Jack MacDuff displays the 1976 Brier trophy after his Newfoundland team won Canada’s national men’s curling championship.
By Jack MacDuff (guest opinion)
Curling is dying at the grassroots level in Canada and it has been for some time. Across the country clubs survive only through the participation of the ‘60-plus’ crowd. These “boomers” were the group that was responsible for the surge in curling participation 40 and 50 years ago, as well as setting attendance records at the Brier and Scotties throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. Unfortunately as this group ages, there are only a few coming into the game as spectators or curlers.
In its headlong rush to raise falling revenues, the Canadian Curling Association has instituted what it is calling “equitable opportunity to access championships.” Tragically, there is nothing equitable about it. The idea is to add a ‘Team Canada’ to the Brier and a Northern Ontario team to the Scotties.
To do this and keep the number of teams participating the same as before, provinces and territories must be dropped through the process of a relegation round where the four provinces or territories that had the lowest win record from the year before must play off against each other with one team going on to the national competition and the other three being sent home. How remarkable that in a time where young competitive curlers need to be encouraged like never before, the CCA is forcing provinces out of national competitions.
The Canadian Curling Association (CCA) has forgotten its own mission and mandate. That mandate states that it is to “exclusively promote amateur athletics specific to curling in Canada on a nationwide basis.”
Curling is not promoted by denying provinces access to the national competition. National competitions inspire young curlers by allowing them to play against the best. Denying them that opportunity robs incentive and quickly kills curling.
The CCA mandate also states that it must “respect and preserve the traditions of curling.” If the current relegation plan goes ahead for next year’s Brie, either P.E.I., Nova Scotia, or possibly both will not be represented. P.E.I. entered the Brier in 1936. Nova Scotia played in the first Brier in 1927 and won it. They subsequently won two more as well as seven Scotties titles. P.E.I. has not won a Brier or Scotties, but has added incredibly to the script over the years. Remember how close P.E.I. came to defeating Jennifer Jones in 2010? The country was watching the game with everyone on the edges of their seats.
How then can the CCA be entrusted with preserving the “history and tradition” of these events when it demonstrates something very different? Its relegation plan is about exclusion, not inclusion.
In 1976, I was fortunate enough to be part of a Newfoundland team that won our province’s first and only Brier. The event not only changed the lives of every player on that team but the history of curling in Canada. Had the proposed plan for relegation been in effect, we would have had to play off to get to the Brier. Fortunately no such idea existed.
If you are a curler or a fan of the game, I urge you to write or email the Canadian Curling Association and demand they throw out relegation and find a system that includes all provinces and territories. Here is how to contact the CCA: (mailing address) 1660 Vimont Court, Orleans, Ontario K4A 4J4; Telephone – Toll Free: 1-800-550-2875; email address: email@example.com
Jack MacDuff was skip of the 1976 Brier champions from Newfoundland.