Putting a relegation round into the Tim Hortons Brier will leave a black spot on the national men’s curling championship that has had such a illustrious past.
It will not be a true national championship with four teams – Nova Scotia, P.E.I., Nunavut and Yukon – having to play down to claim the final spot at the event.
Team Canada will be Team Alberta, the winner of the 2014 Brier, although if Kevin Koe’s team is truly breaking up as reports have stated it could be Team B.C. If John Morris is leaving B.C. as reports have said that could throw a wrench into things again, but that will be dealt with next October likely.
Adding Team Canada to the event is great, as the winner of the Scotties has been able to return the following year as Team Canada, but to change the format in this direction is big mistake.
They are giving the three territories three spots as opposed to the one they had up until this year. The format of the “play-in round,” aka relegation round (thanks for dressing up the name Canadian Curling Association), has yet to be determined, but it pretty much doesn’t matter if you’re a team in that boat.
Training for the Brier all season, a team from P.E.I. or Nova Scotia could get to the relegation, end up playing a handful of games (if that) and then have to go home with nothing. It will just leave them with a big thanks for coming, but now it’s time for the big boys to play.
Obviously changes aren’t always welcomed across the board, but they did a great job changing the format of the Canadian junior championship. Some change is good.
All provinces and territories are represented in the 14-team event, with two pools of seven. With growing the sport nationally being important to not only the CCA, but the sport in general, it’s great that the territories be well represented.
The idea of transitioning this to the Brier has been passed around, but the problem lies with Team Canada. Where do you put them? Who do you cut? That is important to not only some fans, but also to the teams.
As Jeff Stoughton said in a report by the Winnipeg Free Press, he believes that it’s great for the team and CCA. They are able to market a team for the next year that is guaranteed to be there and the team can make plans around the event. There are little problems with awarding a team further for their win.
There needs to be some form of the new junior format if everyone is going to be appeased, but right now the CCA has a lot of upset curling fans on their hands, at least on the east coast, who aren’t too happy with how things will look next year.
Over 2,000 people have signed a petition to the CCA to remove the relegation round from Canadian national championships. I think that’s a big statement as to the number of people being upset about these relegation rounds, but a simple statement like that doesn’t present a better solution to the problem, only that they don’t like the CCA’s current idea at growing the sport throughout all territories and provinces.
Further to this issue, eastern Canadian teams have struggled to compete nationally for the past number of years. If they want to compete though I believe the individual associations need to step up to the plate and start improving things themselves.
Next year New Brunswick will be back in Fredericton Junction for both the men’s and women’s provincial playdowns on arena ice. They’re able to have a crowd in the facility for the draws and it allows the teams to play on ice similar to what they will face on the national stage.
The old adage is that practice makes perfect. Well the teams from New Brunswick may not become perfect, but playing on arena ice will definitely better prepare them for playing on the national stage, rather than simply sanding the few rocks on Sheet F at Lakeshore Curling Club for the Nova Scotia representative.
Honesty hurts sometimes, but if we want our teams to compete at the national level, regardless of the relegation round, we need to look at the facilities we’re playing at. It takes investment into the game and the facilities. If we want our teams to perform on arena ice then they should be given that opportunity at their provincial playdowns.
It’s one of the biggest things that come up when discussing Maritime teams on the national stage. We simply don’t get enough time playing in major events and Grand Slams on arena ice.
If the CCA isn’t going to give us our spot at the Brier then we need to find ways to get it back and finish with better results. It’s not like they simply randomly picked N.S. and P.E.I. to play the relegation, our records dictated that we fell into the bottom of the pack. Instead of only kicking and screaming about it, show why we deserve to be there.
Christopher Cameron is the sports reporter for The News and can be reached at email@example.com on Twitter @NGNewsChris. His column runs weekly on Wednesdays.