Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Dominion Underway

I note, with a tinge of envy, that the Dominion Curling Club Championship is underway in Charlottetown.

I say envy because I was a participant in this event after winning my club championship last spring and had visions of being on the ice in my favourite city in the world. OK, so I dream big.

The Dominion, in just its second year of operation, has become one of the most enjoyable and successful events in Canadian curling. It tapped into a great vein of curler appreciation and when the first national championship went off with so much success, word spread quickly. Now according to the effervescent Leigh Armstrong, who administers the event (among the Dominion’s many other curling championships) on Dominion’s behalf, told me that entries were up slightly this year, but I’d bet awareness has grown exponentially.

In fact, if there is any problem with this event, that’s it: it’s so popular that the boundaries of who should be eligible are stretching because so many curlers want in. So who is supposed to play? Here’s what appears on the Ontario Curling Association web site about the rules and spirit of the event:

The Dominion Curling Club Championship gives grass roots curling teams from every corner of the country an opportunity to compete in provincial and national level competition. Club curlers are those who enjoy the sport recreationally, supporting club leagues on a regular basis from September to April.
The event is formulated for true club curlers, not elite, past or present. We want to support ordinary curlers and the development of curling across Canada.

The rules also state the following:

Each team will be allowed only one player who has played in a Men’s, Women’s or Seniors’ provincial event in the current or previous year, or participated in a Grand Slam event in the current or previous year.

The Dominion also has a provision to allow individual associations to adopt more restrictive policies if it sees fit.

There were no real problems in the zone playdown in which I competed. There was one notable curler who two weeks later played in the final of a Grand Slam event, but the rest of his team qualified under the rules as stated. (and we beat him anyway!)

At the provincial final though, there were teams that were regulars on the Ontario Curling Tour, which in my mind kind of goes against the spirit of what the Dominion is all about. I don’t know if they were true club curlers but it didn’t seem so. They were more elite curlers than club curlers. So under the rules, they qualified, but under the spirit?

And that’s the question: when does a really good club curler cross over to become a competitive or elite curler? And who is going to make that decision? Tough questions, for sure.

Now this fine line isn’t new by any means. Any Toronto curler who played in the big City of Toronto bonspiel, sponsored for a century by Canada Life and now by Goldline, is aware of it. For years that spiel tried to weed out or limit the top teams from entering. In many cases, what happened was the big players, such as Ed Werenich of Paul Savage, bought in and would skip teams of knee-sliders and it would be one fun week for all. But there will always be those with some sour grapes who think someone is over-qualified.

This probably isn’t a big enough concern to be worried about just yet. The Dominion is off to a great start and is a truly tremendous event. But it’s that way because it’s for the average curler out there, giving him and her a chance to play in a national championship. Here's hoping it stays that way.

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