Curling fans, ready or not, the era of eight-end matches will soon be a reality.
The World Curling Federation hosts its annual general assembly at one of the two global shootouts. It’s a political maelstrom which, like those in many amateur sports, briefly exposes those mysterious suits and ties that govern the game.
This year’s meeting takes place Wednesday during the 2010 world men’s championship in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, and the tone is ominous.
Not only is there a full legislative agenda for curling change, but the event’s opening ceremony was cancelled when a performer fell 50 feet down on to the ice, with a 44 pound curling stone in his backpack.
The sickening impact resulted in two broken hips for the unfortunate climber, but it could have been worse. And what will they say after the political jockeying?
Much has changed in the past 11 years. Back then, the worlds were a dual event, with men and women competing in one jumbo-sized competition.
But some things appear the same, and at first glance that would appear to include the WCF.
Take the length of games. Back in 1999, the WCF attempted to boot out the traditional 10-end game and ram eight-end curling down the throats of its members. Canada and some friends (there are a couple, believe it or not) lobbied hard to quash the attempt, and won, after going so far as to recruit their own athletes to add to their protest voice.
On April 7, the same vote will be held again but this time, there is expected to be minimal opposition to the proposal ... even from Canada, perhaps.
“It has resurfaced because we hear more and more that the games are taking too long and getting over the three-hour mark,” said WCF curling development officer Keith Wendorf.
“All the reasons you can look at, the games are taking too long to get completed.”
One big difference between then and now is experience. Virtually all competitors are familiar with the eight-end game, as it has been adapted by the World Curling Tour and its crown jewel, the Grand Slam of Curling series.
“I like 10 ends,” Canadian women’s skip Jennifer Jones said. “I don’t know the reason — maybe because we have to become from behind all the time.
“If it’s better for TV and better for audiences, then I’m in favour of it.”
There are more rule changes up for the vote, too. Coach timeouts could be eliminated, and that’s a good thing. There are few things more inane than the sight of a rather non-athletic curling coach shuffling down the ice to meet with athletes that are supposed to know what they’re doing.
Also on the chopping block are extra-end games (in the round robin) and tiebreakers, but these eye-poppers are sure to met with fiery resistance.
TSN will broadcast the Cortina world semis and final live on April 10-11, but are also streaming selected Team Canada (Kevin Koe) games online at TSN.ca/curling.
George Karrys is: curlinguru.com