As the 2016-2017 curling season comes to a close this month, all eyes are starting to focus on qualification for the Canadian Olympic Curling Trials. The WestJet Players’ Championship in Toronto will be the last opportunity for teams to pick up Canadian Tour Ranking System (CTRS) points in the hopes of gaining a direct berth to the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings (the fancy name for their Olympic Curling Trials) in December in Ottawa. The process for direct entry to the Trials seems fairly straight-forward on paper, but is riddled with convolution that would make even the sanest person wonder “who the heck came up with this?”. Break out your abacuses and lawyers-on-retainer as I explain.
Nine teams of each gender will compete at the Roar of the Rings. Seven teams gain direct entry by way of winning either the 2015 or 2016 Canada Cup (slots 1 and 3), the 2016 or 2017 Scotties Tournament of Hearts (women) or Tim Hortons Brier (men) provided they make the podium at that year’s World Championship (slots 2 and 4), or by finishing first in the two-year (2015-2017) CTRS standings (slot 5) or first or second in the one-year (2016-2017) CTRS standings (slots 6 and 7). The remainder of the field on both sides will be determined at a pre-trials event in Summerside, PEI in early November with twelve teams competing for the final two spots. Looks pretty simple, right? Not so fast, as the four “events-based” direct entries were not collected by four different teams. On the women’s side, Rachel Homan won the 2015 Canada Cup and the 2017 Scotties Tournament of Hearts (coupled with a gold at the World Championship) while 2016 STOH champion Chelsea Carey failed to medal at that year’s World Championship, thus not earning the entry. As for the men, Kevin Koe won both the 2015 Canada Cup and the 2016 Tim Hortons Brier (plus gold at the World Championship). 2017 Tim Hortons Brier winner Brad Gushue can secure his direct entry to the Trials by medaling at this week’s Ford Worlds. So how do those open spots (one or two for the men and two for the women) get filled? This is where Curling Canada has created much confusion. First, they determined that Carey’s position would be filled by the highest-ranked team in the 2015-2016 CTRS standings not already qualified, which was Jennifer Jones. Jones would go on to win the 2016 Canada Cup, thus leaving THAT direct spot unfilled. Logic would indicate that you put in the replacement teams AFTER you fill in all spots based on the prescribed qualification method (and the language used in the process documents would lead one to believe that would be the case, in that the replacements are the highest-ranked teams in the CTRS not already qualified). Curling Canada, however, states that they will fill in the spots IN ORDER (#1 through #7, with the replacement being slotted in even if they would have qualified in their own right through the one-year or two-year slots). Below are the direct entry positions 1) as they exist with duplicates, 2) as they exist with open spots in slots 1-4 filled in at the end, and 3) as they are to be filled with replacements slotted in order:
- Homan, Jones, Jones, Homan, Homan, Homan, Jones.
- Homan, Jones, (Michelle Englot), (Tracy Fleury), Val Sweeting, Allison Flaxey, Casey Scheidegger.
- Homan, Jones, Flaxey, Sweeting, Carey, Scheidegger, Englot.
- Koe, Koe, Reid Carruthers, Gushue, Gushue, Gushue, Carruthers.
- Koe, (Steve Laycock), Carruthers, Gushue, Mike McEwen, Brad Jacobs, John Epping.
- Koe, Gushue, Carruthers, Jacobs, McEwen, Epping, Laycock.
Not a WHOLE lot of difference (the same seven men qualify via methods 2 and 3, while there is only one change amongst the women), but going down to 5th on the two-year standings because the 3rd and 4th-ranked teams were slotted in as replacements for slots 3 and 4 and 5th to fill the one-year leader spot for the same reason when it could be done “cleaner” (meaning that the highest-ranked teams in each of those standings that did not qualify through Canada Cup or Scotties/Worlds would gain their entry via the CTRS slots) just seems a bit odd to me. Additionally, moving Gushue out of his “earned” spot into a replacement spot also looks goofy.
Dear Curling Canada: Clean up the language in your documents to say what you mean along with an explanation of its purpose and/or use a more transparent method of filling in the field when spots go unused. Also, please provide examples using current teams of how things would work if you get duplicate qualifications or, much like the Grand Slam of Curling does with regards to Humptys Champions Cup qualification, publish periodic updates to the field starting December 1 of the year preceding the Trials.
I’ve said my piece, now let me hear yours, either in the comments here or at @backseatgaffer.