Sunday, January 4, 2015

Ontario playdown system embarrasses yet again

OK, Ontario Curling Association, it’s time to come into this century. Time to do what almost every other province does. Time to realize that the times have changed and the system currently used to determine how teams qualify for the provincial finals is grossly outdated.

Yet another example has come to the forefront, this time an extreme one – Glenn Howard and his rink were bumped out of the competition during regional play over the weekend and will not play the Challenge Round due to a conflict.

Take nothing away from the teams that beat Howard, but it means the guy on who you’ve hung your marketing budget (evidence below) um, won’t be there. How many tickets would Team Howard -- currently sixth on the CTRS -- sell? How many kids would get an autograph from these guys after games? Which rink in the field would have the best chance of giving Ontario a Brier title?

Sure, maybe there’s something about win to get in, but Ontario is about the only place these days where the team that wins more over the course of the year gets no help.

And make no mistake -- this is not really a Glenn Howard thing, this is an Ontario curling thing. 

By now, most regions not named Ontario have come to the realization that it’s really smart to find a way to have your best teams at your marquee event. That rewarding teams for how they play over the course of a year is a better way than how they do over one or two weekends. Not Ontario. Ontario gives only the defending champion a pass. No CRTS recognition, no money list, no Ontario tour. Only zones, regions and the infamous Challenge Round.

That’s been the path for about 30 years and sure, it’s romantic to think of a team advancing from its club playdowns to the Brier, but that rarely happens any more.

If you’re a curler in Ontario, it’s embarrassing. The province has become a laughing stock where the best in the game gather. They laugh but also have pity on those who have to compete here. Too many good teams have been left by the curb when they should be on the ice fighting for a shot at the provincial title.

Now certainly Ontario has had a lot on its plate of late and changing the playdown system may not have been the priority. But I’ve written about this for so many years and I’ve heard so many excuses from a variety of people about why there hasn’t been a change that it’s clear what’s really lacking here is leadership.

Someone needs to step up and get this done. There are a thousand proposals out there and every one of them would be better than what’s now in place.

Make a change. Now. Before this gets even more ridiculous. Step into the present and let the best play.

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