Beginner’s guide to Grand Slam of Curling

January 18, 2019, 10:00 AM

Hey there, are you wondering what the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling is or are you curious about curling in general?

Consider this an “Explain like I’m Five” rundown of what you need to know:


What is the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling?

The Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling is a professional league comprised of seven men’s and women’s curling tournaments featuring the top-ranked teams from around the world. There are no restrictions on how many teams from a province or country can compete in our events.

Teams qualify to play in Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling tournaments by competing on the World Curling Tour and earning Order of Merit (OOM) points that determine the rankings of who gets in. OOM points are also up for grabs at Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling events and since the series offers the best competition, teams can earn a significant amount of points here. Teams also compete for the top prizes on tour at the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling with over $2.1 million in total purse money over the course of the 2017-18 season. The purse money is split evenly between the men’s and women’s competitions.

The series started in 2001 with four men’s events: Masters, National, Canadian Open and Players’ Championship. These are the “original four” tournaments of the series and are considered majors on tour. A women’s division was added to the Players’ Championship in 2006. Since Sportsnet acquired the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling in 2012, women’s divisions have also been added to the other three majors, too.

Within the past few seasons, three more Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling events were created. The Elite 10 was introduced during the 2014-15 season and features unique match-play scoring rules. The 2015-16 season saw the addition of the Tour Challenge, which is the largest event in the series with 30 men’s teams and 30 women’s teams divided into two tiers; and the Humpty’s Champions Cup, which features the top men’s and women’s tour event winners of the year.


2018-19 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling schedule

Event Date Location
Princess Auto
Elite 10
Sept. 26-30, 2018 St. Clair Campus Arena
Chatham, ON
Masters Oct. 23-28, 2018 Rath Eastlink Arena
Truro, NS
Tour Challenge Nov. 6-11, 2018 Tournament Centre
Thunder Bay, ON
Boost
National
Dec. 11-16, 2018 Conception Bay South Arena
Conception Bay South, NL
Meridian
Canadian Open
Jan. 8-13, 2019 Civic Centre
North Battleford, SK
Players’ Championship April 9-14, 2019 Mattamy Athletic Centre
Toronto, ON
Humpty’s
Champions Cup
April 23-28, 2019 Merlis Belsher Place
Saskatoon, SK

Team also earn bonus points during the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season in the chase for the Pinty’s Cup, which is awarded following the conclusion of the Players’ Championship and includes a $75,000 prize each for the winning men’s and women’s teams.

Players wear their tour uniforms at our events, which feature their names and sponsors. Some players also wear numbers of their choice.

edin

Sweden’s Team Edin sporting their viking-style jersey.

ulsrud

Some teams also wear unique pants, such as Norway’s Team Ulsrud, who wear a variety of eye-catching Loudmouth pants ala golfer John Daly.


Televised?

The Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling airs on Sportsnet in Canada. Online streaming is available at snnow.ca (Canada) or gsoc.yaretv.com (international).


The Rules

pano

A curling ice sheet is roughly 146 feet long by 15 feet, seven inches wide; about the length of a hockey rink with room to spare. At each end of the sheet is the “house” — a 12-foot bullseye with its centre known as the “button.”

Ice makers sprinkle the surface with water prior to the start of games to created pebbles, which create more friction between the stone and the ice and help the stones curl.

stone

A curling stone weighs around 42 lbs. and the granite used comes from the island of Ailsa Craig in Scotland.

The curling brush consists of a fibreglass or carbon fibre shaft with a fabric head used in a sweeping motion perpendicular to the path of the rock to clear debris from the ice and help maintain the path of the curling stone.

Players slide out of what’s known as the hack and they also wear different soles on their shoes: one for their sliding foot and a gripping sole on the other. They must release the handle of the curling stone before crossing the nearest hog line — a horizontal line across the ice — and the rock must come to rest beyond the far hog line in order to be considered in play. If either of these rules are violated, the rock is removed from play (also known as “hogged”).

Curling games are played in ends — similar to periods or innings in other sports. Each team has a total of eight stones per end with play alternating between the teams after each stone is thrown.

Players do not have unlimited time to throw. Each team has a “thinking time” clock, a total of 33 minutes per game, plus a pair of timeouts. If a team runs out of time, they cannot throw any more rocks.

Teams take turns throwing their stones. The team that throws second during the end has the “hammer.” Hammer, or last-rock advantage, is determined by a pre-game draw-to-the-button shootout between a player on each team. These scores are also added together and used in the case of tiebreakers for playoffs for most Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling events.

The team with the hammer has the advantage of throwing the last rock of the end and looks to score by having the most stones closest to button than the nearest stone of the opposing team. Each rock closer than their opponents nearest stone is worth a point. The maximum points a team can score in an end is eight, also known as an eight-ender. Although extremely rare, an eight-ender happened at the 2006 Players’ Championship.

If the team with the hammer scores, the opposing team will have the hammer and throw second during the next end. However, if the team without the hammer has one or more stones closer to the button than the team with the hammer, they will have “stolen” the end and are awarded points instead. The team with the hammer retains the hammer for the next end.

Only one team can receive points each end.

The team with the hammer may opt to blank the end by finishing the end with none of their stones or their opponents’ stones sitting in the house. No points are awarded for the end and the team retains the hammer for the following end.

Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling games are played to eight ends. If the score is tied after eight, an extra end will be played. If a team is losing by a large amount and feel they cannot overcome the deficit, they may call the game early by shaking hands with their opponent.

Why don’t teams just keeping hitting their opponent’s rocks? Explaining the five-rock rule

All matches in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling are played utilizing the five-rock rule.

Basically, rocks that are placed within the free-guard zone — the ice outside the house from the tee line up to the nearest hog line — cannot be removed from play until five rocks have been thrown (i.e. the sixth rock of play is the first that can eliminate guards). This is designed to prevent teams from simply hitting out their opponents stones to blank every end. Although blank ends still occur, it can lead to a more aggressive style of play and generate more offence.

sportsnet

The free-guard zone is located above the house.


The Players

Each team has four players: the lead, second, third, and skip. Teams are traditionally named after the skip. Some teams mix it up with their skip throwing in a different order, however, this is the most common setup for teams.

Skip “Captain” who calls the shots.
In the house during the first six stones.
Throws the seventh & eighth stones.
Third AKA vice skip.
Sweeps the first four stones.
Throws the fifth & sixth stones.
In the house during the skip’s stones.
Second Sweeps the first two stones.
Throws the third & fourth stones.
Sweeps the final four stones.
Lead Throws the first & second stones.
Sweeps the following six stones.

What are they yelling?

jacobs

Yes, curling is a loud sport. Although “hurry hard” has become the cliched curling expression, you’ll probably never actually hear it said during a game these days.

Rather, here are some common curling phrases you’re more likely to hear:

“Hard,” “hard line,” or “go”: Sweep harder to maintain the current path.

“Clean”: Sweep lightly to ensure the line is maintained.

“Whoa,” “Never,” or “Off”: Stop sweeping.

“Looks heavy”: The stone has been thrown too hard and has a chance of sliding past the intended target.


Who are some teams I should know?

koe
Team Koe
Calgary-based Team Koe captured Canadian and world men’s championships in 2016.
Skip Kevin Koe and lead Ben Hebert represented Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Team Gushue

Team Gushue
One of the most successful teams in the series winning 10 titles since 2014.
Team Gushue has captured all seven event titles in the series.
Skip Brad Gushue and third Mark Nichols won Olympic gold at the 2006 Turin Winter Games.
shuster
Team Shuster
John Shuster, who plays out of Duluth, Minn., represented the U.S. for a fourth consecutive time at the Winter Olympics.
His team pulled off the “Miracurl on Ice” stunning favourites Canada and Sweden in the playoffs to win the 2018 Olympic gold medal.
Team Homan
Team Homan
Team Homan has won a record 10 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling women’s titles.
The Ottawa-based team made history becoming the first women’s club to compete in a Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling men’s tournament (the 2016 Elite 10) and defeat a high-ranked men’s team since Sportsnet acquired the series in 2012.
Homan represented Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
jones
Team Jones
Jennifer Jones is one of the most decorated curlers in the history of the sport with an Olympic gold medal, six Canadian championships (Scotties Tournament of Hearts) and nine Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling titles.
Jones is the reigning world champion.
hasselborg
Team Hasselborg
Sweden’s Team Hasselborg captured Olympic gold at the 2018 Winter Games.
Hasselborg earned her first Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title at the Princess Auto Elite 10 in September 2018, the first women’s champion at the event.
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