BY BRIAN BELFRY
t's not too often the players spare pool gets attention at the Ontario Tankard.
It came to the forefront in 2007 when Steve Bice replaced Glenn Howard's second Brent Laing for the title game. Laing had left the event to attend the birth of his first child. The Tankard was in Bice's hometown of Sarnia and he was in the spare pool. Playing with three is not permitted except in rare instances.
As luck would have it, Glenn Howard is the one dipping into the spare pool again this week as the Tankard is played at the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre in Brantford. Howard's vice Wayne Middaugh broke several bones in a skiing accident and is done for the year.
Howard's team had the choice of finding a quality member at its club, St. George's (Etobicoke), or gamble on the players pool. The players pool has better odds and is not limited to locals. Guelph's Adam Spencer, a five-time Tankard veteran, filled in for Middaugh at a world tour event earlier this season. He played with Brent Ross in trying to reach the Tankard with his own team. He applied to be part of the pool along with others.
It's a no-brainer for event organizers to accept Spencer. Obviously, they want high-quality spares in the pool. Howard has to reapply for Spencer before every game but only one other team is short a player and it has its own selection.
"At no time does the alternate/spare become a member of the team. They are a spare," said Ontario Curling Association executive director Steve Chenier.
Laurier student Fraser Reid is in the pool. Reid played lead with Mark Kean this year. He applied to the pool with the knowledge Scott Bailey's team would pick him up. Travis Fanset is skipping the team this week. Bailey had to leave due to an M&M Meat Shops corporate junket set for this week. (Side note: Why the heck would a huge curling sponsor like M&M's schedule a cruise the week of the Ontario Tankard?)
"I can assure you that we are reviewing this rule," said Chenier. "And many others but as organizers we cannot predict each and every eventuality when writing rules."
I'm not sure this rule even needs review.
Unexpected births, multiple fractures, mandatory cruises (OK, the last one is iffy) happen. Perhaps Hearts and Tankard teams should name a fifth player at the start of the season (obviously one that is not competing with another team) as insurance.
But rules are in place to keep things fair. They are not there to strike teams down should something unforeseen take place. Spencer is a talented player, but he is a shade down from being Middaugh. Howard will have to adjust. Hart is playing vice. Scott Howard at lead. Team Glenn Howard would probably still be a contender even if it brought Johnny (The Hammer) Chow in to play lead and moved Scott to second. (No offence, Chow.)
If Howard or Fanset wins, have the spares got a trip to the Brier?
"Once the winning team is declared, they will need to fill out their roster for the Brier," Chenier said via email. "At least three of the original team members must advance. In essence, Howard could still take Wayne and bring a fifth to play for Wayne. Not optimal but realistic."
The Tankard is on all week at the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre in Brantford. Go to ontcurl.com for results.