Brier or Travelers are my only choices!

lachlan-donald-90605So I haven’t written a Curling blog in a long time. Actually, I have only written a few articles in the past so that doesn’t say much about me does it? Well I guess that’s what happens when you have a career, a family of two young boys, and trying to fit in some time for curling in between those two. That being said, I came up with this article upon pondering where curling fits in my life at this point.

During my curling career, until about 3 years ago, I had always been a highly competitive curler hitting CashSpiels 2-3 times a month and competing at several national curling events during those 20some years. Then my wife gave birth to my first born son and my career also took over the majority of my time. So after 25+ years of curling, I decided that the birth of my son and going on parental leave was a good time for me to take a year off from curling to recharge my batteries. I had reached a point in my curling career that I no longer enjoyed competing and this was a perfect time for me to step away for a year.

After taking a year off, I realized just how much I loved curling. But not in the same way that I originally loved it. I stepped away from curling when I was still in love with the competition but actually didn’t really enjoy curling anymore. But after not curling for over a year and watching it on TV all season, i fell in love with the game again.

The issues I have faced returning to the sport were both positive and negative. The positive being that I found a new love for the sport i grew practicing and was actually having fun curling again at a much lower level. The negative I discovered was that I didn’t feel accepted by many at the Travelers Curling Club Championship level because i had competed at the Brier and had competed in dozens of provincial Tankards.

Accepting the fact that my life is filled by a full time job and a young family was easy for me and so that left me with one option when it came to competing at curling. The Travelers Curling Club Championship. Why did I feel I could not play Tankard/Brier level you ask? Well I do not have the time to be running around the Maritimes or Canada, week in and week out, just to get enough competition to give us a chance at doing well at the Brier. The negative that arose from this is that I faced a lot of criticism saying it is people like me who kill the sport of curling. Many competitors are under the impression that no former Brier participants should be allowed to play at this level even though the rules allow for them (depending on when they played, etc…). At this point where I cannot commit to playing a whole lot or practicing a whole lot, that leaves me in a situation that I choose to play at this level and I am fully qualified along with my team. But that doesn’t stop the fact that a lot of people still do not accept it.

So over the last 2 years, I have discussed this with WCT players, Brier players, Travelers players, and club level players. Everyone has an opinion, and they are all well received, but no one has an answer. I guess my next step is to possibly discuss this with the Canadian Curling Association.  Oh wait, they are called Curling Canada now aren’t they?! This is how I see it at this time. You may or may not agree with what I have to say but this is the problem I see and the solution I think could work.

So Curling Canada at this time has two distinct National Events. One is called the Brier which caters to the Semi-Pro teams and Pro teams. The other is the Travelers which caters to the so called Inexperienced teams and Amateur teams. Where I see a link missing is a level in between these two that would accommodate the Amateurs and Semi Pro teams. This is where I feel a former Brier participant who no longer can compete at a high level could fall into without having to do the major drop down to Travelers. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of how the Travelers runs but I hate the idea of many competitors and fans talking bad about me because i have played at the Brier in the past along with some other events such as the Mixed and dozens of Provincial Tankard playdowns. So if Curling Canada had 3 National Championships, you could then separate the levels of curling more evenly. You could have your 1 main championship that caters to the Pros who in turn would be competing to represent Canada at the Worlds. Your 2nd championship could accommodate the Semi Pro and Amateurs who can still compete at a semi high level but no longer have the time to do so. Then your 3rd level would be the Travelers and it could finally say we no longer accept any curlers who have competed at the Brier or Grand Slam events at all.

Here’s what I’m thinking.

Canada Cup (Pro National Championship)
Make the Canada Cup your new National Championship that qualifies you to compete to represent Canada at the Worlds. The entry to this event is based on CTRS points and will guarantee the best teams in Canada fighting to be the Canadian representative at the worlds. This competition would also have one entry reserved for the Brier winner.

Brier (Semi Pro / Amateur Championship)
The Brier stays the way it has always been and continues with every Province and Territory fighting each other to be Canada’s Amateur Curling Champions. The winner gains an entry to the Canada Cup to hopefully have a chance at still representing Canada at the Worlds.

Travelers (Curling Club Level Championship)
The Travelers becomes what it ideally was designed to be. A way to have a huge national championship in order to promote curling but yet not include former Brier participants and Grand Slam events participants. A true curling club level championship.

So with this model in place, I think it would be beneficial for players such as myself who can compete at a high level but no longer has the time to put in dozens of weekends away from family. Maybe this would also be better for teams such as Jean-Michel Menard who says he can no longer dedicate as much time to competitive curling. Maybe this allows teams on the decline to stay around for several more years and still have a chance at possibly representing Canada. I don’t know if this is the right solution or if it would actually work but I have a feeling it would definitely make things better at promoting multiple levels of curling and help keep the curling numbers higher both at the competitive level and the not so competitive level. I know for a fact that the numbers at the Provincial Tankard level are super low because many teams don’t think they can compete to get to the Brier anymore. The new startling information we are seeing at the Travelers level is that the numbers have gone down a lot because many of the provinces now have former Brier or Tankard competitors playing at this level and it is forcing a lot of the club level teams to no longer play in the Travelers. So once again, the numbers are going down instead of up and I strongly feel that the Travelers numbers and the Brier numbers would go up in this 3 level model of Curling National Championships within Canada.

With that said, I leave you with this information to ponder. Are there other solutions to this conundrum? Of course there are! I’m just stating one that I like but not necessarily the best option available out there. Maybe my article will spark up more talk and lead to a solution to this issue or maybe it will be read and forgotten about. For me, this article gave me the chance to show what I’ve felt and what I’ve seen and to lay out ideas of what I think can possibly fix the issue. I can now move on and continue to do what I do. I guess at this time, it’s time to start thinking about summer vacations and then worry about curling once the season starts back up in the fall. Have a great summer everyone and maybe I’ll be seeing you in the 2017-2018 curling season!

Pierre M. Fraser
Burned Stone Curling


6 thoughts on “Brier or Travelers are my only choices!

    1. or basically re-introduce intermediates, I don’t feel like sorting by age is en vougue right now when we have Junior teams eligible to compete at Scotties and Brier Level now. (maybe we should drop the junior age to more like high-school leaving)

      I agree. with both of you, a third category is necessary (I find myself midway through a 15 year stint of ineligibility for any mixed event). I think that category belongs between Brier and Club Championships.

      None (or hardly any) of the “club teams” are really club teams. There is bitterness from the more inexperienced club teams toward the drop-down players, and really no where for those formerly high level players to go. Traveller’s isn’t a good mix, the level of play from those who have been at a high level doesn’t line up with that of club players.

      For the sake of tradition I think that the Brier/Scotties should remain the top of the hill (there are problems regarding exclusion of international teams, and reps per province). Club championships should belong to club players. Then there should be an Amateur Level, the been-there’s and the not-there-yets, like Farm Teams in baseball, but for curling.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’m a somewhat competitive player from Ontario (4-5 spiels a year, made a few regions, but never the provs!). Here in Ontario, Provincials have been the new Brier for quite some time, but I’ve experienced the exact same tensions as you, even without any significant accomplishments to my name.

    Let me say that I’m delighted to read to read your article, as I’ve had this exact system in mind for about five years now. Specifically, when the whole “relegation round” debacle was first announced for the Brier/Scotties, I think we all realized our sport’s competitive landscape had drifted out of touch with the sport’s reality, and that changes were needed to how we do things in Canada (and were apparently on the way, regardless). I think this system is the perfect start to solving the imbalance between elites, competitive teams, and club players.

    Where we are and how we got here was unavoidable (and only logical), given that the current Brier/Scotties events have to cater to two distinct, and oft-competing interests: (a) trying to choose a National champion (and develop future champions) to best represent us at international events, and (b) maintaining the history (and financial success) of a one-team-per-province/territory/NONT format.

    This was never a significant issue until the Olympics era, which is right about when the top players started forming teams who parachute or physically move across provincial borders to form teams, forcing the hand of the CCA to balance both interests (a) and (b) above. It’s a strategy that’s proven not only to be successful, but arguably necessary – every Canadian, gold-medal winning Olympic team to date has done it! [Gushue with Howard, Martin with Morris, Jacobs with Fry]. And many other teams have followed suit to stay relevant. The Grand Slams and TV interests played a part in this as well.

    Simply put, as the game has grown, so have the geographical boundaries within which the best teams are formed (and more importantly, the level of commitment needed to make it work).

    This is of course a welcome and natural progression for our sport, especially as Canada tries to keep up with international teams (who have now most certainly caught up to our past advantages). But it had unintended consequences. Most concisely, it’s only realistic for a very select group of top elites and aspiring young players, and it leaves a gaping hole at the semi-pro/amateur level. [Note, this isn’t meant to pass judgement – those teams at the top deserve the money and success for the work they put in!] As a result, there are many talented players opting out and never reaching their potential when they can’t make the commitment (or don’t see the point trying). In the past, these guys had a sniff at the Brier. Now, they either quit or beat up on the poor club guys.

    And in saying all this, it’s important to realize that these changes are irreversible. There’s just no going back to the way things were. A good many players want to stay where we are, or even go backwards, but we’re much better served to accept where we are as a sport, and determine how best to move forward with our new reality.

    Splitting the National Championship out from the Brier/Scotties is the right way to go, in my opinion, in order to accurately reflect what our sport has become while still preserving the integrity (and success) of our sport’s best events. I truly believe the Brier/Scotties will still be fantastic events – maybe even better – showcasing the immense talent our country has beyond the pros you see on TV week in and week out. And granting the winner an entry to the Canada Cup, now our national championship, means everyone still gets an outside sniff at having the maple leaf on their back (in fact, it may turn into a useful training ground for those who aspire to reach the top). The elites will choose the pro ranks for financial reasons, making the new Brier/Scotties that much more attractive for those currently on the fringes. And in turn, once you give the competitive players that true competitive ambition back, they can leave the Club level behind for the players that the events were originally intended to serve.

    The only thing I would add is that teams would need to declare at the start of a season whether they are “Elite”, “Competitive”, or “Club” teams, to make sure nobody games the system [in other words – pick a level and stay there!]. Not doing this risks a lot of players with one foot in, one foot out, tough decisions for officials/associations, and ultimately probably a whole lot of the same squabbling we’re all sick of.

    When I’ve brought this idea up with fellow curlers, I’ve had mixed responses to be sure. But I really think it’s an elegant solution that has all the pieces already in place. No option will ever please everyone, but I really do think this system is the right next step for curling in Canada. If you give everyone something to play for again, you give the game a chance to grow again!

    Thanks again for the article.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I completely agree with you. The problem we have in Canada is that there is no defined (as of yet) distinction between the professional curler and the amateur, and having a different championship for the pro and the amateur, being the Canada Cup and the Brier, are long overdue. The problem as I see it, is establishing the eligibility for the the Brier. To me, a team has to chose a path whereby they either become a professional team or an amateur team, but cannot do both. If the scenario that you’ve presented were to be implemented, then the teams that qualify and even challenge to qualify for the Canada Cup cannot be eligible for the Brier. Teams that compete on the Grand Slam Tour and World Curling Tour events over an established purse should then not be eligible to be considered amateurs and hence compete at the Brier. I golf, once you become a pro, you cant compete as an amateur.

    Just my thoughts

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I cannot comment on what I think is right or wrong as I have too many friends at the Club level, Amateur level, and Pro level and I am not here to start a debate on who fits where. I do have to say that I agree with you on your Pro comment. Curling has to get to the point that you decide whether you are a Pro or an Amateur like Golf. You shouldn’t be allowed to make $250,000 as a team one year and still play in the Brier as an Amateur. That is why I suggest making the Canada Cup winner the representative for Canada at the Worlds. But as long as curling is run the way it has been in the past, there will be a lot of catering done for some people and a lot of “have your cake and eat it too”!


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