I’ve been working this week on a story about Ontario’s playdown system, which seems archaic by comparison with other jurisdictions.
Ontario is the only province that doesn’t give some sort of leg up for the top competitive teams. For instance, Glenn Howard goes all the way to the Brier final for the third year in a row, wins two of the four Grand Slams and banks tons o’ cash, yet he starts at the same level as the knee-sliders from the Legion.
Now some might say that’s not a bad thing, that it’s one of the pure parts about what makes the Brier (or the Scotties for that matter), the event it is.
But in this day and age when guys are grinding almost full time, it’s just plain stupid. Other provinces have altered their formats in various ways. In some cases the defending champion gets a pass, in other cases, winning certain events gets you in or if you’re the top team in the CTRS or other tour from your region.
Doug Bakes, the very capable ED of the Ontario Curling Association, said the OCA isn’t against change, it’s just that the competitive curlers haven’t made a formal presentation or request. In other words, they’re not really sure what the curlers want. Do they want a bye for the defending champ? The top Ontario team in the CTRS? The Ontario Curling Tour? I can Bakes’ side of things, but if you’re trying to run an event and ensure you have the best teams there, I would think the onus would be on the organizers rather than the participants. I mean, the folks hosting the provincial final would love to be able to have a Howard or a Middaugh in their pocket at the start of the year to boost ticket sales and marketing efforts.
At the very least, perhaps it would be worthwhile getting the OCA board, maybe Gerry Geurts from the Ontario Curling Tour and maybe a rep from a few teams such as Middaugh and Howard around a table for an hour or two to hash it out. Right now, they’re playing with fire, especially if a Howard and/or a Middaugh get stuck on some back ice in their zones and lose to the knee-sliders. Ask Glenn and Wayne – it’s happened before.