As I have delved into curling these past few months, I am a bit amazed at just how long and large is the competition circuit, crossing both genders and various formats. The first tournament of the season was in August with the final matches being played on May 1. My first “wall-to-wall” (online scoreboards, Twitter feeds, streaming when available) following this year was the Wall Grain Mixed Doubles Classic in Oshawa in mid-November. Unlike the traditional four-player game, mixed doubles is played with just two (one male and one female), with fewer rocks (six per end as opposed to eight) and one stone from each team in play at the start of the end. So why was THIS tournament my jumping-in point? I was intrigued by the format and, as a Monday-Tuesday event, it filled in the traditionally barren part of the week for a sports fan. Truthfully, the reasons I was hooked by this event are that it would allow me to actually root for my favorite individual curlers (cheering for rinks ends up sometimes being support for the whole even if you’re not a fan of one or two of the players) and because my two favorite skips (Val Sweeting and Brad Gushue) were teaming up (unfortunately, they were eliminated in the quarterfinals).
Move past Thanksgiving and it’s been a pretty heavy diet of action. The start of December was the Canada Cup, followed the next week by the Canadian Open, then the Karuizawa International tournament in Japan before a short break for Christmas. January would bring the Continental Cup (North America vs. the World in a Ryder Cup-like format), provincial playdowns for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, and the Canadian Junior championships. Move to February and we had provincials for the Tim Hortons Brier before the Scotties started on February 20th. Starting then, the calendar was/is as follows:
- February 20-28 Scotties Tournament of Hearts
- March 5-13 Tim Hortons Brier
- March 17-20 Elite X
- March 19-27 Women’s World Championship
- March 31-April 3 Canadian Mixed Doubles Championship (a good number of the top rinks will be here trying to score points toward Olympic trials qualification)
- March 31-April 3 City of Perth Ladies International (Teams Sweeting and Fleury are playing as a final tune-up for the Players’ Championship)
- April 2-10 Men’s World Championship
- April 12-17 Players’ Championship
- April 26-May 1 Champions’ Cup
I’m becoming more familiar with the teams on the tour (especially the top-tier international ones that haven’t been to a previous Olympics and the Canadian ones that haven’t made a Scotties or Brier in the past) and the formats of the events (some use triple knockout and playoffs, some use pool play round-robin before quarterfinals/semifinals/final, with the Scotties/Brier/Worlds using single round-robin and Page playoffs). My next blog post will be a proposal for how to deal with the mess that is coming for the Scotties and Brier regarding its format and traditions.