I’m away in Southern California on my other business (that would be golf) and haven’t had a chance to keep up on the goings-on in provincial championships across the province of which most are being played out this week.
However, I’m always amazed at how few big upsets there are these days in provincial playdowns. In many cases, especially with the bigger provinces, it comes down to one of two or three teams. The last time there was a true surprise winner in Ontario was probably 1996 when Bob Ingram of Ridgetown stunned the field to capture the title.
These days, the fields are generally filled with a few sure things and then teams which are not quite at the same level. To me, it’s really a sign that there’s a definitive split between the very good teams and the good teams. A few years ago, the split was between good club teams and elite teams, but now that’s gone further.
Of the rinks in the Ontario championships, Middaugh, Howard, Harris and Corner are the only ones that have played anything of significance further than a few hours from their home. You can almost bet that the title will be won by one of those four teams. In fact, I’d put a wager on one of the first two (despite the 1-2 start by Middaugh). OK, I’ll bet Howard.
It doesn’t mean the other seven rinks aren’t capable and talented, just that they aren’t as exacting or consistent as these ones. The ability to play at a very high level over the entire competition is not there. It would be surprise to see one win. You can really find the same in most of the bigger provinces. Some of the smaller provinces, I think, are more open to an upset. Some don’t even have definitive favourites. But in most cases, you can find the winners from a small group.
What these rinks hope for is to make it to the playoffs. That gives them, at the very least, a chance (I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that in an interview). In a one-game scenario, anything can happen.
There have been some cases of this happening. Ingram, as I mentioned. Perhaps the biggest one was Mark Dacey beating Randy Ferbey at the Brier. Any others come to mind?