Curlers scoff at ideas to change Brier

STEVE GREEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:46 PM ET

LONDON, Ont. -- Things change, but that doesn't mean everyone has to like it.

That's certainly the case when it comes to the Canadian men's curling championship. Several format changes are being mooted -- introducing a Team Canada, separate entries from all three territories and a relegation-playoff system to mention a few.

The ideas aren't being greeted with overwhelming enthusiasm by the men on the ice.

Ontario skip Glenn Howard, in particular, is vehemently opposed to a Team Canada at the Brier as there is at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts national women's championship.

"I'm old school. I've always felt the purple heart is something you have to earn," he said.

"This thing here," he said, tapping the crest on his jacket, "is something I grew up to cherish. I mean, look at Kaitlyn Lawes (third for Jennifer Jones' Team Canada, the runner-up at last month's Scotties). She almost went to a world championship without winning a provincial championship.

"I get the fact some people want a Team Canada. I get the fact they're looking at the marketing of the sport. But I don't think you need marketing for the teams at the Brier."

The idea of having the bottom finishers -- two or four -- play off for the right to enter the Brier the next year naturally doesn't sit well with those provinces most likely to be in that situation.

"Every province should be able to be represented at the Brier," said P.E.I. skip Eddie MacKenzie, whose squad finished last this week at 1-10 but still got a nice ovation after its final game Thursday. "The premise of the Brier was that every curler in every province should have the chance to go."

Critics of the idea also point out that a perennial powerhouse such as Alberta or Manitoba could have an off year, raising the possibility -- albeit remote --- of a Brier without one of the so-called "big" entries.

This year marks the introduction of a bronze-medal game, something else that's going over like a lead balloon with the players.

"I guarantee you nobody out there likes it," said Howard, who has always said he loathes the Page playoff system because a team can finish first in the round-robin and still not make the final if it loses the 1-2 and semifinal games.

Others point out the semifinal already acts as a third-place game as there are only the three squads left alive by that point.

Like it or not, though, it's here to stay, Warren Hansen said. The CCA's director of event operations and media relations said the third-place game was brought in to conform more to the World Curling Federation and International Olympic Committee way of thinking. And with about 800,000 viewers tuning in for the bronze-medal game at the Scotties, it seems the armchair curling fans like the idea.

This year's third-place winner gets $30,000 and, starting next season, will begin earning more points toward the Canadian Team Ranking System, which helps determine the qualifiers for the Olympic pre-trials and trials.


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