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Behind the Hack: Speed of Play

Rule Number 1: Let’s Keep It Moving

A common issue facing clubs everywhere is Speed of Play. Slow play is frustrating to be in and also frustrating to watch. During a recent league session, we were regularly seeing games running almost two and a half hours in length, but only completing 6 or maybe 7 ends regularly. This is problematic for many reasons, not the least of which is that you have every reason to expect to be able to play a full 8-end game. It’s what you signed up for. That being said, we pay dearly for every minute of ice time we use, so we have an obligation to use our time efficiently.

Speed of Play really boils down to three things:

  • Play MUST start on time.
  • Do what you know you need to do, and count on your teammates to do their parts as well.
  • Be ready to go by the time your opponent’s rock comes to rest.

Everything else is just details about getting those things done.

League schedules and bonspiels are built around the idea that an 8-end game can be completed in approximately two hours. A standard assumption is that one end will take 15 minutes. An even more striking example is that at the highest levels of the game, each team has 73 minutes to finish their part of 10 ends. When your time is up, it’s up – and if you’re not done, you lose. Period. End of story. Doesn’t matter what the score is – you lose if you run out of time. While we don’t use time limits or have game clocks in Club play, managing game time is something everyone can contribute to, and playing efficiently makes the game more enjoyable for everyone.

Let’s look at what each position can do to contribute to the speed of the game. Most things listed apply to all positions, with the exception of some of the items noted for the Third and the Skip. I’m sure you’ll agree that’s OK – giving the Third and Skip more to worry about tends to keep them out of trouble.


Start on time.

Once the draw is announced as open, first rocks should be delivered within just a few scant minutes. Being on the ice, ready to go, a bit early – warmed up, hands shaken, coin tossed, and otherwise set up – only helps things move along. Being on the ice a bit early also lets you get your slider cooled down before you actually start sliding – which never hurts.

The ice needs to be on time, too.

Starting on time applies to those who are assisting in the ice setup as well. We have a set list of tasks to accomplish, but the players count on us being ready to go. If we’re not on time, they’re not on time, and it’s already starting to go sideways. Bad mojo there. Ice prep is worthy of much more detailed discussion, and I will not elaborate further here and now.

Quiet, Please.

Keep in mind that the shooter needs to concentrate. Much like in golf, once you are in position to wait and watch while they deliver their rock, be still and quiet. You wouldn’t want someone walking on the green as you’re setting up that 30-foot putt…. likewise, don’t walk across the sheet while the other team is in the hack. Give them the basic courtesies, and they will for you, too.


Be helpful.

It is considered a common courtesy to slide your opponent’s next stone closer to the hack as you get your shot ready. At the same time, some teams don’t want the other team setting their rocks into position in preparation for their next shot. Ask during the opening handshakes, and if they don’t object, set your opponent’s next rock behind the hack as you bring your own to the hack to get set up for the next shot. Tell your teammates as well, so that everyone is working together.

Follow up on your work.

If you’re shooting, once you’ve finished your slide, get up and follow your shot. Use this opportunity to learn from the shot – what is the ice doing? Is it changing as the game progresses? How was your weight? When that shot is done, get over to the side, out of the way, and start working your way to between the Courtesy lines (or at least between the hog lines), near or on the side line. The other team is reading this and will be getting their next shot set up already, too.

Pull over and talk about it.

If you’re sweeping, once your team’s rock comes to a stop, head directly over to the side line and then start working your way back down the sheet to the Courtesy line to get ready for the next shot. At this point, the shooter and the sweepers should do a quick discussion on the shot and relay any messages from the Skip. Was the shot on the broom, how was the weight, etc.

Get set up.

As soon as your opponent releases their rock, get into position (delivering or sweeping) for your next shot.

  • When you’ll be the Shooter: Go directly behind the hack and get your stone ready to throw. If your opponent wants their rock set near the hack, do that on the way. Then stand behind the hack and get ready for the Skip’s call.
  • When you’ll be a Sweeper: Fall in BEHIND the opponent’s shooter and watch the shot – learn from what they did. Weight, curl, the outcome of the shot – all are good things to take note of as you get ready to go again.

Stay out of the House.

If the Skip wants your opinion about the strategy of the end, or has a message to take to the shooter, they’ll let you know. Don’t hang out in the house “just in case”. In fact, according to the rules, only the Third and Skip are allowed behind the house when the opponents are shooting. Give yourself more time to get set up, and keep the house open for the other team to set up their next call.

Do your Skip a favor.

While you’re waiting for the Skip to decide what they’re doing for their last rocks and then coming down to the hack to shoot, set up the Skip’s rock and clean it for them. Then get into position to sweep. They really do appreciate your help, no matter what they say. It makes them feel special, and we all know how much Skips need that. If the Skip gets into the hack and cleans the rock a second time as part of their routine, don’t be offended; their rituals help them concentrate.

Take out the garbage.

After the last rock of the end has come to a stop, it is acceptable to start clearing stones that will not be considered in the scoring. In fact, it makes the Third’s job easier. Just be sure to not bump or clear any stones that are in the house.

This isn’t Tetris.

The rocks going back into the “rock box” behind the hack don’t always need to be in perfect order, except for the start of the next game. If it really has to be “just so”, the Skip can help clear and set out-of-play stones during the course of the end…. maybe. Which side of the sheet your rocks are on behind the hack? Doesn’t really matter during the game, either. Just keep each color together. Other than that, don’t sweat it. Unless the ice is color-coded, that is.

Sometimes it’s better to stay outside.

Stay out of the house while the score is being determined. Let the Thirds do their job. Help clear stones from the house after the score is set, and then get ready for the next end.

Lead from the front of the pack.

LEADS: If your team scores, remember YOU deliver the first rock of the next end. Find your first rock, set yourself up in the hack, and clean your stone while the others clear out the remaining stones. You’ll often find yourself waiting for your Skip to give you the call, instead of the other way around. That’s a good thing. Take the time you’ve saved to reflect on your stellar play last end…. OK, that’s enough – get ready to shoot.



Do the work up front.

Meet up with the Third from your opposing team, shake hands, and toss the coin while the rest of the team is doing their pre-game thing. You’ll look so organized and collected.

Be One of the Guys.

Most of the notes for the Leads and Seconds also apply to you, too.

Like a (the) Boss.

After your last rock is released, make your way directly to the house to confer with the Skip about the last rocks of the end. In the house, remember to stay behind the back line, keep your broom off the ice, and don’t distract the other team. Whatever you do (or don’t do), I assure you that they will reciprocate. Along with keeping your broom off the ice, hold your broom horizontally or behind you and out of sight. As a courtesy to the other team’s shooter, try not to hold your broom perpendicular to the ice, in case they may somehow mistake it as their Skip’s broom. In the third picture below, even though the broom is held vertically, it’s at least off the ice and hidden behind the playing Skip. Nobody’s perfect, but you get the idea.

Try to stand behind their Skip and out of sight as well, until the shot is released. Then watch the shot – be ready to sweep once the rock crosses the Tee line.   Also, pay attention to where their Skip placed their broom for their shot. This may be an important point of reference for your next shot. How many times have you heard the Skip say, “Same shot” and slide away, leaving you all by your lonesome…. Be ready for it to happen again.

Take the Opportunities.

Once you know what the plan for the Skip’s rocks is – that is, the plan for BOTH rocks – set your broom and make the call. Your Skip does trust you – really. Trust yourself.


After the last rock has come to rest, get the score decided and hung (remember – the third of the scoring team hangs the points on the scoreboard) as expediently as possible.


Plain and Simple: Have a Plan.

THIS IS PROBABLY THE BIGGEST TIME SAVER IN THE GAME. Seriously. Have a plan – for each end, and for the game as a whole. Very few shots need 45 seconds of pondering, scratching your chin and examining all the angles, no matter how good it makes you look. You should already have an idea of what you want to do; be ready with your next call by the time the other team’s rock comes to rest. Call the shot and get on with it.

Your game is on your sheet.

Yes, we play a social game, but focus on the game in front of you – not the game one or two sheets over. Try to keep idle chit-chat down to a minimum. You may only see the other Skips once or twice a week, but they’re playing their games, too. You’ll get your chance; that’s what Broomstacking is for – later.

It takes two – and a Third, too.

Work with the Third to plan for BOTH of your rocks in the end. Take a bit of extra time before your first stone, and you’ll spend less getting ready for your last. At worst, it’s a wash timewise, and the Third knows big picture. Win-win. Besides – they’ve probably figured it out already.

Sometimes you just gotta let it go.

Once you’ve completed your first shot of an end, you don’t always need to go back to the house to figure out the next shot. You trust your Third to hold the broom for you, you can trust them to make the call for your last rock without your expert guidance. They have just as much invested in this game as you do. They know the plan – let them do it. If they humbly desire your guidance, they will appeal to your voluminous curling wisdom. Go back to the hack and get your last rock set up to deliver. Let them drive the bus, and focus on the shot – your shot.

There’s more we could discuss here, but let’s not go overboard.

As you can see, lots of little things can be done to increase the speed of your team’s play. None of them tend to realize a great deal of time savings by themselves, but saving only 10 seconds per shot for 6 ends gives a savings of 16 minutes – that’s an entire end’s worth of time right there. Yeah, we’re talking nickels and dimes here, but all those seconds add up – fast.

It’s really not that difficult to be able to “Play All 8” each and every week.

We’ve got this.