Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Niagara curling conference a big hit

Curling’s first big curling pow-wow down in Niagara Falls was, by all reports, a big success. Lots of chatting, presentations, awards and general discussion about the game went on and most left with good feelings about where things are headed.

There were some interesting changes for the coming season, which were spelled out in the release that came from Ottawa today. Here are the highlights (from my humble point of view):

* The qualifying rounds at the Canadian Seniors and Mixed Championships were eliminated and replaced by a similar 14-team direct-entry format that is currently used at the M&M Meat Shops Canadian Junior Men’s and Women’s Championships, with the 14 teams split into two seven-team pools, and the top-four finishers from each pool advancing to the championship round-robin. As well, games at both the Seniors and Mixed nationals will be reduced to eight ends, falling in line with international competitions.

I think this is a wise move. It had to suck to be one of the teams at the Senior last year that came all the way out and then lose in the pre-qualifying event. I think especially for the, um, less competitive events (relatively speaking) such as the Senior and Mixed, everyone deserves to play. The move to the same system used in the Juniors is a good one. I’m sure there are things to deal with such as ice allocation and extra expenses, but it seems to be worth it.

* The two-year trial for the Canadian Mixed Doubles Trials was extended for another year, with a decision expected in the next 12 months on whether the discipline will be included as a medal sport for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

I think Doubles is worthwhile if it gets the nod as an Olympic game, but I hope there are some better or more formalized playdowns in the regions. In Ontario, you could just sign up and reach the provincials!

* The age-eligible date for juniors to play at the M&M Meat Shops Canadian Juniors was shifted six months back to fall in line with the World Curling Federation rules. Previously, Canadian juniors had to be 20 and under as of Dec. 31 of the year prior to a Canadian championship; now they have to be 20 and under as of June 30 of the previous year. Prior to this change, non-Canadian players at the World Junior Championships could be up to six months older than the eldest Canadian player.
NOTE: This change won't come into effect until the 2015-2016 season.

This has been long-awaited and fair. I hear there may be even more changes ahead with an under-18 competition being considered.

* Among various minor tweaks to the Canadian rulebook that will govern the sport here from 2014 through 2018 was a change in the timing system. Thinking time for 10-end games will be reduced to 38 minutes from 40 minutes, and to four minutes and 30 seconds in the extra end from five minutes. This change is also expected to be made by the World Curling Federation later this month.

Anything to speed up the game is a good thing. This, I’m sure, was probably applauded by the folks on the TV side of things who have always hoped for quicker game.

* A proposal to investigate potential resources to help teams participating in the qualifying round at the Tim Hortons Brier and Scotties Tournament of Hearts was approved, with report to be presented to the membership at the 2015 National Curling Congress.

Not sure exactly what this is all about but likely to help cover costs of those teams that don’t make it into the main competition at the men’s and women’s national championships. Or maybe after you lose out you will get some coaching help? Or possibly it’s just tokens for the Patch.

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