JONES: Time to fix formats for curling’s Brier and Scotties

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If I was offered a seat at the table, I would have several recommendations

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So Canadian curlers want change.

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The curlers, who won an Olympic medal this year in Beijing, a bronze medal and were shut out in the men’s and women’s four-man events four years ago in Korea, are now campaigning to change the formats of the Brier and Scotties.

So they should.

Both events are interrupted and must be corrected.

Players aren’t just calling for change, they’re asking for a voice at the table.

Well, maybe. With reservations.

Curlers believe it was curling that made the Brier and Scotties events special.

And it is not. At least, until last weekend, it was never curling. It was always Canadiana and the unique circumstance of athletes and fans heading to the Brier Patch to have a beer together after a game with a near-full crowd in an NHL arena.

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You don’t need to look past Pinty Slam events featuring all of Canada’s top teams as well as a significant number of Olympic teams from other nations.

Nobody cares who wins.

Results are rarely reported.

Attendance is irregular.

It’s just curling. Take away the provinces and you are left with one big tournament.

There was particular interest in the Brier which just ended this year in Lethbridge because Colton Flasch and his Saskatoon team made the final four wearing the Saskatchewan provincial crest on their backs in the ridiculous group of 18 two-group teams.

Saskatchewan hasn’t won a Brier since Rick Folk in 1980.

There is always an inherent rivalry between Alberta and Manitoba. The latter, as far as the Brier is concerned, hasn’t really existed for a while. This year, defending Brier champion Brendan Botcher of Edmonton, playing with Team Canada, and four-time champion Kevin Koe, now out of Calgary, faced off in the 1-2 game of the Page playoff system, winner Koe qualifying for the final with a chance to become the first captain to win five.

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Kevin Martin and Randy Ferbey of Edmonton each jumped four and Ferbey won a record six, including two playing for Pat Ryan. Heading into Sunday’s final, teams representing Alberta have won 11 Briers dating back to 2001, compared to one by Manitoba.

At the Scotties, however, nine Manitoba teams, many wearing Team Canada uniforms, won championships, compared to three from Alberta.

Either way, that’s a big part of it.

Koe, dressed in blue and yellow, against Mike McEwen, wearing this stylized buffalo on his back at the Tim Horton’s Brier, is much more convincing than Koe against McEwen at Pinty’s Slam.

If I was offered a seat at the table (and I’ve covered 27 Briers, recently been inducted into the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame, and written the $99 table book, Curling Capital of the Worlda celebration of 100 years of the sport here, so I might even qualify), I would have several recommendations.

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To start, I would point out that Edmonton holds the records for a Brier (281,985), Olympic Trials 175,952 and World Championships (184,970) as well as other Briers with 242,887 and 190,113, but Curling Canada has messed up the Brier in particular so badly that they can’t come back.

There are so many empty spaces on the bingo card that TSN is having a hard time picking a game to show each draw during the round robin.

The first recommendation would be to reduce the field from 18 to 12 – one from each province, Team Canada and one representing the territories.

It was by including Nunavut in the Scotties and Brier that everything started to go wrong. Nunavut couldn’t win a game at the former Boozeman Nonspiel (Newsmans Bonspiel) let alone a Brier (they lost one 18-1 this year). I would recommend that Curling Canada host a provincial playoff style event with a men’s and women’s team from each territory and rotate it year to year between Whitehorse and Yellowknife. Or you could fly them to Alberta and make them a value-added part of the Provincial Finals that Alberta Curling Federation Executive Director Jill Richard is building.

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I would also suggest that Curling Canada open up the residency rules even further to allow more quality curlers to compete for each province. I mean, they get pretty burry anyway. Ontario captain Rachel Homan now lives in Beaumont, Alberta with her husband and two children, and Manitoba captain Jennifer Jones now lives in Ontario with her husband Brent Laing and their two children .

I would say if you have ever represented the province at a Canadian junior and want to represent it at a Scotties, you are eligible.

I would leave that to the provincial associations. If Brad Gushue wants to sign three curlers from Alberta to play with him, and Newfoundland is okay with that, fine.

I mean, Connor McDavid is from Ontario and Leon Draisaitl is from Germany and we’re okay with them being Edmonton Oilers.

Email: [email protected]

On Twitter: @byterryjones

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