Format change sought

STEVE GREEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

Wayne Middaugh's absence from the TSC Tankard hasn't gone unnoticed by fans and fellow competitors alike.

The reason, says Glenn Howard, is why the Ontario men's championship needs to overhaul its qualification process.

When Middaugh was eliminated in his regional playdowns, he had a choice -- play in one of the Challenge Rounds or go to Winnipeg for a Grand Slam event. He opted for the latter.

What Howard, the three-time defending champion from Coldwater would like to see is some of the top teams, including his and Middaugh's, prequalify to an expanded championship, allowing them to avoid the playdown routes, avoid having to make choices like the one Middaugh faced and open up more chances for other rinks to play in a provincial final.

His idea is a 14-team tournament, with two round-robin pools each qualifying two rinks for the Page System playoffs.

"Whether it's CTRS (Canadian Team Ranking System), OCT (Ontario Curling Tour) or past champions, it wouldn't matter," he said of how certain rinks would prequalify. "Everyone talks about how good it is, but I'd like to try to have more teams in it to fulfil more teams' hopes of playing in a Tankard.

"There are a couple of key problems, in my view. The whole event (Tankard) is too long, in my view. But the CCA is going to eight-end games after 2010, so three eight-end games a day would be no problem.

"And we're getting fewer entries in zones and fewer entries in Challenge Rounds. Heck, we can't even fill a Challenge Round these days."

That's because the top teams, like his and Middaugh's, are forced to go the playdown route, a discouraging prospect for other rinks in their respective zones, regionals or Challenge Rounds.

"Love him or hate him, Wayne should be here," said Peter Steski, who backs Howard's idea. "Everybody wins if you have the best teams here -- the curlers win, the OCA wins, the host committee wins, the fans win.

"I don't see how anyone can lose.''

To that end, the Ontario Curling Association is holding an open forum session tomorrow morning for interested curlers, coaches and media. Executive director Doug Bakes said the OCA would be open to suggestions.

"We don't really care what the format is as long as the host committees needs are met and the sponsors' needs are met. The major stakeholders need to be satisfied."

Say what?

While it is an invaluable asset to reporters, the Tankard media guide is proof you can't always believe what you read. Curlers, by and large, have a healthy sense of humour and some take liberties with their personal information.

Peter Steski is one of the biggest culprits. The former Sarnia resident, throwing third stones for his Sarnia Golf and Curling Club rink, is always good for a laugh.

"One year I made my bio out like I was George Costanza -- I was an importer-exporter for Vandelay Industries, I was into marine biology and I also was an architect," he said of the Seinfeld character.

This year, he lists being the 2005 Canadian long-drive champion and a three-time provincial five-pin bowling champ. Neither is true, of course, but being a frequent guest on TSN's Off The Record isn't a joke.

"When they need a mouthy guy, they call me," he said.

When the provincial championship was last in Woodstock eight years ago, Joe Frans' bio listed him as a national ballroom dancing silver medallist, courtesy of his prank-pulling teammates. It drew a non-plussed stare from Frans when a reporter, believing the tidbit to be true, asked him about it.

BANKING INDUSTRY IN TOILET

When security was called to one of the men's washrooms at the Woodstock District Community Complex, tournament volunteer Peter Holmes answered. What he saw wasn't exactly what he expected.

Turns out the fellow in the costume of the RBC mascot, Leo the Lion, got his oversized head stuck in a toilet stall. Holmes was forced to pull the hapless feline out by its tail.

No word on whether a litter box was eventually provided.


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