WINNIPEG – When people think of ice in the summer, it usually refers to what’s in their drink as opposed to a curling rink.
But with the announcement that changes are coming to curling’s big events next year, people are wondering how this latest change will impact the competition.
Starting in 2017-18, 16 teams will compete at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts and the Tim Hortons Brier with teams will be divided into two pools of eight. Every province and territory will be represented, plus the defending champ as Team Canada, Northern Ontario and the top-ranked team that doesn’t win their province.
“Being in the curling world, we hear rumblings about different things so I wasn’t completely surprised, though I was maybe a little bit surprised that it was coming in as soon as it is,” says Jill Officer, second on Jennifer Jones’ team. “I haven’t played in any of the championships they were testing it in so it’s really hard to say whether the format change will be good or bad or otherwise. It remains to be seen.”
The main reason for this change was the disdain curlers had for the pre-tournament qualifying round put in place in 2015. While this didn’t have any effect on Manitoba teams, it sent traditional teams like Nova Scotia and the Territories packing after spending only a day or two in the host city.
“It was often unfortunate to see some of the teams that we’ve seen for years and become friends with, such as Kerry Galusha’s team from the Territories, particularly last year to see them lose out in the relegation round. ” Officer explains. “I think the new format will at least be more inclusive compared to the relegation.”
Another interesting wrinkle is the idea that of the top-ranked, non-provincial champion still getting in. This would have allowed Mike McEwen to get into the Brier multiple times before he finally won the Manitoba title this year.
“We’ve been saying for a long time that you want your best team to represent your country. Last year was a great example at the Scotties. We didn’t see Rachel Homan there. They were the number one ranked team in the world and deserved to be at the Scotties.”
Asked if this lessens the importance of winning your province, Officer says that there is still pride in wearing your provincial jacket, but this new system will reward those who spend a long time on tour and have to go through a tough province like Manitoba or Alberta.