ON THE ROCKS: The idea of ​​eliminating extra ends does not sit well with Canadian curlers

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It’s been clear for over a year now that the World Curling Federation has been toying with the idea of ​​replacing extra ends with a spectacular draw on the button to decide ties.

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It’s an idea that received more ridicule than intrigue and was in the spotlight last weekend when the rule was tested at the Curling Canada PointsBet Invitational, in Fredericton, NB.

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« I see him coming down the road, » said Marc Kennedy, a highly decorated curler who plays third for Edmonton’s Brendan Bottcher.

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« Trying to eliminate extra extremities is something that’s been happening for a while. »

Rather than playing extra ends in the knockout tournament, the teams each threw a draw on the button – from different sides of the sheet – to decide the winner. The team that would have had the hammer in an extra inning got to choose which side of the sheet they wanted to throw in, which turned out to be a pretty big advantage.

He came on several times during the tournament and left some curlers with a sour taste in their mouths.

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« I don’t like it, » said Jennifer Jones, a six-time Canadian champion and Olympic gold medalist, who won the women’s title at the PointsBet Event.

« I’m still a traditionalist, so it’s hard for me to embrace change. »

The World Curling Federation put the idea of ​​making change on the table at last year’s Annual General Meeting, but ultimately decided not to go that route — yet. Instead, he opted to institute a « no ticking » rule, which took away some of the teams advantage with the hammer in late games.

But if Curling Canada tests a rule like this at one of its events, surely there’s a belief that it’s a possibility for the future.

Curlers are grappling with the idea of ​​completely changing the way they approach endgames in the coming years.

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« From a strategy perspective and how you approach the end, late, it definitely changes your mindset, » said Reid Carruthers, who won the men’s side of the PointsBet event.

« Knowing that if you only score one run in the last inning or even get two going home, you’re probably heading for a shootout, where you’d normally have the hammer, that changes things up a bit. things. You can sometimes forgo a flight just to make sure you have the hammer, tied up, and come home.

The truth is that the WCF wants to make curling more marketable internationally and a bounty has been placed on integrating the games into television time slots.

While eliminating extra ends would certainly help in this area, curlers have been using a different solution for years on the Grand Slam Tour.

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« If we’re worried about slots, we play an entire season with eight-end games, » Kennedy said. “As athletes, we got used to it and we love it.

“Why isn’t this a change being considered for the curling championship? If you’re worried about slots, why not just drop them to eight ends instead of doing something like eliminating the extra ends, which completely changes the purity of the game? »

Kennedy, a three-time Olympian and 2010 gold medalist, seems somewhat resigned to the fact that change might be coming.

He hopes that more changes will be made jointly, for the benefit of the game.

“If they go that direction, with the draw on the button, I certainly hope they change the point system,” Kennedy said. “It should be three points for a total win, two for a win on the button, one point for a loss on the button. This type of model, so that the whole game is not based on a draw on the button at the very end.

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Like Jones, many curlers are purists. They understand the attempts to develop the sport, but there are limits to what they want to see in terms of change.

Thirty years ago, curling was a completely different sport, but it started to change with the addition of the free guard zone. It started with three stones, evolved to four and now it’s five. It seems there have been almost annual changes since curling became an official Olympic sport in 1998.

« I personally wish they didn’t touch the extra ends, » Kennedy said. « I think that’s a very important part of the game, it’s a very important part of the strategy. You want to be the team with the hammer because you’re going to go an extra inning and you call the game accordingly. That will change the game.

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« And you know what? We’ve tinkered with our game so much over the last decade, I’d just like to see it settle down for a while. Let it rest. Every year we keep making all these big changes to accommodate the fans. and hosting TV. Sometimes I wonder what’s really wrong with our game. »

Although Canadians make up the majority of curlers around the world, especially at the elite level, it feels like they don’t have much of a chance to influence major rule changes like those under discussion.

And it’s not just curlers in this country who are resisting some changes.

« I find it really unfortunate that athletes don’t have more of a say in their own sport, » Kennedy said. “Curling sometimes falls victim to attracting more fans and accommodating television, but at the end of the day sometimes it just confuses the fans.

“I have a 68-year-old mother who loves to watch curling, but every week comes up to me and says, ‘What is this rule change? What are the rules this week? Why are we doing this?’ You’re also alienating some of your long-time traditional fans. I think they have to be very careful.


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