Wildcard debate intensifies ahead of Scotties Tournament of Hearts

Add a new round of debate to a Canadian curling scene that hasn’t been short of juicy stories of late.

The oft-discussed wildcard setup at the Nationals again took center stage on Monday with the release of updated standings that appeared to determine the game’s match at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

Nothing has been finalized yet by Curling Canada, which is also expected to make a joint announcement with the Canadian Olympic Committee this week on who will wear the maple leaf in mixed doubles at the Beijing Games.

Add to that a recent decision by the Ontario Curling Association (CurlON) on its rep Scotties and all the bases of the drama seem covered.

Recent event cancellations – including mixed doubles trials and several provincial and territorial championships – have stirred the pot over what the National Federation should decide for its playoffs.

Calls for Curling Canada to use up three wild-card entries at Brier Scotties and Tim Hortons for a second year in a row have increased in recent times due to limited competition options.

But if the current setup holds, Chelsea Carey will face top Tracy Fleury in the preliminary game on January 28 at Fort William Gardens in Thunder Bay, Ont.

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With a gold medal in mixed doubles to defend, curlers Kerri Einarson, Wayne and Kim Tuck, Tyrel Griffith and Chelsea Carey are voting on who they think should represent Canada. 1:12:06

Carey edged out Homan and Hollie Duncan in the final standings after securing points in the Saskatchewan playoffs last week. The totals for Homan and Duncan remained unchanged after the event was canceled in Ontario.

“Seems like a good year to have three wild card teams at the Scotties [and] Brier to be fair, “tweeted Wayne Middaugh, who replaced injured Glenn Howard on the Wild Card Three squad at last year’s Brier.

With the Scotties starting on January 26 and the Olympics kicking off on February 2, time is running out.

Asked about the wildcard situation and if any changes could be considered, a spokesperson for Curling Canada said by email that the matter was “being resolved today” and that an update would be forthcoming.

Carey, joined Monday afternoon in Regina, said she would like to see several wild side teams on the pitch.

“I don’t agree that there are only two teams because of the provincial championships and the way it all went,” she told The Canadian Press. “I think that should be what they did last year.”

The generic format, which replaced the unpopular four-team qualifying system, was first used in 2018.

“It would be unethical …”

The top two ranked teams that have yet to advance to the P / T playoffs face off in a Losers Showdown.

“It would be unethical to change the rules after the fact [now] who’s in this wild card game for, ”veteran Captain Mike McEwen said on Twitter. “But I’m not saying the rules / formats are fair given the circumstances that teams / provinces face. Reinstating 3 Wild Cards at the National Championships for Women and Men is the fairest solution. “

Any potential change would require a new draw. Scotties play-in match team entries were left vacant on the competition website Monday and the Canadian Team Ranking System (CTRS) standings were not updated.

However, the Canadian rankings – complete with weekend game updates – were available on Monday on the World Curling Federation’s website.

They showed Carey to have 21.175 points as they advanced to the Saskatchewan final. Since the top five competitions this season have been used, her tally (127.058) placed her just ahead of Homan (125.031) and Duncan (116.056).

“CTRS points cannot be awarded in Provincial Championships that have been played and none for those that have been canceled due to COVID. That’s the tweet,” said Ryan Fry, who plays third on Team John Epping, on Twitter.

Carey, a two-time Scotties champion, lost a 7-5 decision to Penny Barker in the Saskatchewan final on Sunday.

“Yeah, we got to play provincials – in quotes – but we had to worry about COVID all the time,” Carey said. “I don’t know, I’m not sure it’s better. We probably would have been the Saskatchewan team – we were the No. 1 seed in the provincials – so if we hadn’t played we probably would have been named as the team.

“So I’m not even sure it’s better that we can play. Everything is just a mess right now, unfortunately. “

Homan, meanwhile, has been provisionally appointed to represent Ontario. CurlON also decided that if she was named to the Olympic mixed doubles team with John Morris, Duncan would go to the national championships instead.

Contingency plans

Part of the reason for Curling Canada’s delay in naming the duo – trials for 16 teams were called off on December 26 – can likely be attributed to determining what could happen in the event of COVID-19 keys over the next few years. weeks.

“Every contingency plan has a contingency plan behind it,” said a spokesperson for Curling Canada, declining to go into details.

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The married curling duo say Canada needs the right infrastructure to create a stand-alone mixed doubles program, separate from team curling. 2:12

When it comes to the wild-card format, the three-team setup was generally viewed as a success in last year’s domestic playoffs in the Calgary bubble.

Curling Canada said it made the change last year to ensure “the quality and integrity of the championships” as many teams have not had the opportunity to play for spots due to the pandemic.

The schedule had essentially returned to normal this season before the arrival of the Omicron variant. Many teams have been limited in recent times based on cancellations and restrictions related to the pandemic, which vary across the country.

About half of the players confirmed for the Scotties have been cheered for their places.

Homan’s four-player team have collected more than half of their points this season with strong performances in two Grand Slam events. A final place at the Olympic trials in November proved costly.

The Jennifer Jones team won the trials and will represent Canada in Beijing. Team Brad Gushue won the men’s team place.

The Brier is scheduled for March 4-13 in Lethbridge, Alta.

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