We get it. We sound crazy to non-curlers when we talk about our game. We're just skipping around with our hogs, hacking and hammering things up, and wearing buttons inside our houses. Or something like that.
So before we go any further answering your questions about how curling works and how to play, we're going to answer the terminology questions.
This post is part of a series called "Curling — What the Heck?" The goal is to answer all the questions people have about Curling, especially if they have never played the game before. If you'd like your question answered, feel free to comment here or on our Facebook page. Or, you could just come out to our FREE upcoming Learn to Curl sessions.
Q: Ok I know what this one is, but is it called a curling rock or curling stone? I've heard both.
A: Both terms are correct and commonly recognised. "Stone" is in the rulebook, but no one will look at you funny if you say "rock." As for why it's called a stone or rock, it's exactly what you think. The first incarnations of the game simply used big rocks!
Though the rocks these days are precision-crafted and polished (and of course, have an added handle), they are still made of stone. To be exact, it's a special kind of granite found only off the coast of Ailsa Craig in Scotland.
Q: The commentator keeps talking about the skip... I don't see anyone skipping. What is this skip?
A: The skip is actually a who. More specifically, they are team captains. You won't see a "C" on their jackets, but you can pick them out because they will be standing at the opposite end of the ice, thinking a lot, holding out a broom as a target for their teammates, and often yelling. They do all this because they are chief strategists for the team. They may chat about what to do next with other players, but in the end, it's the skips who call the shots — literally!
Q: Ok I think I know some of the skips from TV. Are they that good because they have their own facilities? I mean, I hear the commentators talking about the "Koe Rink" and the "Jones Rink".
I am sure they wish they did, but curling facilities are costly to operate and being an elite curler doesn't pay the big bucks. In fact, most of those curlers you see on TV still have day jobs!
In this case, "rink" is just another way to say team. Use either term as you like, and call it a quirk of curling.
However, just to be confusing, rink can still refer to the buildings we play in. If you are referring to the particular portion of ice a game is played on (since curling rinks can fit multiple games at once), it is called a "sheet."
Q: So I guess the houses aren't where they live then?
Well, we certainly hope not, since in curling "the house" just refers to the 12 feet of rings painted on each end of a sheet of ice. A rock must be in or touching the house to be eligible to score. "The button" is the very middle of the house. You want your rocks to be as close as possible to the button to improve your chances of scoring (more on that in a future post).
Q: And where are you when you're "in the hack"?
Strange as it sounds, there is no need to worry if you're in the hack. It just means it's your turn to deliver a stone. "The hack" is the raised rubber grip you throw the rock from (which by the way, is really more of a "slide" or "push" than a "throw", but that's just what we casually call it).
The hack acts much like a starter's block, giving the curler a firm base to push off of and start their shot. The conventional way of delivering a rock is to crouch down in the hack and push off into a slide holding the rock in front of you before you release it.
Some curlers don't shoot this way due to physical limitations, and instead use a delivery aid called a "stick." Using the stick as an extension of their arm, they start by standing in the hack and walk forward to release the rock.
Q: OK I think I'm understanding these terms, but where in the heck does the pig... I mean hog... come in?
There will be no swine participating in our curling matches. There is, however, a hog line, painted across the ice, 15 feet in front of each house. It serves two very important functions.
All of the shots taken must make it over the far hog line. If they don't, they are removed from play, and you have "hogged" a rock. Every curler has hogged a rock sometime in their career, so don't fret if you come up short a few times as you are learning.
Secondly, when a curler is delivering, they must let go of the rock before they cross the near hog line (ie. the one 33 feet from the hack). This is not a concern for most beginner curlers! However, at the elite level where the curlers have excellent balance, they actually have electronic rocks with sensors on them to catch "hog line violations."
Now that you know the crazy lingo, are you ready to get into the hack and throw some stones? Then join the Shelburne Curling Club for our FREE Learn to Curl clinics on October 22-26 at 7 pm. We'll have instructors on hand to show you the ropes and, yes, answer any questions you still have. Sign up at www.shelburnecurling.ca/try-curling or call the club at (519) 925-2011. See you there!