Wednesday, March 9, 2011

CCA makes the wrong choice for Trials



You’re kidding, right?

The next Canadian Curing Trials will be held in Winnipeg, the CCA announced on Wednesday to just about no one’s surprise. Winnipeg is a safe curling centre. Just like Edmonton and Regina and Brandon. To some extent, even Halifax. Those cities hosted the previous Trials.

By choosing Winnipeg to hold the biggest event in curling – the fourth Western city in five events, surprise, surprise -- the CCA took the sure and safe route. There’s little doubt this will be a huge success. Winnipeg has an almost spotless record with big curling events (there was that little blip in 1998 let’s not forget) and will likely put on a good show.

But this decision also showed just how myopic the CCA is in its vision for the game.

Either that, or how secure it wants to be at the bank.

To be sure, the Canadian Curling Trials, which will determine the two teams that will represent Canada at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, is a cash cow for the CCA, an event with which it can generate funds to operate the many other programs it runs. The association asked for a minimum fee of $750,000 for hosting the big bonspiel. And it gets half of any profits after that too. So it makes sense to put this shootout into a corral where it’s a sure thing. But this event – and only this event – is a sure thing no matter where you hold it.

And that’s the point the governing body has clearly missed -- you could hold this in just about any centre in Canada (OK maybe not Quebec) and fill the building up to the rafters.

So why not take a chance? This was an opportunity, a genuine door opening to have really impacted the game. Instead of trying the double-takout and roll for five, it elected the open draw for one. With five sweepers on a 12-foot sheet of ice.

Since the bottom line for this is just about guaranteed, why not get creative and drop this into Toronto? You want to grow the game? You want to move up to the big time? You want to attract culturally diverse audiences?

That would happen in Toronto. Ain’t going to happen in Winnipeg. The fact that this is tied to the Olympics makes it work. Folks would come out in droves, maybe only for one draw or two but that’s all you need. And by the way, there are more curling clubs and more curlers in Toronto than any city in Canada. You’re already starting from a pretty good base.

The CCA has dreamed about hitting the Toronto market for years with the Brier but has always been a little shy. While the Brier might still not work, there’s little doubt the Trials would be a success. It’s that Olympics thing. And then you have, finally, the roaring game on display at its finest, in the largest media market in the country.

Now maybe Toronto has to get off its duff and be proactive and get a bid committee together to make this happen, but the CCA could have at least encouraged that.

Instead we have Winnipeg, which will be a success, no doubt. But to me it says the CCA is more interested in making money than growing the game of curling.

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