This column first appeared in the April 2012 print edition of The Curling News, and then appeared in the enhanced, supersized digital version of that issue – which can be read here.
It is republished here in blog format given the World Curling Federation’s active request for feedback, which can be accessed from here.
LETHBRIDGE, Alberta – As I observe Team Russia doing battle at the 2012 World Women’s Curling Championship (I’m one of their consultants) the deadline for this final column of the season looms large.
This screed was originally intended to focus on the recent departure of World Curling Federation vice president Patrick Hürlimann. The resignation of this influential executive committee member, who skipped Switzerland to men’s Olympic gold at Nagano 1998, was quite sudden and quite alarming to some – except for Canada, of course, who had deemed Hürlimann to be Public Enemy No. 1 in recent years. Or so I’m told.
Then I thought of providing a kind of questionnaire to our readers, centering on topics that should be explored in the off-season. It strikes me that we should not throw our curling shoes into the basement closet until September without scheduling some summer “State of The Game” pondering time.
It also strikes me that the sport is moving in two very different directions – north and south – and that this pondering should ask if, how and/or why the major organizations that govern this sport can engineer either one of these rail lines. The northbound train is fuelled by Olympic TV dollars, and carries the few elite curling athletes of the world – and their entourages – to places that curlers have never been before. This is a good ticket, if you can get one, for this train is bound for glory.
Heading in the opposite direction is the train of everyday curlers – recreational league players, club members and facility dues-payers – and this could soon be a funeral train, ie. the train in vain. This one is fuelled mainly by good people, making this the train of good intentions.
But alas, just as I was pulling my model train out of the station I was derailed by the World Curling Federation conductors, who have announced a questionnaire of their own. I am now up someone else’s track.
The WCF, of course, represents the sport internationally and facilitates the growth of the sport through a network of Member Associations – or so it says on their website. This puts WCF brass at the helm of the entire railroad, so questions about things like train schedules and routings are quite justified.
The good news for curling travellers is that the WCF is reaching out – to all of us. They want all curling commuters to give their input on some key rule changes that they are determined to implement some day. The next someday, incidentally, has been pushed back to just after the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, which is a mere two years away. However, the WCF needs your (and my) advice now, so we should all be quite eager to respond to this questionnaire.
The document is addressed to mostly northbound train riders – curling athletes, ex-athletes, coaches, media mavens, umpires, ice technicians et cetera – but I would strongly encourage southbound ticket holders, represented by the “Curling Fan” category, to give their views as well. Do visit the WCF website and seek out the questionnaire and do your part in helping the curling powers-that-be fix this game, once and for all.
The questions are based on the same concepts that have been volleyed about for the past decade. These are the same topics featured on the WCF AGM agenda two years ago in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, back when the Federation thought they could plow through their rules overhaul. On that confusing day in April 2010 those changes were pulled from the table, at the last minute, when it became clear that the member nations might not vote on the recommendations along party lines.
So here we go again, and stop me if you’ve heard these jewels before. There are six questions in this questionnaire and it can be summarized like this: The Fed wants the games shortened from 10 ends; they want sudden-death playoffs (not the Page playoff); they don’t want tie-breakers; they don’t want time-outs; they don’t want coaches (oh no!) and they don’t know how many Free Guard Zone stones – four or five? – should be allowed. But mostly, they want to be able to use your participatory scribblings to support these changes… so be aware, my friends, of what is going on here.
Sadly, there is not much here for the southbound train riders; they play fast enough, and they don’t need time-outs – or even playoffs. Their emphasis is on fun and recreation, with a bit of fitness thrown in, and hopefully – some day – the WCF will pay more attention to this train, and not leave its riders stranded.
On the other hand, it is good to see the WCF attempting to appeal to the broader base via its much-improved website. So take some summer time to ponder and let the World Curling Federation know where you stand. But don’t get railroaded – tell them which train you want to ride.