This is part 3 of the New Member's Guide, a series of articles that help prepare new club members for their first season.
It is the night you have been keenly waiting for! In this article, we will give you a quick overview of what happens on the night of your first curling game.
Getting to Your First Game
If you need to purchase equipment, plan to arrive at least 45 minutes ahead of draw time to take care of business.
Otherwise, generally plan to arrive at the club at least 15 minutes before your scheduled draw time every week -- this helps your skip make sure everyone is present and gives you time to change, stretch, and chat with your team, talk about strategy, line-up, the weather, what beer to buy after the game, etc.
For the first game, you may want to get there a little earlier even if you already have purchased your equipments to allow time to meet your team and maybe get some last minute pointers to throwing a rock or sweeping. Once you have arrived, the league manager will be there to help you find your skip and teammates. Introduce yourself to everyone, you will be playing a lot with these folks!
Change your shoes, slip on your grippers, and find a broom. Make sure you have your slider and stabilizer with you.
There is a changing room/locker room in the basement if you need it. The stairs are on your right when you enter the club. There is a mixed changing area, men's changing area, then women's changing area.
It is a good idea to stretch before your game. You will find curling uses a lot of muscles that are not normally exercised, and you will be sore the next day if you do not warm up well.
A few minutes before the draw time, the league manager will make announcements (usually by ringing a bell). They’ll go over any league specific items, club announcements, etc. Afterwards, head out with your team to the ice to play your match!
Before people step onto the ice, usually both teams wait on the carpet for all 8 players to get to that sheet. You will shake hands with each of your opponents and wish them "Good curling!", and the vices will flip a coin to determine who goes first and which color to play.
It is very likely that you will be the first person on your team to throw rocks. This is a good time for you to get ready for your throw.
If you have not had a chance to be on the ice, take your time getting on and off, and walk, not run. When wearing your slider, always step on to the ice with your gripper foot first.
Be aware of people and rocks around you, especially when you are sweeping. Make sure you are not "butt sweeping," but facing the direction you are walking while you are sweeping so you can see rocks or people in your path.
Basic Curling Rules
There are 8 ends to a game, an "end" is like an inning in baseball.
During an end, the teams alternate throwing rocks until all rocks are thrown to the opposite side. And the next end those rocks are thrown back.
The basic goal is to have the rocks closest to the center of the house (call the "button") by the end of the end to score points, and your skip will be on the far side directing play to help achieve that.
After 8 ends of scoring, whichever team has the higher score wins. Either team can concede a game any time. Each game takes about 2 hours.
During an end
It is most likely that your skip will ask you to play lead for your first game, and this means you throw your team's first two rocks.
If your team goes first in an end, you will throw the very first rock, your opponent team's lead will throw their first rock, then you will throw your second rock.
If your team goes second in an end, your opponent team's lead throws their first rock, you throw your first rock, your opponent team's lead throws their second rock, then you will throw your second rock.
When your teammates are throwing their rocks, you will be one of the two sweepers sweeping those rocks.
At the end of an end
After all the rocks are thrown, the vice-skips/thirds will look at the house to determine the score. The team that scores will go first in the next end.
You will be asked to stay out of the house until they agree on a score, and then you either help put away rocks or prepare for your shot if you are throwing next.
Every curling match ends with both teams shaking hands again. The winning team gets the privilege of cleaning the sheet after the match.
Typically after every match, both teams gather in the social area upstairs to socialize. Many times the winning team will buy the losing team a pitcher of beer or some other drink. This is a great time to get to know other members of the club! Also, feel free to ask any questions that came to mind during the game, just about everyone will be happy to explain anything you didn’t understand.
Congrats on your first curling match!
You will find that there are many specific things curlers do during a game that is more involved than just throwing rocks, sweeping, and counting points. We will cover that in the next article in this series, Game Etiquette Basics.