2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Why do curlers yell out numbers?

Published: February 11, 2014, 6:30 pm, by Dena Rosenberry

Curling NumbersAs they’re moving down the sheet of ice, you’ll hear the sweepers on a curling team yell out numbers toward the skip in the house.

What’s that about?

The numbers are an estimate of where the sweepers think the stone will end up if left to travel on its own. The numbers give the skip an idea of the speed, or “weight,” of the stone.

The numbering system begins at the far hogline, where the stone, or rock, comes into play on a given end (top of diagram).

The hogline and the next 5 feet or so comprise the 1 zone. There are two more zones – 2 and 3 – before you reach the house.

You might hear the curler who’s about to deliver, or throw, a stone say to the sweepers, “We need a 2 to 3.” That means her goal is to throw a stone in front of the house, a “guard” stone, in the 2-3 zone (between the midway point of hogline to house right up to the edge of the house).

The front edge of the house, or the “12-foot,” – the house is 12 feet across – is the 4 zone. Each ring going through the house signals another zone. The tee line, or the center of the house (the dead center of that middle circle, the “button”), is in zone 7.

You might hear the skip say, “Give me Top 4 or tee,” or “Give me 6-7.” The teammate ready to deliver will confirm the call with the two sweepers and then as soon as the stone is delivered, the two sweepers will give their estimate of the speed, or weight, of the delivery.

If you the sweepers yell “four” or “five,” the skip knows the rock should be easily swept to the desired spot (if the rock follows the given line on the ice).

Canada's Jennifer JonesIf the sweepers yell “two” or “three,” you’ll probably hear the skip yell “Sweep!,” “Yep! Yep!” or “Hurray! Hurry hard!” And the sweepers will power away on the ice.

Or, the skip might immediately consider a Plan B of action.

Similarly, if the sweepers yell “nine,” or “back house,” the skip must immediately consider the possible consequences of a “heavy” rock: Will it take out a rock? Will it follow a different line and bounce off another rock? Is it best to sweep it cleanly through the house so as not to disturb any of your own team’s stones?

Scotland/GB's Eve MuirheadYou don’t have a lot of time to consider possibilities in curling, which is one reason why experience plays so heavily into being successful on the ice. Your chances of success increase the more rocks you see travel down the ice and the more variations you see develop in the house.

Keep asking questions, and I’ll keep answering. Send your questions to dena.rosenberry@gazette.com.

Follow me on Twitter: @djrosenberry