So what was the final result of the five-rock rule used last week at the Grand Slam in Kingston? For the most part, it seems the players liked it or at the very least understood it was good for the fans. However no one is quite willing to say adopt it full bore.
Winner Mike McEwen wasn’t overly enthusiastic about it, saying it made his head hurt thinking about the strategy in the early going, but conceded it was a positive in an interview with the CBC’s Scott Russell.
I contacted a couple of players from the competition via email and got support. First up was Brad Gushue:
“Even though we played horrible, I really enjoyed the rule,” said the gold medalist. “I think it provides a lot more interest for both players and fans. The teams have gotten so good that one mistake (three or four ender) in the four-rock rule and the game is essentially over or at least really boring. The five-rock rule allowed teams some hope if they got down three or four points.
“I would like to play it a few more times before deciding on whether I would like to see a permanent change. But I would definitely be in favour of playing a few events with the five-rock rule. It was really nice to have a change and see the varying ways teams tried to defend the rule. It was also nice to see the smoke coming from a few skips ears as they finally had to think with a three-point lead.”
Next, I wanted to speak to a front-ender to see how it changed things and reached Craig Savill of Team Howard. (Of course he was ecstatic that someone even asked for his opinion. Oh, the life of a lowly front-ender):
“It’s hard to get a full grasp of the new rule after one event but so far I love the five-rock rule,” he stated. “I think the rule promotes more rocks in play and keeps the team that is leading more aggressive. During the BDO Canadian Open, when we were down three or four it didn't seem like the game was over. With the hammer it seemed like twos and threes were wild. The five-rock rule certainly created some new situations, especially in the last couple ends. When up by two coming home without last rock you now have the mentality of just trying to hold the opposition to two and not give up three. That's certainly a different mentality that you have when playing the four-rock rule.”
In his column in the Toronto Sun, George Karrys had some comments from another Team Howard member, Wayne Middaugh and brought up the way the rule changes things for the front-enders.
“It really favours a team that has a strong lineup all the way through,” said Middaugh. “To quote John Kawaja 15 years ago, ‘You get a couple of plumbers to kick them down there for the first four rocks, then you have a great third and a great skip and win the Brier.’ Well, that sure won’t work anymore.”
MIddaugh added that the rule keeps things interesting throughout the contest.
“We gave up four in the first end; in a regular game, the game is over,” said Middaugh. “You just can’t (come back), Jeff is going to give us two every end and then score his one with the hammer, and we just can’t catch him. But with this rule, we felt the whole time that we had the chance to come back and right up until the last end, we did.”
Overall, it seems the players like the new rule but still want a little more time to digest the changes.