As reported by Bob Weekes, the Canadian Curling Association is looking at changing the format of the Brier, as well as their other national championships. They are experimenting with moving to a 14-team system.
- Team Canada, Northern Ontario and separate Yukon and Northwest Territories entries plus one team from each Province.
- The field would still be 12 teams with the 12th-place finisher from the previous year dropping into a pool with two other teams which didn’t make it in playing a relegation round just before the start of the national event (probably at a curling club in the same locale).
The rationale for this is by having Team Canada, you are basically assured of another strong team competing for the title. It will also bring some drama to the end of the week for teams at the bottom of the standings as they try to avoid relegation. Maybe they feel that the returning champion will increase interest in the events, thereby selling more seats, beer in the Brier Patch and sponsorships.
I feel this is akin to killing the goose that laid the golden egg. Here’s why:
- One only needs to go to a Brier to see that it is much more than a sporting event. At any game you can see Nova Scotia fans with rain coats and blue noses, Territories fans with their moose calls and Saskatchewan fans in full green. Taking one of those teams out of the competition would put a serious dent in the event.
- At any National Championship, there are usually six teams with a realistic shot at winning with two or three favourites. Adding team Canada would add another favourite. So instead of one or two marquis matchups during the week they would have two or three. I don’t think the organizers would be able to measure the uptick in revenue from this.
- What happens to the relegated teams the following year? Instead of playing for a spot at the Brier, they are playing for a chance to get to the Brier. This will depress interest in the sport where it is most vulnerable.
- What about the total disaster scenario of no host team at an event? Try getting volunteers, decent gate attendance and other revenue when you don’t have a home team in the event.
- By having last year’s champions return as Team Canada, it makes it much easier to repeat. This assaults the record books and cheapens the title of Canadian Champion.
The curling elite have done a good job of whining themselves into preferred positions. Many of these teams already get a bye into their Provincial Finals, but they will try to convince the CCA that having more elite teams will add to a more successful championship. If this is the case, why do they play their Grand Slam events to half empty arenas? Remember when these teams boycotted the Brier for a few years? Nobody missed them. The Briers were great events and the Canadian champions fared well at World Championships.
If the CCA wants to improve things, why not make this a true national championship? Everybody starts on the same starting line. That genie is out of the bottle, but the magic and allure of the Brier has suffered as a result.
If the CCA goes ahead with this change, I predict that instead of a bounty of gold, they will end up with tainted goose meat.