Thoughts through the opening weekend of the Scotties:
* Rachel Homan’s rink is the real deal and while some may disagree that they play a different game, I do think they play a very confident and bold strategy. They aren’t afraid to play freezes when other teams play hits, and they are the absolute best in this field at throwing big weight with consistency. It would also be hard to find a better prepared team than this one. They have really laid out a plan and, so far, stuck to it. Having said all that, however, it’s important to note that three of her four games so far have been against Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and PEI, not exactly the powerhouses of the field (with all due respect to those teams). The Ontario foursome did look pretty solid against a shaky Alberta rink and overall I love their chances of being around on Sunday, but I think I’ll wait a bit before crowning them champs.
* The ice continues to be a question mark for many of the teams, especially trying to find consistent draw weight. That seems to be a tough task because, as the curlers will tell you, it’s streaky – it’s not the same speed across the sheet. The result is some shots that look rather embarrassing, coming way short or way long. In a lot of cases they’re guessing and guessing wrong. Doesn’t seem to be any frustration setting in. Yet.
* I had a flood of emails (OK, seven) about the relegation system the CCA is testing out at the Seniors and Mixed next year. I mentioned the subject on my TSN piece last night. I guess if the game had been on the main TSN channel instead of the deuce, I would have had, say eight or nine emails. In any case, the proposal would see the CCA move to a 14-team system. Team Canada, Northern Ontario and separate Yukon and Northwest Territories entries. The field would still be 12 teams with the 12th-place finisher from the previous year dropping into a pool with two other teams which didn’t make it in playing a relegation round just before the start of the national event (probably at a curling club in the same locale). On the plus side you get a better entry with a Team Canada and a battle for 12th place late in the week between teams that would otherwise by out of it. On the minus side, two teams don’t get in at all. And if you think that would always be the Territories, think again. In the last decade of the Scotties, the following teams have finished 12th: Territories (3 and 1 tie); New Brunswick (2); N.S. (1 and 1 tie); Manitoba (1 tie); Newfoundland and Labrador (1); and Saskatchewan (1 tie).
* One of the craziest things going on this week are the substitutions. Games in which players normally would shake hands are being extended to allow subs to play an end or two. Why? Because in order to qualify to receive jewelry from Scotties a sub must play one end in two different games. So this morning, for example, Trisha Affleck entered the PEI-ONT tilt with the score 8-1. It’s really sort of a silly rule that just makes a mockery of things. Just give them the damn ring and let them go home.
* Great to see this event in Charlottetown. While the rink here is a bit tight for all that needs to get done (all right, really it’s a selfish note because the interview area is awkward), the city is awash in Scotties paraphernalia. On Queen Street, the main drag, every store window is dressed up, all the restaurants are calling out to the fans to come in an imbibe, and a local told me this is a huge shot in the financial arm for the local economy. Nice to see, although I hope my next visit will be when things are a little greener and the golf courses are open.