Leading off the blog with some info which couldn't make my print version due to space restrictions. The full print version follows
The downside this year, although I attribute it a bit to growing pains, was U21 (formerly known as juniors) entries were down by about half a fact pointed out to me by members of the current Laurier Varsity curling team. There were just over 20 entries in U21 men, around the same in U21 women.
CurlON offered just 3 provincial qualifiers (PQs) for teams to advance to the Ontario finals, plus a challenge round for the first time.
An event location is considered full with 16 teams (the challenge round definitely is) so CurlON was offering up 48 spots (and I givem them the credit they would expand to more if needed.
But they apparently called it right with only five entries in Deep River the eastern-most PQ. But how much did the location factor into the decision for U21s to say forget it. Any young curler in Kingston or Belleville or Cornwall or any place along the 401 corridor in southeastern Ontario would be looking at a 3.5 hour drive or more to get to a provincial qualifier (Orangeville) would be next closest after Deep River.
As anyone following me on Twitter would have seen Wednesday, Matt Hall pointed out that the raised fee for U21, the cost of travel and the OCA no longer covering hotels at provincials at any level, makes the decision to compete a much more serious commitment and if through the OJCT (where close to 50 teams participated as U21 teams) the teams isn't among the top half of the ranking may likely assume the title is out of reach.
But I would like to see what happens if Belleville hosts a PQ for the U21 crowd. I think the location of the direct-to-provincial qualifiers are held will annually affect the number of entries and that goes for any event.
It's also to be noted that the Fairfield Marriot and Best Western men's and women's challenge dropped from 16 zones to eight qualifiers and actually had few games played. Not sure if that competition will last of most of Ontario can simply sign up to get to a provincial.
Hearts and Tankard draws just got published and I am surprised to see the men's now down to 42 entries across the province 66 entries last season. Once again might be growing pains. Four qualifiers across the province (super regionals) with highs of 12 in two of them
text from my printed article begins below
The revamping of competitive curling playdowns is never more clearly illustrated than with the senior men’s playdowns at the Arthur and Area Curling Club this weekend.
Last year, three rinks (hailing from Galt, Guelph and K-W Granite) entered the first round locally. It was the same across the province in many of the 16 zones, with perhaps some getting close to double digits.
In Arthur on Saturday and Sunday, there are 13 teams.
Across the board in all competitions the recently rebranded CurlON (formerly the Ontario Curling Association) cut out the first round 16 zones competitions, instead introducing “qualifiers” at a drastically reduced number of locations. For U21 and women’s events the qualifiers can earn direct entry to the provincial championship. In men’s, there is still a second round of playdowns needed to pare down the field.
So in senior men, six qualifiers were scattered across Ontario. Teams can choose which one to enter in the first round.
Qualifier No. 5 is in Arthur, geographically the logical choice for local rinks. Teams advance to one of three provincial qualifiers. Those out of Arthur will move on to Glendale Jan. 20.
Representing the area are Al Corbeil (Westmount), Frank Gowman (Galt), Bruce McConnell (K-W) and Peter Mellor (K-W). The change is that teams from Palmerston, Paisley, Barrie, Hanover, Oakville, North Halton, Acton and Unionville are also competing.
With the other rinks choosing Arthur, it has the most entries among the first round locations. Since there are a greater number of teams, a greater number advance. Five teams get a spot at the provincial qualifier. In contrast, only three advance from eight teams entered in Qualifier No. 6 in Aylmer.
The bonuses are several for both clubs and our governing body. The biggest is far fewer clubs are needed in order to host the events. Hand-in-hand with that more teams at each means the host club will earn more revenue, making it attractive to host rather than take a financial hit. The quality of the teams at provincials should be better since it’s necessary to win consistently to emerge from a larger field. For many curlers it’s an opportunity to visit far more clubs across the province.
The negative is travel, but based on teams from Oakville and Barrie choosing Arthur over a shorter trip to Weston in Toronto, it’s not a true dissuading factor. Some will miss the zone patches, also gone in cost reductions.
Senior women will begin playdowns at the same three provincial qualifier locations as the men Jan. 20.
Hearts and Tankard playdowns begin Dec. 16. Entries should be up on the CurlON website (ontcurl.com) by noon Friday, if not sooner.
Damien Villard (Galt) and John Gabel (K-W) advanced to the Fairfield Marriot Men’s Challenge provincial after playing in Elmira last weekend. In women all entries advanced including Tracey Jones (Arthur), Colleen Coghlin (Elmira), Shannon Curran (Fergus), Sandra McFadden (Arthur) and Sheri Smeltzer (Fergus).
In master women, Dale Curtis (Galt) topped Anne Dunn in the B-final to earn a provincial berth at Glencoe, Jan. 11.