Should the Brier winner get a bye the following year?
That’s what the Canadian Curling Association is pondering these days as it looks to change to the men’s and women’s national championships. Donna Spencer of Canadian Press has this article on the possible alterations to the Brier and the Scotties.
My personal opinion is, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
First, a little history lesson here. When the Scotties added Team Canada to its lineup, it was because the event was having trouble drawing audiences, both live and on television. Women’s teams weren’t well known as they are these days with Jennifer Jones and Colleen Jones et al. It was before television covered the event wall to wall and so organizers felt it needed a hook on which to hang its marketing hat. So starting with the 1985 championship, it brought the winner back as Team Canada.
I can tell you that the move was controversial and I was among many who thought it was a bad idea. The marketing side I got, the free pass I never did and still don’t.
To add this to the Brier, I believe, would be a massive mistake. One of the great charms of the Brier is the fact that everyone has to earn their way there, no passes, no byes. It’s shocking when a team such as Jeff Stoughton’s doesn’t get back, yes, but shows just how tough it is to win and makes it that much sweeter for the champions.
I also don’t buy Warren Hansen’s quote in this article about needing a team to market.
"It makes sense to me that both those championship should look the same," Hansen said. "To have a team a year ahead for both events that we can use in marketing those events is huge.
Um, maybe Warren didn’t see the ads for this year Brier that were running, but they had Stoughton, Martin and Howard’s mugs all over them. The CCA already uses top curlers images and quotes to sell tickets, even if they aren’t assured of being there. And when was the last time there was a Brier that didn’t feature a recognizable name?
Oh and how often has the Brier lost money? (I mean other than when it’s in Hamilton?) So you need a Team Canada to market for what reason precisely?
I don’t have research to back this up, but I would posit that there are two main types of ticket buyers for a Brier or Scotties. The first group buys because of the event. They know there will be good curling, a Patch and more. These folks buy any time.
The second buys to see specific teams and won’t get a ducket until the teams are selected. They might want to go and see Glenn Howard or Brad Gushue or Kevin Koe. They buy on strength of field, not one specific team.
I would suggest that the former group is significantly larger than the latter, providing even less reason to add a Team Canada to the Brier. How many more tickets would have been sold to this year's event because Jeff Stoughton would have been in the field. No disrespect to the Stoughton four, but I don't think it would have been that many.
Now certainly the Brier has changed over the years. In the early days, there were teams representing Toronto and Montreal and over the years, provinces and regions such as Newfoundland and Labrador and the Territories have been added. Change is inevitable, the relegation system likely but I think adding Team Canada to a Brier solely for marketing reasons then you’re doing it for the very, very wrong reason.