Since my posting of Dale Matchett’s plan for the Ontario playdowns went up, I’ve had lots e-mails and phone conversations with people who are full of ideas of how to make changes to the archaic process currently in use.
Quite obviously, the folks who are playing the game at the highest levels aren’t really happy with the current system. That’s obvious and understandable.
That means there are two questions to be answered. The first is whether they can come to an agreement about how it should be changed. The second is whether the Ontario Curling Association is willing to make a change (and how quickly such a change could be enacted).
I’ve seen a few e-mail strings and some conversations on curlingzone.com about proposed ideas and frankly, I’m not sure I know what’s best. There are some deep thinkers out there who've spent a lot of time considering this. But I can offer up one certainty that need to considered before making a final decision.
The primary mandate for the changes should be to give the best teams the best chance to represent Ontario at the Brier.
This means the teams that are playing the best should have the easiest time getting to the Tankard.
Glenn Howard should not have to play zone playdowns. Wayne Middaugh should not have to play zone playdowns. Neither should have to play regions. The fact that Middaugh is not going to be in Woodstock should be setting off alarm bells in the OCA offices in Pickering.
We’re not talking about a free pass here – we’re talking about rewarding teams who have played at a high level all year. In what other sport do teams that have played the best all year long have to start off at the same level as teams that quite possibly haven't won or even played a single game? It's mind-boggling. Imagine the Tennessee Titans starting this year's NFL playdowns at the same rung as the Detroit Lions? I know it's not quite a fair comparison but it serves to illustrate what's going on.
Very simply, at least one team should get a bye as determined by its position on the Canadian Team Ranking System list.
And contrary to what others believe, I’d say include points earned in Grand Slams and don’t limit it to events played in Ontario. If you’re playing in a Grand Slam, you’re playing against the best teams in the world. And if you’re playing in Brooks and Medicine Hat, then you have to be awfully good. Those are the teams we want at the Tankard. Don’t penalize a team because it’s playing the A tour – reward it!
So in discussing any changes – which have to include format, number of teams and length of time it takes to play the event (and not just the eight-day provincial but the weekends leading up to that) – make sure that the focus is on sending Ontario’s best to the Brier.