The curling scene has changed across the country in the past five years, all thanks to a club level championship.
In November the Dominion Curling Club Championship will celebrate its sixth annual national championship in Halifax, something that teams across the country will be fighting to attend.
Although some provinces won’t hold their playdowns until the fall, Nova Scotia held their provincial event last weekend, with Marion MacAulay’s Bluenose rink winning for the third straight season. They will represent the club at the province in Halifax in November.
On the men’s side Dartmouth’s Mike Robinson won the right to represent the province for the second straight season.
Having the opportunity to play this year as a representative from the Bluenose I quickly realized what the Dominion had become, although my suspicions were simply confirmed. This event was created, according to the event website, for “club curlers.” Although that is the case, most teams have former Tankard competitors, if not provincial representatives at the Brier in years gone by. Teams are being put together for this event, hoping to reach the national championship.
Now none of the former players that competed either at the provincial or national level are recent representatives, at least not entirely. Each team is only allowed one player that has been in a juniors, men’s, women’s or seniors provincial event in the previous four curling seasons.
There are a few ways of looking at this situation.
Some believe that it should simply be those who never played in provincial events ever, to give those who play the game at its purest level a chance to reach a national event.
Others believe that having former competitive players join forces with fellow club members, which they have to play with all year in a regular league to be eligible, allows for just another opportunity to have competitive curling for those that cannot dedicate the time that Tankard and Scotties teams put into their games.
Both points are valid.
If anything, at least here in Nova Scotia, this championship has given players something to strive for away from the Brier or Scotties, which is definitely a positive for the sport. In the past, teams that were looking to play a provincial event below that level would play for the intermediate title, but now there is a middle ground, so to speak.
With this leading to a national championship it is possible that there will be a shift away from the Tankard playdowns for teams in Nova Scotia or other small provinces, at least in rural areas. If a team doesn’t feel they have a chance of competing against a team skipped by the likes of Mark Dacey or Jamie Murphy, they will likely look at the Dominion route.
Although some players do not live in HRM, looking at the teams in the Nova Scotia Tankard playdowns, the only club represented outside of the Halifax area was Truro Curling Club.
On the women’s side at the Scotties there were only three non-HRM teams that attended qualifiers: Sinclair (Chester), Nix (Glooscap) and Duchemin (Sydney). Nix was the lone team of the three that made the provincial championship.
At the Dominion event this year all HRM clubs were represented (CFB, Dartmouth, Halifax, Mayflower and Lakeshore), but there were also teams from throughout the rest of the province competing and Bridgewater’s Nick Deagle was in the final against Robinson.
Our New Glasgow-based rink won the women’s Dominion event over Meredith Harrison of Truro. The women’s championship had four HRM clubs attend, the remainder of the 11-team field being from throughout the province.
This is a positive as membership numbers tend to be on the decline in rural areas. Having something for their club members to strive towards definitely breathes some life into rural clubs that will likely be collecting dust on Scotties and Tankard banners before they have the opportunity to field another team that can compete at that level.
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.