What the heck are they doing with those brushes? And why are they doing it? Vigorous sweeping, quickly and with pressure, tends to melt the surface of the pebble just a tiny bit. You can’t see it, but it’s there. This tiny sheen of water on the tops of the pebbles has has two purposes:
- to make a delivered stone travel farther, and
- to straighten out the curve of a delivered stone.
A third and unofficial reason to sweep is to keep warm! You will also see sweepers brushing lightly in front of the moving stone to “clean” the ice. This tends to eliminate sweater fuzz, pocket lint, dust, dirt from somebody’s shoe, etc. that may affect the path of the stone.
When can you sweep?
That question has two answers, depending on who’s thrown the stone. If it is your team that threw the stone, then anyone and everyone on your team can sweep from tee line to tee line. Normally that’s the two sweepers, and sometimes the skip will come out from the house and help. The person throwing the stone can even stand up, hustle down the ice, and sweep their own stone! That’s unusual, but perfectly acceptable. It should be noted that adding a third or even a forth sweeper to the usual two has very little additional effect. Once the stone has traveled past the tee line, one person and only one person on your team (usually the skip) can continue to sweep past the tee line.
Your opponents can sweep your stone once it’s past the tee line. This would be an effort to sweep it out of the back of the house and out of play. Only the person in charge of the house (skip or vice-skip) is allowed to do that sweeping! If your opponent skip is busy sweeping your stone, then that means they can’t be sweeping their own stones since only one person per team is allowed to sweep past the tee line. It is legal for both skips to sweep the same stone, however one of them is probably making a strategic mistake. Who has the “right of way”? Good question. You have the right of way if you are sweeping your own stone. You also may not interfere with your opponent’s sweeping.
What do you do about burned rocks?
Burning a rock means you touched it, either with your broom, or your foot, or your tripped and fell on it or something like that which could affect the direction of travel. A rock burned (touched) before the far hog line is immediately pulled from play. For rocks burned beyond the far hog line, all stones are allowed to come to rest after which the non offending team has the option to:
- Remove the touched stone and replace all stones that were displaced after the infraction to their original position; or
- Leave all stones where they came to rest; or
- Place all stones where it reasonably considers the stones would have come to rest had the moving stone not been touched.