Thursday, December 4, 2014

Will the Canada Cup replace the Brier?

An interesting article this week from Terry Jones in the Edmonton Sun, discussing Warren Hansen's theory that the Canada Cup will eventually become the most important curling event in the land, replacing the Brier. 
The theory goes that with the advent of the non-provincial-based teams aimed more and more at the Olympics, the Brier won't be the be-all and end-all it once was. 

“It won’t happen quick, but I believe it’s what it will eventually become,” said Hanson. 
“I think, in time, it’s going to become a stronger event because it has the best teams in it. It’s the No. 1 way you get a berth in the Olympic Trials. That, in it’s own right, is going to give it strength. 
“There’s lots going on right now which may change the structure of a lot of things. Ultimately, something different is going to have to evolve.”

Hansen believes that right now, there are really only about half a dozen teams in the country that would be deemed the cream of the crop. And in more and more of those cases, the teams wouldn't be eligible for the Brier under the current rules for residency. So the focus is less on less on getting a Purple Heart and more and more on a Gold medal. 
We probably have about six teams in that inner circle and probably another six or eight just outside of it. Go beyond that and it gets pretty thin. For the smaller provinces to ever be competitive at the Brier, with what everybody is doing here, it’s virtually impossible. 
“With the whole Olympic thing, that’s where the focus is. In the inter-provincial competition, which goes back to 1927, it was club-based. You went from club play to regional play to provincial championships to the Brier and it was the biggest show in the sport. 
“But curling has evolved to where the top teams don’t have any club association at all. It’s four guys and they may be two from Alberta, one from Manitoba and one from Ontario. That’s where’s it gone because of the Olympics.”
Of course Hansen would compare the two CCA-operated events -- the Brier and the Canada Cup. But indirectly with this theory is that events that don't demand everyone come from the same locale will grow while others slip. So that means the Grand Slam of Curling should also become more important (although it doesn't hold the same rewards as the Canada Cup just yet).

You have to wonder when teams will start forgoing the playdowns to focus on the Slam and Canada Cup? I don't think that's a far-fetched thought; in Ontario, for example where they haven't moved on from the paleo era, getting from start to finish to win the province can take four weekends to complete along with a full week at the provincial final itself.

The Brier will also stop being the national curling event it's been this year when there's a pre-qualifier (whatever that means) ahead of the competition. For the first time this year, not all the provinces/regions will be represented. A New Brunswick or PEI may be forced to sit out due to the silly rules now in place.

Hansen is right. The Canada Cup may one day soon become the biggest event in Canadian curling outside the Olympic Trials. And that day may be here before you know it.

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