Rules discourage part-time curler

CON GRIWKOWSKY -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:09 AM ET

What we had here was a failure to communicate. When Blake MacDonald read through his players package for the inaugural $110,000 Canada Cup West event last Thursday, he became incensed.

His frustration reached a boiling point yesterday when his team, the Jamie King-skipped rink, went through its final practice before the rock-toss starts for real at the Saville Centre today.

BIG CARROT HARD TO WIN

The biggest carrot at this week's event is a berth at the Olympic curling trials in Halifax next year.

Problem was, the guide sheet read: "If both the winner and runner-up have already earned berths to the Trials, the berth will revert to the highest non-qualified team on the CTRS (Canadian Teams Ranking System) on April 30, 2005.''

From MacDonald's viewpoint, that information meant there was a good chance this event would become meaningless.

At best, it looked discouraging - considering the Canada Cup West already features Trials qualifiers Randy Ferbey, John Morris, Jay Peachey and Jeff Stoughton.

"They (Canadian Curling Association) let in a bunch of teams that have already qualified for the Trials, so clearly their focus is just on this event,'' said MacDonald. "If they were just trying to qualify teams for the Trials, they would have left those teams out of this spiel.''

MacDonald appeared in the 1997 Trials at Brandon with Brad Hannah after that team won a qualifying spiel in Saskatoon.

"I don't like this as much,'' said MacDonald, who likens his team's situation to an underdog being short-leashed.

"This setup favours the teams that play every weekend. Basically, what they're doing is making it tough for a team like us that only plays six or seven weekends (a season).

"Pretty much our only chance to get a Trials berth is to win this weekend, unless we win the Brier. The teams that have already qualified are already borderline professional. One team may get hot this weekend, like us. That's the only chance we have.''

QUALIFIER TO BE NAMED

Adding to the confusion was the Canadian Curling Association's long-standing policy of awarding podium-only (top-three) finishers a Trials berth.

The Canada Cup West website presented a third option, which included a possible Trials spot for the fourth-place team.

After MacDonald brought his concerns to the local organizers, they contacted CCA officials who confirmed the fourth-place option was in place for this event.

That means it's almost a certainty a Trials qualifier will be named.

While it's good the issues were sorted out before the first rock was thrown, it's a shame one clerical error created so much confusion.

EXTRA ENDS: The women's event is down to 30 teams after Faye White, Cindy Street and Stacy Stabel bowed out.

Local curler Chana Martineau has drawn in.


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