The mixed doubles format is unique to the sport of curling and there are several key areas where it deviates from the traditional game.
- Two rocks are placed prior to the start of each end
- Each team has only two players -- one must be a male and one must be a female
- Each team throws only five rocks (instead of eight)
- The person that throws the first rock in any end must also throw the last rock in the same end
- The person that throws the second stone must also throw the third and fourth stone in the same end
- The order of throwing may change with every end, but may not change within the end
- No rocks, including any of the same color, may be removed (taken out) by any player until the fourth stone is thrown
- There are no "sweepers," but the skip or thrower may pop out and sweep the rock after it's been thrown
Who has Hammer?
What's known as the hammer or the last rock advantage is normally decided by coin toss for the first end in a game of curling and is given to the team that didn't score at the end of a typical end. In the mixed doubles game, having the hammer is a choice. The team that won the coin toss prior to the game or the team that did not score in the previous end is given a choice--take hammer or give the hammer to the opponent. It can be tricky to determine who has the hammer in this game. Early in the end, it's easy to tell by where the stones are placed, but later in the end, counting the remaining rocks may be necessary -- it sounds obvious, but the team with the most number of rocks left will be the team with the hammer.
Starting an End: Placed Stones
In this game, two stones are placed prior to the start of an end. The team with the hammer will have their stone placed in the house (circles) just behind the T-line. The team that does not have hammer (last rock advantage) will have their stone placed along the center line above the house. There is a hash mark on the ice to help the curlers locate the proper place to position their rock. The officials will inform the athletes of the proper positioning for this rock -- in front of or behind the hash mark.
It's a Draw Game
The rules prevent any rocks -- including a team's own rocks -- from being removed prior to the fourth thrown stone in an end. This rule will force the athletes to crowd their rocks into the house around the button (or center of the rings). If any stone prior to the fourth stone causes a rock to be removed, the rocks will be repositioned in their original location and the thrown stone will be removed from play. You might see people manually moving rocks in the house (either kicking them or pushing them with their broom) during this process. When the fourth rock is to be thrown, any of the stones may be removed without penalty.
Where are the Sweepers?
As each team has only two players, the traditional sweepers are not present. Some teams may choose not to sweep their rocks while others may choose to have the thrower sweep their own rock. It's also common for the skip (or the person currently holding the broom in the playing house) to run out and sweep a rock. The rules of this game require that the skip hold the broom in the playing area (where the rock is being thrown to) until the deliverer has thrown the rock (or released it on it's way to the playing area).
Sensor handles will be in use at the event. These will be yellow and red. Each team will be assigned their color for the game. The handles have a special metallic surface that detects if the rock has been released properly. A magnetic strip located along the hog lines triggers the electronics. If the rock has been released properly, its lights will turn green for a short period of time. If the rock is hogged -- or held past the hog line, its lights will flash red. Hogged rocks must be removed from play immediately -- which may be a difficult action for a team without sweepers!
As always, the team with the rock (or rocks) closest to the button earns the points. A point is counted for every rock closer than an opponent's closest rock. There are no eight enders in this game, but a team may still accomplish a perfect if they score six points.