Select format has to be rethought

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:35 AM ET

STEINBACH -- It is the strange reality of competing in a 32-team field.

Win your first game of the Safeway Select, then sit around the rest of the day. Or watch. Or hit the patch. Or find a place to practise. Win your second straight and it's the same thing. Cool your heels for another day.

"You're only playing one game a day and it's hard to get things going," Charleswood's top-seeded Jeff Stoughton said after shellacking St. Vital's Doug Riach 11-4 at the T.G. Smith Centre yesterday. "If you play two games in one day, you'd get a better feeling going. But here, there's just a lot of time off and a lot of down time."

But Stoughton, who has come under fire for some of his brasher comments over the years, offered a solution -- albeit reluctantly.

"Honestly, I think they should look at cutting the teams down," he said, repeating an idea that the MCA has repeatedly shot down over the years. "There's nothing wrong with starting with 32 but you almost need to run it over a couple of weekends. Take it from the 32 and get to your Final 8, or 10, so you can play more games in a day in a round-robin format."

PLAYING REGIONS

Those could join the defending champ and the top CTRS team.

"Then, you've got your 10-team round robin right there and go from there," Stoughton said. "Most other provinces are playing regions and you could still call this your regions if you wanted to and take it from there, so everyone's happy with that.

"Then you get to your final 10 and young teams get to play nine games on arena ice. It's great for (Valour Road's Reid) Carruthers to be doing so well. But he could have gone bang-bang and what are you teaching a young team that comes out to an arena and goes bang-bang? Then he's not learning anything."

Stoughton recognized that such suggestions have been an exercise in futility but this does make sense.

"No other province has more teams playing than we do," the two-time Brier champ continued, adding that the MCA could even cut the field to 16 and play a double round robin like both Alberta and Saskatchewan do.

A LOT OF SUCCESS

"We're the only group that does not play a round robin. We've had a lot of success in the past, no doubt, at Briers. But it doesn't prepare you for the round-robin format at Briers, where you're playing two games every day."

Manitoba has not won the Brier since 1999 (Stoughton).

Ironically, the MCA offered the same argument when it first adopted the round-robin format for its other provincial championships: since they play a round robin at the nationals, they should do the same at the provincials.

But such dramatic changes are never easy, especially when they must be approved by a board consisting of about a million directors (yes, we exaggerate).

"This was under review a few years ago and the final synopsis was that it's working and we're not going to change it," said MCA president Bob McCallum.

Besides, it would mean adding another week to an already crowded calendar.

"And the people still enjoy the Brier type of atmosphere they get here (Select)," McCallum said.

But if they separated this into four different regions, you could almost achieve the same thing in four different centres, boosting revenues. Then add the provincial playdowns, which would allow the round-robin format.

"Then, you know who's playing who at what time," Stoughton said. "And it gets you going. You play two games a day and away you go."

The format will be under review once again. Soon.


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