We knew it would come up this season right? With #BroomGate a distant topic of the past, curling needs a new topic to have athletes and fans waving their brooms in disagreement. We simply cannot have a season go by without some major topic of debate off the ice and this may just be the biggest one we will bump into this season.
The Curling Canada residency rules have been a hot topic of conversation around curling clubs across our great nation for many years but have really become a melting pot of emotion during the past Olympic cycle. The rules are limiting the game. The rules of killing the sport. The rules are unfair. The rules are enforced against some and ignored for others. If the rules change it will bring the end of historic tradition in Canada.
Welcome to the #ResidencyResolve movement!
Curling Canada recently announced they will revisit the residency rules in their current format over the next year. Right away people are quick to wonder what this means for the sport of curling in our country. Will the rules be massaged more than they already are perceived by many? Will they be abolished all together? Will the be adapted to find a compromise between all sides of the argument? Curling Canada, you have your work cut out for you.
The current residency rules require three of the four players on a team to currently reside in the same province/territory. But there are exceptions to the rule, say for full-time students enrolled in another province but still claiming their original province as home.
Here lies the issue though. Team Homan. The perfect current example. Skip Rachel Homan resides in Edmonton, AB as she is a "registered full-time student". Second Joanne Courtney also calls Edmonton home. Meanwhile vice Emma Miskew and lead Lisa Weagle claim Ottawa, ON as their home. Two living in one province, two living in another. The team competes in Ontario as Homan is originally from Ontario and is only displaced from her home province due to pursuing an education, allowable under the rules.
However, this has led to the question on defining "full-time student". When I was a student accepting student loans to help pay for my education the requirement was also there to be a registered full-time student. In Canada a full-time student is defined as carrying 12 or more credit hours per semester. In most university systems one course is offered for 3 credits per semester meaning full-time is registered in a minimum of 3 courses per semester. For Team Homan to complete the residency rules, Homan should be registered in 12 credits this semester, which would be quite an impressive feat given the time commitment of also being a full-time athlete. But it could be done if the courses are perhaps offered online or allow for virtual attendance? We are giving benefit of the doubt here while many people raise an eyebrow and are quite skeptical as to Homan's student status.
There is a argument to be made that the personal life of Homan should not be debatable here. She is pursuing an education, smart move and one we should all applaud even as she is an elite athlete. However, the argument of fairness is valid for her opponents in Ontario. The competing teams in Ontario are abiding by the residency rule. They have three of their four players as Ontario residents. Team Homan has two of four. Is the "student-athlete" rule a loop hole? 100% it is! Is Curling Canada following up on these student-athletes course loads and registration? I don't know but I doubt they have the time and/or resources to do so. And if the rule is being broken, are they really going to come down on the darlings of women's curling in Canada and penalize them? What is the penalty for rule violation anyway? Not being allowed to compete in a provincial playdown? For Team Homan, at least this year anyway, who cares? Curling Canada also recently announced Team Homan would automatically receive one of the play-in spots at the upcoming Scotties competing for the Team Wildcard entry, regardless of how they do this season or in the Ontario Scotties, due to not being able to defend their Scotties title the previous year because they were competing in PyeongChang.
Hmmm maybe conspiracy theorists are on to something with an argument of what's good for some ain't good for all. Team Homan is getting a free pass into a Scotties play-in game. Do they deserve it as being one of the best teams in Canada? Sure. Will they need to free pass? Perhaps not. But is it fair to create this new rule during the same season? Of course not. Why was this not decided last year once Team Homan won the Olympic trials? And why does it matter? Ask most teams and I am going to guess if they had to choose between returning to the Scotties as Team Canada or representing Team Canada at the Winter Olympics it would be an easy choice which they would forego.
This rule allowance I call bulls*it on. You knew the "risk" heading into the trials and knew what you were possibly going to miss out on the following season should you win. Boo-who for you in that you got to represent the Maple Leaf on the grandest sports stage of all but have to now fight your way back to the national championship like everyone else. Tough life! Again, no disrespect to Team Homan themselves but rather questionable decision on making this rule months after the fact. When Team Homan qualified for the trials and won the previous year's Scotties, should Curling Canada not have been proactive in deciding this rule rather than reactionary into the following season? It does not leave a good taste in the mouths of many. Homan deserves to be at the Scotties of course but not like this. In a way you hope they win Ontario to erase any of this debate.
But Homan isn't the only team benefiting from a slight bending of the rules. What about our current Scotties champions Team Jones. Residency wise, new second Jocelyn Peterman made the move to Winnipeg to ensure the new team complies with the three of four as skipper Jennifer Jones technically resides in Ontario. While the team still claims Winnipeg as home base, Jones is no longer living there meaning Peterman must. Interesting to note though, for her women's team Jones represents Manitoba. As TSN pointed out, for mixed doubles she represents Ontario with spouse Brent Laing. This also raises another key point with the residency rule. How do we define "resident"? According to Curling Canada, an athlete must also spend a majority of the non-competitive time in the province they claim to represent for the Brier/Scotties. This would assume Peterman will not return to Alberta during the off-season as Jones stays residing in Ontario. For Team Homan, this requirement is again voided due to the student-athlete declaration. Lucky for them.
The new Team Jones also faced some scrutiny this season in being allowed to return to the Scotties as Team Canada as once again a new Curling Canada rule was set to favour the elite foursome. Last season Team Jones won the Scotties with now retired Jill Officer and alternate Shannon Birchard, filling in for regular vice Kaitlyn Lawes who was winning a gold medal in mixed doubles in PyeongChang. The regular rules require three of the four winning players to return for the team to receive their Team Canada spot in the following year's field. Team Jones will only return two of those players, Jennifer Jones and lead Dawn McEwen. If we follow the Curling Canada rules, Team Jones would not be entitled to the Team Canada designation this year. Enter another special rule amendment and, according to some, a saving for an elite favourite. The new Team Jones received the rule exempt and will return. Again, nothing against Team Jones returning as Team Canada. They deserve it. And nothing against Kaitlyn Lawes, competing and winning at the Winter Olympics was huge. But again, we have Curling Canada making last minute rule edits due to, according to them, unforeseen scheduling circumstances. Unforeseen? Hmmm, when Lawes/Morris won the mixed doubles trials everyone instantly thought about the potential threat here. When Team Jones did not win the Olympic trials, the threat became more real knowing they could compete and win the Scotties. Curling Canada needed to step in right there and make the announcement. If you want to stay transparent and fair, in a world where sports are becoming more and more under the microscope on these issues, you make the rule amendments PRIOR to knowing the possible affected teams. Sport organizations are already learning the hard way what happens when you don't get in front of a moving train....instead you get run over by it!
Does #TwineTime have the answers for the residency rule issue? No. Are too many rules being amended last minute and changes happening or rules not fully being enforced equally across the country? Certainly! Personally I do not want to see the residency rule changed. We have MANY outstanding curlers in this country, in every province/territory. If you cannot curl well with those in your own province, move to another province and make it your home if you want. But abolishing the residency rule to really only open the door for the formation of two or three super teams across the country sure seems counter-productive towards the #growthesport movement no?
Stay tuned folks....this debate is only in the first end towards a long-term game this season. This could get interesting! We should point out props to Curling Canada on recognizing the need for rule adjustments across the board though heading into next season when the Olympic cycle starts all over again. Lets hope these issues become debates for the history books and can be resolved BEFORE the start of a new season.
Back to the ice though and the actual competitive side of the game. Regardless of off the ice issues and debates, end of the day is you still need to go out and win events and compete on the ice to make a name for yourself.
- At the #CanadInnsClassic in Portage, Team Bottcher navigated a competitive field to go undefeated on the weekend and claim the #Tour1000 title, defeating provincial rival Team Koe in the final. Fellow Albertans and #TeamUpset contenders Team Sturmay and Team Jacobs rounded out the Final 4.
- Basel, Switzerland played host to the Women's #MastersBasel, a #Tour500 event. In the first all-Swiss final since 2014 (also the last time a Swiss team won the championship), Team Stern knocked off past two-time world champion Team Feltscher (with a new line-up) in the final. The Swiss team to win in 2014 by the way? Binia Feltscher! It was a clean Swiss Sweep in the Final 4 as well with Team Tirinzoni and Team Hegner reaching the SF. This marks the first time, that I could find anyway, the home nation completed a sweep of the Top 4 spots. #HoppSchwiiz indeed!
- In Abbotsford, the #DrivingForceCashspiel saw Japan's Team Matsumura collect their second #wct title of the season when they defeated current BC champ Team Geall in the final. Matsumura has competed in only three events this season but have two titles to show for it. Teams Scoffin, current Yukon champs, and Dezura reached the SF. For the women, Team Wark claimed their first title of the season knocking off a strong Team Brown in the final. Team Gushulak and Thompson received SF finishes.
- The #AtkinsClassic in Winnipeg belonged to Team Chambers for the men and Team Spencer for the women. Chambers defeated #TeamUpset flag bearer this season Team Dilello in the final. Team Spencer knocked off Team Watling to claim the ladies championship. Team Loreth and Team David Bohn for the men and Team Calvert and Team Peterson for the women had playoff runs to the SF.
- Stroud, ON hosted the annual #StroudSleemanCashSpiel with Team Gardner defeating Team Marshall to claim the women's title and Team Willsey continuing their strong start to the season knocking off Team Heggestad for the men's title. Team Brandwood and Team Froud (women) and Team Richard and Team Tuck Jr. (men) rounded out the Top 4.
- The #McKeeFallClassic in Aidrie, AB crowned Team Harty as another new #wct champion this season. Harty would defeat Team Meek in the championship final. Team Sherrard and Team Dahlseide reached the SF stage.
5 men's events, including a #Tour1000. 4 women's events, including a #Tour500. Teams sitting near the base of the rankings mountain had an opportunity to make a climb towards the top while those sitting at or near the apex needed to find their footing to retain their spot.
- Team Epping - 1700 (LW: 1)
- Team Carruthers - 1540 (2)
- Team Bottcher - 1360 (NR)
- Team Edin - 1300 (3)
- Team Jacobs - 1300 (5)
Hon. Mention: Team Schwaller, Team S. Thompson, Team Howard, Team Walstad, Team Gushue
- Team Einarson - 2010 (LW: 1)
- Team Hasselborg - 1750 (2)
- Team Kovaleva - 1480 (3)
- Team Tirinzoni - 1470 (4)
- Team Yoshimura - 1045 (HM)
Hon. Mention: Team J. Jones, Team Sidorova, Team Rocque, Team Robertson, Team Scheidegger
The biggest winner of the week was Team Bottcher, winning the #Tour1000 title in Portage and finally climbing up the mountain. Perhaps a slight miss by Team Jacobs though, losing in the SF to Bottcher and failing to take advantage of current #1 Team Epping being inactive this week. As for Epping, make it 5 weeks in a row now atop the rankings.
For the women, similar to Team Jacobs we have Team Tirinzoni. With the Top 4 all inactive this week and Tirinzoni playing in a #Tour500 event in home nation Switzerland falling in the QF to Swiss rival Team Feltscher prevented them to move up the standings. On the flip, Team Yoshimura's QF run enabled them to return to the Top 5 for the first time since Week 5. Sitting at the top however remains Team Einarson for the second straight week and fifth week in the past six.
It is worth mentioning the #ChinaOpen is currently underway in Chongqi, China featuring 8 men's and 8 women's teams representing 10 different nations competing for a large $100,000 purse. A few big names to keep your eyes on include Canada's Team Gushue and Team Jones, Norway's Team Ulsrud and Russia's Team Kovaleva. #TwineTimeFam member Daniela Jentsch will be competing as well representing Germany. As this event is already underway, no preview will be made available this week but note this event is designated as a #Tour500 event with major points available. Check out the World Curling Tour site for all the LIVE scoring updates.
#TwineTime will have your full preview of all other events later in the week. In the meantime, keep those curling eyes on the house in Kelowna as the #WMxCC2018 round robin starts to wrap up during the week and build towards the playoffs this weekend. ICYMI HERE is the #TwineTime preview of each pool and some predictions to wet your slider.
Enjoy your week folks.