and instead just yelled at the rocks, which in practice is about as effective.
I suppose this would eliminate one dramatic element in the big games: when the non-delivering skip comes in to try and sweep a heavy draw as far back as they can. But inertia on a heavy draw is still incredibly entertaining. Simplifying these rules would allow for a little more precision on shots in the back of the house, and I’d be incredibly interested in seeing how elite teams handle sweeping opposition stones anywhere. I hope they try it out at a future Grand Slam. It’ll be a bigger hit than tick regulation.