Hard to believe Wilfrid Laurier University winning a national title could cause so many complications.
By winning the 2016 Canadian Interuniversity Sport (now U Sports) curling title in March, Aaron Squires, Richard Krell, Spencer Nuttall and Fraser Reid earned the right to compete at the 2017 Winter Universiade in Almaty, Kazakhstan, set for Jan. 28 to Feb. 8, 2017.
A winter sporting event held every two years and described as second only to the Olympics, it was a crowning achievement for the rink’s final year at WLU.
Great news for them, but a problem for teams they are part of in the Ontario men’s competitive scene.
The 2017 Ontario men’s Tankard is set for Cobourg, Jan. 29 to Feb. 5, the same week the foursome are on the other side of the world.
Squires throws third with Mark Bice, Krell skips his own rink and Nuttall and Reid play front end for 2015 Ontario champion Mark Kean. As you might expect, all have aspirations to play for a spot at the Brier and to earn points to qualify for the 2017 Olympic Curling Trials.
Adding to the fun is the fact there will be no spare pool at the Tankard for the first time. Instead, a new set of alternate and substitute rules have been set by the OCA. Check out the rules supplement www.ontcurl.com/rules/ for full text.
Teams have always had the option to sign up a spare if the need arises. But now once you are on a team (regular or alternate) within an OCA competition you cannot become part of another team for the remainder of that competition.
So Bice and Krell can cover absences by naming a fifth player at any time. But Kean has two players gone. This year’s rule supplement also covers this scenario with a “substitute.” In the event a five-person team can’t field four players, the substitute can be brought in. The sub can NOT have been part of a regular team in the same event at any prior level.
This stops the scenario that happened last year when Guelph’s Adam Spencer was eliminated in playdowns but then picked up from the Tankard spare pool by Team Glenn Howard and subsequently went on to the Brier.
In some ways, it’s too bad. Spencer’s story and Steve Bice’s similar experience in 2007 when he was chosen out of a spare pool to play in the final game with Howard then accompanied the team as fifth man to the Brier, are great stories. What player doesn’t dream of being asked to join in from the sidelines and play with the champs?
But, there is the other side of the coin, of the player who managed to defeat a fellow competitor and then is suddenly facing that same player again at the next level of competition.
Finding a “substitute” with the talent who didn’t participate in the Hearts and Tankard playdowns will likely only happen with careful planning.
Kean mentions he has more to worry about than making the Tankard. After a hot start last season the team hasn’t qualified in an event this fall. Since he needs three members of his team to count for CTRS points and making the Tankard would mean a good chunk of points he is looking at using his fifth man on a regular basis starting now.