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It's the only word to describe the provincial playdown drama which happened last week to determine Nova Scotia's representative for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts next month in Calgary.
Last week, the Nova Scotia Curling Association announced the cancellation of its provincial playdown tournament with the winner normally going on to wear the province's colours at the women's national tournament.
The cancellation came because of extended restrictions put in place by the provincial government and health officials to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Typically, if a provincial playdown is cancelled — for whatever reason — the defending champion would be offered the chance to go to nationals. And following that rule, the Jamie Murphy rink will be Nova Scotia's representative at the Tim Hortons Brier in Calgary in March.
The situation is much different on the women's side.
The rules state three of the four members of the championship team must be actively playing together during the year.
Unfortunately, this affected Sydney River's Christina Black, who last year was the third for the Mary-Anne Arsenault-skipped team, Nova Scotia's 2020 Scotties representative.
Black took over the team after Arsenault moved to British Columbia to be closer to her fiancé following the 2019-20 season. Meanwhile, Emma Logan jumped ship to the Jill Brothers rink, leaving only two members from last year's team together: Black and Jennifer Baxter.
Those rules are clear and are understandable.
Last month, the Nova Scotia Curling Association released its criteria which would be followed if the women's provincial playdown event was cancelled. They explained how a team would be selected for the national events.
According to the criteria, the representative would be chosen based on the 2020-21 money list standings. In simple terms, the team who won the most money at that point of the season would represent the province at nationals — making the Jill Brothers rink Nova Scotia's representative at the 2021 Scotties.
This is where the real issue comes to the forefront.
The criteria was announced following three fall tournaments. Not every team who had planned to enter the provincial playdown had taken part in the tournaments, meaning there was no way for them to even be considered if they didn’t enter all the events.
Shouldn't all teams have known the criteria before December to give a fair opportunity to all teams wanting to potentially represent the province at the Scotties?
Why did teams only learn the criteria a month before the provincial tournament?
For example, it's like saying two baseball teams are in a tournament. They finish with matching records and then find out after the round robin is complete that the team with the best runs for or lowest runs against will move on to the semifinals — those details should and usually are known before the event.
Virginia Jackson, executive director of the Nova Scotia Curling Association, told the Cape Breton Post last week the criteria wasn't announced at the start of the season.
“We had no idea where we were going to be come January — it was back in September,” said Jackson in a Jan. 14 story.
“We had distributed all of the material that Curling Canada had given us about the protocols to be followed during a Canadian competition and we had Zoom calls with all teams and laid out that should there be a provincial tournament, would they attend.”
Letting members know the rules they must follow from Curling Canada to stay safe is absolutely the right thing to do. There's no argument there. The proper communication was fulfilled.
However, when a trip to a national tournament is on the line and a return-to-play plan is put in place, shouldn't every scenario have been considered before the start of the season?
Anyone who says they thought the COVID-19 pandemic would be over in January is lying to themselves. In fact, in September, we didn't know for certain if there would even be a vaccine in place in January — we lucked out on that front.
In fairness to the curling association, they were in a tough position in terms of picking a team to represent the province at the Scotties. If it was up to them, they'd have had a provincial playdown and we know that, but it was not their call.
The association had to pick a team to go and of course, money standings is the best way to do it.
It's easy to look back now and be critical, but a plan should have been in place in September, before curlers hit the ice, in case the playdowns were cancelled. Teams shouldn't learn the criteria a month before the national event.
Return-to-play plans are new for everyone, especially in a pandemic.
Although it's too late now, this experience has no doubt been a learning curve for the Nova Scotia Curling Association — as it has been for all provincial organizations — and will surely be considered when planning for the 2021-22 season.
Best of luck to the Jamie Murphy and Jill Brothers rinks at their respective national tournaments. Curling fans in the province will have their eyes glued to their televisions come February and March cheering you on from afar.
Jeremy Fraser covers sports for the Cape Breton Post. He welcomes column ideas, sports story suggestions or feedback about this week’s Sports Chat.
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