The off-season brought some changes to the Ontario Curling Association rule book.
The association highlighted key items on its website (ontcurl.com).
One that stuck out the most was eligibility restrictions being removed from the annual men’s Colts competition.
For the uninitiated, the Ontario association offers several competitions through the year on top of the regular stream of juniors, seniors, men’s, women’s and mixed.
The Colts and Trophy (the women’s counterpart competition) were set up as a B-level event, for lack of a better term.
For the men, restrictions were in place to ensure elite teams did not enter. If a team had qualified for men’s provincials, it meant members could never play in Colts. If you had previously won Colts you could not enter again. In Trophy, no such restrictions have been in place due to low entry numbers for the women. Elite women’s teams (think Sherry Middaugh, Rachel Homan or similar) have shown no interest in entering the event. It does not go beyond a provincial championship. The events are building block competitions for players.
Association executive director Doug Bakes says the lifting of the restrictions for the men is a two-year pilot project to try and increase participation.
The numbers may rise this season but what will be the result? Curlers on the cash circuit trying for provincial and Brier berths might take a shot at Colts to bring a provincial title to their club and lengthen their competitive curling season. It’s a lifestyle for many.
A top Ontario player like Greg Balsdon, now curling manager at Glendale, is a good example. Balsdon figures he played close to 180 games last season. Balsdon plays the cashspiel circuit, has qualified for men’s provincials as skip several times and represented Ontario at the national Dominion Club Championship last season. He’s competing as a second with Corey Heggestad team in the national mixed next month.
With Colts restrictions lifted he got a call from a former teammate.
“We’re just debating on going in it for fun, just another competition. Obviously with a provincial banner on the line. But with my busy schedule I just don’t think I have the time.”
Although Balsdon might not be entering, he agrees there could be some regular competitors from the cashspiel circuit and provincial qualifiers who might consider giving it a try, if their schedule allows. Perhaps some will entice other members of the club out with them, similar to the Dominion Club championship. It will still take up precious time.
“That’s just a lot of weekends (added in),” Balsdon said.
If several of Ontario’s upper tier of teams do take a run at a provincial Colts (or portion of a team), the lifting of the restrictions may have the opposite effect of what the association was looking for and fewer teams will enter believing they have no chance of winning. Balsdon doesn’t think his peers will jump onto any Colts bandwagon.
“Even though they have lifted the rules, I think the integrity of that event should stay the same, so personally I don’t think I am going to enter.”
Let’s hope the rest of Ontario’s best share Balsdon’s feelings.
• John Thompson (Westmount), Damien Villard (Galt) and Sheri Smeltzer (Fergus) all qualified for Dominion Club Champions provincial championship set for Oct. 26-28 at St.George’s Golf and Country in Etobicoke. Winning men’s and women’s team will advance to the national championship.
• London is host to the Ontario junior curlers this weekend. Follow results through OJCT.ca
• Team Epping, with Waterloo’s David Mathers at lead, lost the quarterfinals to Glenn Howard in the Canad Inns cashspiel in Portage La Praire. Kevin Koe won the event beating Kevin Martin in the final. Ontario’s Rachel Homan was runnerup to Stephanie Lawton in the Manitoba Lotteries cashspiel in Winnipeg. Laurier alumni Laura Crocker, now of Edmonton, lost to Lawton in the quarterfinals.