Sunday, January 13, 2013

Continental Cup is nothing like the Ryder Cup

There is no event in curling I loathe more than the WFG Continental Cup.

To tell you why, I’m sure I could just pop up a column fromlast year. Or the year before. Or the year before. But in my opinion, it’s really just a bad event drastically in need of a makeover.

Some of that got done this year when the formerly convoluted point system was changed (It still isn’t as good as it could be), but the event is still lacking.

But rather than drag out the old arguments I’ve made – such as adding a double-team competition and why mixed doubles is silly – here are three reasons why this is nothing like golf’s Ryder Cup that the WCF and CCA like to use for comparison.

The sides are too friendly: At the Ryder Cup, while the players on each side respect each other and are pals, there is still a lot of animosity towards each other. There are golfers who want to beat the brains in of players on the other side and that can be felt during the event. At the Continental Cup, there is nothing like that, at least not in any way you can sense. It seems like a big fun mixed bonspiel. Sure that’s curling, all friendly and such, but I’d rather have those days when Eddie Werenich was threatening to jam a curling broom up that rear end of the Hasselborgs. Or when David Smith was calling Kevin Martin a cheater. OK maybe you don’t have to go that far but I don’t even sense that anyone really cares about this event, that there are any bragging rights involved here. It’s not like Eve Muirhead tells Jennifer Jones, “Ya but remember we kicked your arse at the Continental Cup.” And I’d be willing to wager that a month from now if you asked the average curling fan who won the Continental Cup, he or she wouldn’t have a clue. You don't want these players hating each other -- that's not curling. But you do want something more than curl and giggle, something that shows the desire to win.

Annual vs. Biennial: Having the Continental Cup every year wears it out. No one really looks forward to it since it’s just another event, nothing special. The Ryder Cup is held every other year and that year off helps it build momentum and makes it special.

Scoring: At the Ryder Cup, you don’t get points for winning a hole or a nine. At the Continental Cup you get points for winning individual skins. That’s silly isn’t it? I mean you either beat the other team or you don’t. You shouldn’t be able to earn points and lose the overall game. Worse, you could actually clinch the overall competition in the middle of a game.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

An icemaker weighs in on playdowns

After my regular game last night, I spoke with our beloved icemaker who commented on the OCR article looking at changing the playdown process in Ontario.

One part he brought up to me was the fact that it is cheaper for him to keep the lights turned off than to host an event, for which he and his team don't receive any extra compensation but do incur costs. He suggested that the Ontario Curling Association begin to pay clubs to host playdowns. He's made that suggestion to the top dogs at the OCA and of course it was met with some surprise.

But when you look at the facts, it's not an unreasonable request. Of course the OCA has its own financial struggles and trying to find money for such things would be tough. It's not an easy situations for either the association or the clubs.

Essentially, it's a downloading of costs to the club level. It's no surprise that many clubs simply refuse to host events. I'd say about the same 20 per cent of clubs seem to host events year after year.

Our esteemed master of the pebbling can also suggested that perhaps curlers could foot the bill -- it would work out to about a Loonie per draw per curler, he said. Of course the curlers would say they're already paying through their competitor fees and OCA fees. Or, as a last resort, how about at least a tip jar where players could drop some change in as a sign of respect for the icemaker's extra work for which he or she generally isn't being compensated above and beyond the normal salary? I wouldn't be against that.

Somewhere along the line, someone will have to pay.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

More on a new system for Ontario

Yesterday’s blog generated a lot of commentary, much of it from curlers who have been part of the playdown process.

A couple of points that should be brought up:

First, I don’t think we should eliminate the traditional playdown process where a team can sign up at their club and make it all the way to the provincial finals. Rather, I think we should just a) add to that process and b) modify it somewhat.

Second, another part of the argument that hasn’t been brought up is the time and cost of all these playdowns. With 16 zone playdowns, you need 16 clubs to donate ice which means icemaker’s time and, in some cases, club staff, i.e. bar staff, club managers. (True increased bar sales can be a benefit from this as well.) There is also the need for volunteer officials to oversee all these events. It's a significant undertaking for not much return. 

Several emails asked to see the modified proposal in the Ontario Curling Report. It is as follows:
  • eliminate zone playdowns as they are a waste of time, money and don’t draw enough teams to make it worthwhile; 
  • instead, have four regional triple knockout bonspiels, each delivering two teams to the provincial finals. Based on this year’s zone entries, each of these would have somewhere between 24 and 30 entries;
  • The leading money winner on the OCT would get a spot;
  • The leading Ontario team not otherwise qualified on the CTRS would get a spot;
  • A triple knockout Challenge Round winner would get a spot;
  • The defending champion would get a spot;
  • The provincial final goes from round-robin to triple knockout. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Ontario's playdown system out of date

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.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Oregon kid caught in the middle

How is a curler in a wheelchair ineligible for both able-bodied AND wheelchair curling?
That’s the situation facing a young U.S. rock-tosser who has been left out on the cold by a decision from the United States Curling Association, according to this article in Oregon Live. 

Steven Roberts, 17, of the Evergreen Curling Club in Beaverton, Ore., was set to play down for a spot in the U.S. Junior Championship until the ruling from the American governing body.

The United States Curling Association ruled Dec. 28 that Roberts, who uses a wheelchair, violated curling rules with his method of “delivery” — how he projects the curling stone onto the ice.But Roberts also has been deemed too mobile to compete in wheelchair curling competitions. He can walk but has fragile bones and tendons due to a genetic disorder called osteogenesis imperfecta.

Roberts’ delivery can be seen in a video in the article but essentially he wheels down the sheet with the rock in his feet and then releases it. He’s quite accurate with his method and has had some success.
Why he falls through the cracks is that the rule for standard curling states that curlers must release the rock with their hands while the wheelchair rule says curlers can use a stick or hands.

Obviously this situation is quite unusual, but the situation was made even weirder when play started and Roberts’ Evergreen CC team faced off against a squad from the Denver CC.

In last weekend’s junior competition, Roberts was allowed to participate, but any stones he delivered were taken out of play. Denver won every game and will advance to the national championships in Massachusetts.“It’s very frustrating,” said Roberts, a senior at Hudson’s Bay High School.

So he threw the rocks but they took them out of play? I can’t think of anything more humiliating than that. What would be the point of allowing him to play but not counting his rocks?

Folks at Roberts’ curling club have taken up his cause but with the ruling from the USCA, have essentially been shut down. So there is the possibility of pursuing other ways to plead the case.

“If they were to make a rule change to allow me to curl, it would open the way for possibly hundreds of more junior curlers to be allowed to compete,” he said.Evergreen is considering other avenues to pursue Roberts’ case, Iwanick said.One option is pursuing the case in court as a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.“The United States Curling Association is not giving us appropriate solutions to our problem,” Roberts said. Referring to his delivery style, he added, “They are just rejecting it — pointing out everything that’s not legal about it — and basically saying I should not be allowed to compete.”The club may also pursue arbitration through the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.