(by Allen Cameron)
Canadian curling’s biggest annual events will be expanded to allow every player in the country equal access to a national championship.
The Canadian Curling Association announced on Friday that both the Tim Hortons Brier and Scotties Tournament of Hearts will become 15-team events as of the 2014-15 curling season, albeit with a proviso — some of the teams will have to play a pre-qualifying event to make it into the main (and traditional) 12-team draw.
The Brier will add a Team Canada defending champion entry (which the Scotties already has), the Scotties will welcome Northern Ontario (which the Brier already has) while the three Territories (Northwest, Yukon and Nunavut) will each get to field separate entries.
A one-day playoff, likely between four teams (determined by past years’ results) just prior to the Brier and Scotties will decide the final entry into the main field.
“That’s quirky,” said reigning Scotties champion skip Heather Nedohin of Edmonton. “How do you as a player say, ‘I might be gone from work for a week, but it depends on how we do (in the play-in)?’ That’s extremely challenging.”
The CCA, though, needed to make sure that championship events were open to the entire country, regardless of geographical demands, and came up with the play-in formats through discussions with the member associations.
The changes were approved at last weekend’s CCA National Curling Congress and AGM.
“I think it shows that consultation certainly has its place, and I think a lot of that was done in advance of the congress,” said CCA chief executive Greg Stremlaw.
The Team Canada concept at the Brier has been debated for many years, and while Olympic champ Kevin Martin has been a vocal advocate of the concept, the man who’d stand to benefit this year if it was in place, reigning Brier and world champ Glenn Howard, doesn’t like it.