Friday, 26 January 2018

#STOH2018 Preview

#BetweenTheSheets: Pressure In Penticton
The 2018 Scotties Tournament of Hearts hits the ice in B.C.

It's that time curling fans.  We have seen grand slam wins.  We have watched Olympic trials high's and low's.  We have cheered on our favourite teams throughout grueling provincial playdowns.  The time has finally arrived where the hard work, sweat and tears will pay off....The 2018 Scotties Tournament of Hearts are upon us.

The pressure will be high in Penticton for a number of reasons.  Obviously the sole survivor will go on to represent Canada at the upcoming world championships and earn their return ticket next year as #TeamCanada at the Scotties but the entire event will be feeling some pressure as well.

This year's Scotties features a format change.  We welcome a new team.  Change can be welcomes with open arms or discarded before the first rock is thrown.  Everyone seems to have an opinion on this event and all eyes will be watching to see how it plays out on the ice....perhaps with an increased sense of either enthusiasm or criticism.

With all the changes and increased debate surrounding the lead-up to the 2018 Scotties, you know #TwineTime could not hit the ice solo for this preview blog post.  I had to go out and find an experienced player who has been to a Scotties.  Who has experienced pre-qualification.  We have participated in the new pool play format.  Join me in welcoming the newest member of the #TwineTime family: Cathlia Ward!

Cathlia Ward has represented New Brunswick on the national stage a few times.  Most notably she participated in the Canadian Junior Curling Championships in 2013, the first year of pool play format at a national championship event.  Ward also has the distinction of playing in the final year of pre-qualification at the Scotties last year and losing the pre-qualification final.

Ward has experienced high's and low's of the sport in her young career and was the perfect athlete to offer a dual perspective into both formats from an athlete but also fan perspective.  The pool format did prove to be positive for Ward it should be noted as both year's she competed at the Canadian Junior Curling Championship (2013, 2014), her New Brunswick team did reach the Championship Pool round.  As well, the three skips she competed against in pre-qualification at last year's Scotties (NWT's Kerry Galusha, Yukon's Sarah Koltun, Nunavut's Geneva Chislett) will all be returning to this year's Scotties, albeit Koltun has joined the #PolarPower with Galusha and former Koltun vice Chelsea Duncan has now taken on the skip duties for Team Yukon.  Chislett will move to vice with Amie Shackelton joining the team as skip.

Before we dive into the fun and entertaining preview interview with Ward, here is a quick rundown of what to expect at this year's Scotties:
  • The field will now consist of 16 teams, with each territory receiving a full-time place in the field as well as the continuation of the Team Canada and Northern Ontario representation.
  • A new team will be added to round out the even number teams of 16.  A Wild Card team will be the final entry into the field.  The wild card team will be determined via a play-in game held the night before the opening draw of the Scotties.  The two teams (Chelsea Carey and Kerri Einarson) were determined based on the having the highest CTRS points of non-qualifying Scotties teams.
  • The format will now be divided into 2 round robin pools of 8 teams.  Each team will play the other teams within their pool during the round robin stage.  The top four teams from each pool at the conclusion of the stage will advance to the Championship Pool where they will play four additional games against the advancing teams from the other pool.  The round robin record will carry over into the championship pool stage.
  • The four teams who fail to advance to the Championship Pool will participate in a Placement Pool stage.  Similar to the Championship Pool, their round robin record will carry over and they will play four additional round robin games against the four placement teams from the opposing pool.  These final results will help formulate the pool positions for the 2019 Scotties.
  • At the conclusion of the championship pool round robin stage, the top four teams will advance to the Page Playoff, using the same Page Playoff format previously seen at championship events.  As with the Placement Pool, the final standings in the Championship Pool will help determine the pool placement for each province/territory next year.
The pools for 2018 will be comprised as follows:

Pool A

The teams are listed above based upon their seeding.  Manitoba was the overall #1 seed with the Wildcard receiving #4, Northern Ontario #5, Nova Scotia #8, Saskatchewan #9, New Brunswick #12, NWT #13 and Yukon #16.

Pool B

Similar to above, teams are listed in order of seeding.  Alberta is the top seed in the pool and #2 seed overall followed by Canada #4, Ontario #6, BC #7, Newfoundland and Labrador #10, PEI #11, Quebec #14 and Nunavut #15.  Worth noting, Nunavut has been the center of controversy surrounding the new format change with many believing they will fail to be competitive or win a game anytime soon yet here they are seeded #15 out of 16 teams.  Remember this same team won their first ever Scotties game in 2016 (def. BC) and is 1-5 over the past two years at this event.

Now without further adieu rock heads and stoners, welcome our newest member of the #TwineTime family: Cathlia Ward!!

I love the energy and enthusiasm Ward has for the sport.  A self-proclaimed "curling geek" with a strong knowledge and passion for the game from both an athlete and fan perspective.  Great insight from her as well in what to expect competing in a pool play format vs the real emotion and feeling of the early elimination under the old pre-qualification format.  Plus you gotta love her going out on a limb and picking a few dark horse teams to have strong weeks.  I think it safe to say Cathlia Ward is all in on the #TeamUpset movement!

It should be worth noting, the debate over the pool system is going to continue and will not be solved after one season.  Evolution and change management is a part of life and, as such, also a part of sport.  We continue to #growthesport in new ways and trying something different should never be frowned upon.  Was relegation and pre-qualification a mistake?  Perhaps from the perspective of the end result but from the evolution of the sport no.  It did not ruin the game.  It did not ruin the sport.  It got people talking.  It raised people's passion and interest.  It got some people fired up.  None of those reactions are negative or bad though.  As will be the case with this iteration of change.  The placement format idea has worked in hockey, football/soccer and other sports for many years.  It can be successful in curling as well.  I will say props to Curling Canada for the recognition of pre-qualification not being a success and for going out and attempting something new yet again.  It is quite easy to rest of the laurels of the past but it takes true innovation and future planning to continue moving ahead with new ideas and change management.

Before we quickly negate an idea, how about we all keep an open mind and try it.  The system seems to be successful at the junior national championship level.  Why can't it be successful at this level?  Welcome change before instantly hating it, especially those who have never competed in it.  This will not kill the event.  This will not kill the sport.  Who knows, if you keep an open mind, by the end of the week you may actually enjoy it.  Don't we want to live in a world where new ideas, concepts, formats can be brought to the table and tried for success rather than one where new ideas are instantly frowned upon and hated before ever put into actual reality?  I am not saying you need to agree nor disagree with my thoughts or Ward's opinions even; however, let's just see how it all plays out first before jumping to set conclusions ok?

To summarize, here are the #TwineTime predictions as well as the predictions made by our newest fam member:


Favourites:  Manitoba (Jones), Canada (Englot), Wildcard (Carey)

Watch Out For:  Alberta (Scheidegger), Northern Ontario (Fleury)

#TeamUpset:  NWT (Galusha), Newfoundland and Labrador (Curtis)

Projected Pool A Standings:  1. Manitoba  2. Wildcard  3. Northern Ontario  4. NWT  5. Nova Scotia  6. Saskatchewan  7. New Brunswick  8. Yukon

Projected Pool B Standings:  1. Canada  2. Alberta  3. Newfoundland  4. BC  5. Ontario  6. PEI  7. Nunavut  8. Quebec

Championship Pool Qualifiers:  Manitoba, Canada, Wildcard, Alberta, Northern Ontario, Newfoundland, NWT, BC

Playoff Qualifiers:  Manitoba, Wildcard, Canada, Alberta

Bronze Medal:  Wildcard (Carey) def. Canada (Englot)

SCOTTIES FINAL:  Manitoba (Jones) def. Alberta (Scheidegger)

Cathlia Ward

Favourites:  Manitoba (Jones), Wildcard (Carey)

Watch Out For:  Alberta (Scheidegger)

#TeamUpset:  Nova Scotia (Aresenault), Saskatchewan (Anderson)

Playoff Qualifiers:  Manitoba, Alberta, Wildcard, Saskatchewan

SCOTTIES FINAL:  Wildcard (Carey) def. Alberta (Scheidegger)

What say you curling fans?  Agree with our guest host this week?  Agree with #TwineTime?  Or think we are both out to lunch and have your own opinion?  Share your thoughts, predictions and comments below and/or on twitter.

Once again, thank you to Cathlia Ward for joining the #TwineTime blog for this special #STOH2018 preview.  Ward's perspective was excellent to hear and her personal stories of experience were great.  Congratulations once again on winning the ultimate prize though, motherhood!  Wishing her and her little one all the best in the future.  Hopefully though we see Ward back on the ice sooner rather than later.

And finally, have you heard about the 1st Winter Olympics 50/50 Pool?  #TwineTime wants to add some extra excitement to the upcoming PyeongChang games while also raising some money for a great cause.  Join in on the fun and see how #PyeongChang2018 + #curling + #TwineTime + YOU = making a difference in the lives of other through the Canadian Cerebral Palsy Sports Association!

Full details, including the entry form, can be found HERE! Please share this pool with anyone you think might be interested in participating.  Your participation can go a long way in helping chase the sport dreams of other Canadians with cerebral palsy!

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