So 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