What a weekend! Who was sweating more this weekend? Alberta curling fans? Ben Hebert from sweeping? B.J. Neufeld from watching the time clock tick, tick, tick away with his skipper in the hack? I would not want to be doing the laundry for those boys Monday morning.
We can probably safely assume the only one not sweating was our 2019 Brier champion skip Kevin Koe, who appears calm, cool and collected all game regardless of shot difficulty or time constraints. Besides time is relative right?
What it is time for though is a little #TwineTime runback of the hot topics from this past week of curling action. We have the Brier to discuss but also crowning a new world champ at the World Wheelchair Curling Championship. AND finally some new (and debut) Power Rankings!!
Here are some key parting shots from #Brier2019 and #WWhCC2019:
Klutch Koe - As already mentioned, when the game is on the line and no time left to spare the only player in the world you want settling into the hack with confidence is Kevin Koe. How many times did Koe run the clock down to basically nothing before throwing his final stone and making the shot for the win? 3? 4? 5 times? Frankly we all lost count because we just assumed it was every game. Koe played flawless curling last week, running his winning streak now to 18 straight games. Remember this team had to go through the #CSideGrind in the Alberta provincial playdowns just to qualify for the Brier. Oh and don't forget, this is Year 1 for this newly formed team. Even Koe has said during the season this team is not clicking at a full 100% yet and are still getting to know one another. Yikes!!
China Champions - We finally have a new nation atop the wheelchair curling mountain folks. Ok well maybe not so new considering they are also the current Paralympic champs. China knocked off home nation Scotland to win their first world wheelchair championship over the weekend. I love seeing the strong dedication to the discipline we are seeing from Chinese Curling right now, throwing equal attention to wheelchair curling in hopes of becoming a world powerhouse. They won the 2018 Paralympic gold. They are now world champions. Call the program a success!
Canadian First - On the flip side, three-time champion Canada also hit a historic first in Scotland...for an opposite reason. Canada failed to finish within the Top 9 and, as a result, have been relegated to the B-division for 2020. When was the last time a Canadian curling team, of any discipline within the sport, was relegated? With no disrespect to our 2019 team, who competed well and lost out on a spot via a TB procedure, this is still surprising given Canada being considered a trailblazing nation for wheelchair curling. Full credit to the opposition though. This was one of the closest and most competition wheelchair championships we have seen. Someone had to be relegated in the end right? Joining Canada will be fellow North American contenders USA and Germany. Interesting to note, Canada and USA are the only nations to qualify for every World Wheelchair Curling Championship. Those records are in doubt heading into next year now.
Keep Rolling - The Bottcher Train continues to roll! Ok sure the final loss was heartbreaking. Imagine if Bottcher's final draw ended up stopping just a few inches higher in the house, almost eliminating the attempted double? We go to an extra and odds are strong Bottcher would be celebrating this week. But back-to-back Brier finals is a good sign for this team nonetheless. We have seen teams lose back-to-back finals in the past (3 times to be exact) and the following season two of those three went on to win the next year's Brier. History says Brier 2020 goes to Team Bottcher. But also credit this team on a great week on the ice. Vice Darren Moulding took home the sportsmanship award too. Last year some people considered their run to the final a fluke (some of us considered it their coming out party). This year, those people who called it a fluke are now saying it was their coming out party (well the rest of us are saying 'I told you so'). Major props to the Team Bottcher twitter account, whoever runs it during events. They were rolling on the ice. They were rolling on social media. And they may just have had the tweet of the entire week 👇
Rookie Success - This was discussed in the Midterm Report Card blog post but it is worth mentioning again. Rookie teams, rookie players and rookie nations made their presence known this past week in both Brandon, MB and Stirling, SCO. Ontario (Team McDonald) reached the Championship Pool and really came a win away from possibly reaching the playoffs. Nova Scotia (Team Thompson) put on one heck of a good show and came a win away from possibly reaching the Championship Pool, not to mention skipper Stuart Thompson battling being sick off the ice. Saskatchewan's Marsh brothers put up respectable individual overall percentages helping lead Saskatchewan into the Championship Pool. And what about Latvia and Estonia? Oh you missed hearing about those two nations? Both made their world wheelchair championship debuts and both finished with a 5-6 record, one game out of a playoff spot and both qualified for the 2020 event outperforming perennial contenders Canada and USA who finished below them. Both debut nations went into their final RR draw Friday afternoon needing a win to possibly reach the playoffs. Unfortunately both came up short but still a great debut on the international stage for both and a true #growthesport moment.
McCarruthers Struggles - So the final placement will show Manitoba finish 5th overall after collecting wins in their final two Championship Pool games but does anyone really feel like they were the 5th best team in the field (Ontario might have something to say there)? It was a struggle last week for #TeamBFF, lets be real. Inconsistent misses. Long discussions. Unsure decisions. At times they looked like contenders. At other times they looked like also-ran's. The team themselves have admitted communication is their biggest area for improvement. Well no kidding. Anyone watching would say the same thing. The question remains, where does #TeamBFF go from here? Luckily for them the #wct rankings do them a solid by giving them a spot in the upcoming Players Championship and, due to a strong win at Stu Sells Toronto, will also qualify for the Champions Cup. But anything short of a deep run to the SF or better might be too little too late to save this team. The "excuse" of being a new team and "figuring things out" is going to grow old quick. I mean they only added one new player to an already established team...and a player they were very familiar with. How "new" of a team are they really? Koe is a new team, with two new members, and won. Muyres is a new team with two new members and finished a game behind them. Dunstone is a new team and won a Curling World Cup event. There are many new teams out there finding similar or greater success. Reid and Mike are high-calibre, highly respected players in their own right. Are they diminishing their credentials in the long-run by trying to force this relationship to work? Next year starts Olympic cycle points. Do you risk fixing this train currently off the rails or do you hop aboard a new model? Hard questions and tough conversations are going to be had in Manitoba this off-season, if they aren't already!
Gender (In)Equality - Friday March 8 was International Women's Day. The theme for 2019 was #BalanceforBetter. Perfect timing. Balance for Better. As has been discussed and dissected by traditional media for the past few days, there is a great imbalance on our national curling scene. Men and women are not being awarded equally. Our Brier champions took home $70,000 while our Scotties champs took home $32,000. For those bad at math, that is not even half for our female champions compared to our men. In 2019! This blog has run the gears against the #gsoc in the past for inequality but they stepped up and made the #BalanceforBetter. Equal men's and women's purse amounts at grand slam events. They even added a women's Elite X field this past season (before cutting the event entirely, which I am ok with). In some ways the sport is being progressive. From a Curling Canada perspective, it is still sliding years behind. Look I get all the factoids people want to throw out on sponsorship revenue and ticket sales and eyes on the TV but those numbers are becoming increasingly balanced year after year. Attendance per draw comparisons favour the Brier (3,288 to 2,035). Average TSN viewership favoured the Brier (378K to 351K). But playoff and championship final numbers favour the Scotties (574K to 545K and 762K to 659K). Add it all up and don't all those numbers almost feel equal across the board? Plus is it not a bit difficult to compare curling in Sydney, NS to Brandon, MB? With no disrespect to Sydney but Brandon is set up to be a bit more travel friendly for fans. There are more curling fans in Manitoba compared to Nova Scotia. Saskatchewan fans will travel for close events so Brandon is more a draw, just on time and cost, compared to Sydney. Similar arguement for fans from Ontario and even Alberta. It would be interesting to compare numbers for a Brier and Scotties in say Alberta and Manitoba in the same year. But stats and figures and excuses aside, should that REALLY matter? Again, this is 2019! It is not only about #BalanceforBetter but really just simply #BeBetter! Oh the athletes competing at the Scotties get jewelry while the Brier participants don't? Really? This is an argument? Come on! At the end of the day, equality is equality and curling equality is still sitting on the far unused sheet in the curling club waiting to be booked.
CPA Time? - If you follow tennis you are probably caught up on the on-going saga of the players fighting for equality and a voice in how their tour's are operated. How long should a season be? When should major events take place? What is the ideal ranking system? With the gender inequality conversation, could this trigger a much-needed Curling Players Association (CPA)? A players association would have a voice on pay, player-friendly scheduling, counselling and welfare programs, training and health programs and help set-up players post-career. Ok perhaps some of these notions would not be high priority for the sport of curling...yet?! But the idea behind a PA is still one to look into. At present there are an estimated 194 professional players associations across 35 different sports encompassing 87 different nations. Basketball, soccer, cricket. Just small examples. Tennis is in a major discussion now about starting a PA as well. Aside from the tour life and player benefit, a PA also includes a strong #growthesport component. The PA encourages athletes to become active in welfare and community-based projects (ie: hospital visits, education programs). PAs even hand out awards to athletes who excel in this 'give back' mentality. For improvement around the general governance and operations of the sport, a players association may be the best decision for the future.
Time to reveal the updated team Power Rankings and reveal the first Nation Power Rankings. With world championship season rolling around it is time we hold our curling member associations to the same proposed ranking system for international events.
The Nation Power Rankings use a similar system to the men's and women's #wct events. For major international events, the point allocation is similar to the Special Event structure on the #wct. For regional events, the points follow a #Tour500 structure. And for those lower international events, a #Tour250 point allocation will be used. Here is the summary for the 2018/19 season:
Major World Event
Gold - 750
Silver - 500
Bronze - 350
4th Place - 250
QF - 150
Wins - 15 points per W with a max of 75
Major Regional Event
Gold - 500
Silver - 350
Bronze - 200
4th Place - 100
QF - 75
Wins - 10 points per W with a max of 40
Gold - 250
Silver - 100
Bronze - 75
4th Place - 50
QF - 35
Wins - 5 points per W with a max of 20
The events included under each international event are:
Major World Event - World Mixed, World Junior (men and women), World Wheelchair, World Women's, World Men's, World Senior's (men and women) World Mixed Doubles
Major Regional Event - Pacific-Asia, European A-Division
Minor Event - European B-Division, European C-Division, World Qualification Event, World Wheelchair B-Division, World Junior B-Division
- Canada - 2075
- China - 1905
- Scotland - 1805
- Switzerland - 1540
- Russia - 1515
- South Korea - 1425
- Norway - 1085
- Sweden - 1065
- Japan - 1025
- Spain - 555
Hon. Mention: Germany, Estonia, New Zealand, Italy, Denmark
Canada holds a slim lead atop the inaugural Nations Power Rankings, bolstered by world championship wins in mixed and junior men in addition to the silver won by the junior women. Canada has only participated in 4 international events but sits atop the standings. By contrast, China sits second and have competed in 7 events. The Chinese have accumulated strong ranking points via their gold medal win in wheelchair curling plus winning silver and bronze at #PACC2019 and winning the women's #WQE2019. Scotland is close behind after picking up a silver at the world wheelchair championship to coincide with their Euro men's title and world junior women's B-division win earlier in the season.
From a #growthesport perspective, great to see Spain crack the initial Top 10, thanks of course to the silver medal performance at the world mixed championship. Estonia and New Zealand have also made great strides this season and sit in the Top 15. And looking ahead to the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship in April, first-time entries will come from Nigeria, Kosovo and Saudi Arabia.
- Team Epping - 5058 (LR: 1)
- Team Bottcher - 4878 (2)
- Team Mouat - 4742 (3)
- Team Koe - 4530 (5)
- Team Paterson - 4044 (HM)
Hon. Mention: Team Edin, Team Jacobs, Team Gushue, Team Howard, Team De Cruz
I am sure these rankings will trigger some strong reactions from some curling fans after Team Koe's Brier win this weekend. However, remember these rankings are accumulated over the entire season. Epping has had a stellar season and continues to sit atop the mountain but the lead is diminishing greatly. Bottcher has a #gsoc title this season and a Brier runner-up finish. Mouat has won a European and Scottish title, among other strong results.
The important thing to remember here is, of the teams currently within the Top 10, only Mouat, Koe, Edin and De Cruz will be adding to their point totals in the upcoming weeks as they have all won the right to represent their nations at the world championships in Lethbridge.
- Team Homan - 7440 (LR: 1)
- Team Hasselborg - 4880 (2)
- Team Tirinzoni - 4725 (4)
- Team Einarson - 4660 (3)
- Team Kovaleva - 3655 (HM)
Hon. Mention: Team J. Jones, Team Carey, Team Yoshimura, Team Sidorova, Team Stern
Similar to the men above, many might be a bit surprised to see Scotties champ Carey sitting under the HM category. But again remember this is season accumulative and while the Scotties victory was impressive the season stats on Team Carey have been less than stellar in comparison to the teams ranked ahead of them.
Also note Hasselborg, Tirinzoni and Kovaleva picked up similar ranking points for winning their own national championships over the past few weeks. They will all look to make a huge climb up the mountain this upcoming week at the world championships in Denmark while their fellow Top 10 mountain teams sit at home and watch. Although Team Homan does have a pretty large lead right now and may be too far ahead to catch for anyone.
As mentioned the World Women's Curling Championships hit the ice this weekend in Denmark. The #TwineTime blog will bring you a full preview (with predictions) of the #WWCC2019 field.
Enjoy the week of rest after a busy past few weeks of curling rock heads. If you want some throwback reading though, as we head into the world championships and the new Top 6 playoff format venture through time to read the #FormatFrustrations blog post of last year when this blog presented 8 plausible playoff format options curling could be using. Which is your favourite?