Sunday, February 15, 2015

Pre-qualifying done, not many fans of new system

Nobody likes change.

That's why it's tough to accept the new qualification system for the men's and women's national championships, the first of which wrapped up yesterday at the Scotties in Moose Jaw. Northern Ontario's Tracy Horgan advanced, Kerry Galusha and Sarah Koltun are done.

Take nothing away from the two teams from the North, but it's hard to imagine that a rink from either territory (as well as Nunavut) will appear in many future Scotties or Brier. They don't have the means or resources to play competitively on a consistent basis against the best in the rest of the land. I fear for these two and other have-not regions in the coming years.

In my world, a Scotties or Brier without the Territories, is not worthy.

To no one's surprise, the classy Galusha took the high road after being bounced from play, as Mike Koreen reported in the Sun chain of papers.

"We weren't loving it coming in, but we're excited to be here," Galusha said after losing 7-6 to Northern Ontario's Tracy Horgan in the pre-qualifier final at Mosaic Place on Saturday. "So many other teams would kill to be here fighting for the chance to get out of relegation and into the Scotties. I guess I'd consider ourselves lucky to even be here and have that chance."

Horgan, the victor, also tried to blue-sky the change.

"The nice thing about curling is we're not afraid to try new things," the Sudbury-born Horgan said, not fully endorsing the plan. "This format is different. I don't know if this is the right answer yet, but we're trying it out and we support the decision made to go this route." 

The entire process was awkward and unusual and a little bit disheartening for the teams as they battled it out, as CP's Gregory Strong relayed:

The new qualification setup created a few awkward moments. 
Galusha and Koltun started their game Friday while the other three sheets of ice were being used for a skills competition. Instructions and results were broadcast through the arena while the high-pressure game was ongoing. 
There was even a rare curling heckler in the crowd. One spectator voiced his displeasure that the teams in the qualifier weren't able to participate in the skills competition. 
The main-draw curlers left the rink well before the completion of the qualification game, which went to an extra end. The game didn't wrap until after the start of the traditional pre-tournament banquet at a nearby hotel. 
The two skips took a few questions from reporters before being hustled out of the arena to attend the function. One can only guess how Koltun was feeling as she attended a banquet for a tournament she was no longer a part of. 
Overall, it appears this is not going to be popular with many people. Not the curlers or their fans. As I said, no one likes change, especially not this one.

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