Lots of playdowns were completed over the weekend setting up provincial championships across the country and in Ontario, the antiquated system the Ontario Curling Association keeps in place delivered a good field but with some notable absences.
First up, the qualifiers: John Epping, Darryl Prebble, Howard Rajala, Bryan Cochrane, Rob Rumfeldt, Wayne Tuck Jr., Pat Ferris and Dayna Deruelle.
Of course Glenn Howard’s team has a spot by virtue of being the defending champion.
There are surprises in there, notably Rajala who hasn’t played much this year. According to the OCT site, the Ottawa rink played just three events, all in the Ottawa area. The squad is ranked 51st on the money list.
Dayna Deruelle’s Brampton foursome may not be as well known as the others on this list but it’s cashed in on the Ontario Curling Tour.
But it may be who is missing that’s more surprising. None of the top three Southern Ontario teams on the OCT money list made it: Mark Kean, No. 1, lost out in Region 2 (he’s also eighth on the CTRS). Joe Frans, third in earnings, lost in Region 2 and Greg Balsdon, runner up in Ontario a year ago, was knocked out in Region 1.
All these teams are likely to show up at the Challenge Round where two more berths will be awarded.
But honestly, should a team such as Mark Kean be forced to play three separate weekends to reach the provincial final when it’s played an otherwise remarkable year?
The argument can be made that if you don’t win, you don’t get in. And upsets will always happen. True, but a provincial championship field is being determined by, in some cases, one weekend or even one game. Wouldn’t it be better, as is done in most other provinces these days, to give some consideration to a competitive team that’s played so well all year long? If you're trying to deliver the best field to the provincial final, the current system is like a roulette wheel.
The case for that becomes stronger when you consider there are 11 teams in the field for this year’s Dominion Tankard, slated for Barrie, Ont. Why not add a 12th team, even out the draw and give competitive curling in Ontario a boost, all at the same time?
In the latest edition of the Ontario Curling Report, we’ve proposed a new system that does away with zone playdowns (which are dwindling in terms of entries) and recognizes season-long performance. It's one way to correct things and I'm sure there are others.
The OCA says it will hold an open dialogue session with stakeholders in Barrie, which is a good sign. But right now, the system isn’t working. Something has to change.