Friday, 1 July 2016

The Short House

I wanted to have a forum to discuss minor notes from in and around the curling world. Short House will do that for me, from time to time when I have quick thoughts about goings on you can find them here. Often it is a tall task for me to keep my writing brief but I will try.

Sweeping Summit release
This past week the World Curling Federation released a statement updating the process of the Sweeping Summit that was held in Kemptville earlier this spring. The statement outlines initial findings and recommendations.

As is the norm with the current “instant information” world that we live in, many are craving the full NRC results and data. Patience is not a virtue that sports fans let alone curling fans hold. Although we all would have loved the information to be released in real time in May as it was happening that is an unfair and unrealistic request for the National Research Council. What scientific study is ever released in real time? Let’s let the professionals do their jobs, it is their livelihood and names on the line, I think they should be afforded the opportunity to do their jobs. The full study will be released, and I am sure many will apologize for their lack of patience when that happens.

The flip side of that “patience” coin is that the World Curling Federation knew they recommendations and actions were needed for this coming season. It is not as easy as simply snapping your fingers after the General Assembly and having broom heads available for all teams. Early steps needed to be taken by the WCF, manufacturers and athletes to have a solution in place for this season. This initial findings release provides optics of what happened in Kemptville, being sensitive to the work being done by the NRC, and outlines an initial solution.

One of the biggest takeaways I had from the Sweeping Summit was just how much the athletes, manufacturers and Federations wanted to work together to find a solution. No matter how we got to May 2016, everyone wanted a solution that would work for the good of the sport. The athlete group had representation from every manufacturer, and we were in universal agreement with the recommendations that the WCF plans to enact and all think it is good for the sport. We wanted a level playing field on the ice; hard work and talent being the difference in results not technology. I think we got there, next year teams are going to see a level playing field. If they are hurt and bewildered that their opposition got a rock by a guard that they thought should have wrecked … well that just means they’re good … deal with it and play better. Bad throws won't be saved the way they could be recently.

Sweeping Technique
Technique is still a concern among many in the curling world. Many have felt that the sweeping issue was driven completely from changing sweeping techniques. However in thinking about this, I started going back through my memory and I didn’t remember a time when people swept straight back and forth across the rock at a 90 degree angle as many have suggested. Thanks to YouTube (and thanks to Al Gore for creating the internet which lead to websites like YouTube) I went back to see if I can watch old curling videos to see if my memory was failing me. Here are a few selections I found:

Other than Bruce Lohnes from Dacey’s 2004 team, nobody swept straight across the rock. So this issue being raised (and projected solution) seems to me to be something that has almost never happened in our sport. Nobody was complaining about rocks falling back or darting sideways back then, so to me it seemed to be that fabric and construction was a driving factor in this issue.

The other problem with the technique conundrum is the officiating aspect of tightening technique rules which have been brought up time and time again this season. The ability to officiate the intent of someone’s sweeping path is a monumental task to say the least. If the world decided that 10 degrees, 45 degrees, 80 degrees was the magic number for fair sweeping; then how do we tell if someone accidentally moved their broom to get around a guard and went past the magic line, were they trying to cheat? What if they didn’t change their degree enough when the rock hit the break point and started curling? Are we prepared to have officials on the ice in the Olympic final telling someone the rock is being pulled thanks to a sweeper jumping over a guard and his broom slipped past the point of rule breaking? That task and that degree of difficulty is WAY more difficult than what has been recommended.

Some might say it is a cop out, tell that to F1 who contracts out the tires that are used by all teams each season, or the Car of Tomorrow chassis series that all NASCAR teams have to run in their cars. We are not the first sport to regulate technology and we won’t be the last. As athletes the regulation -creates an equal playing field for all, that’s a win as far as I’m concerned. If you want to keep arguing about technique, then you just like to argue. The sport on the ice next year is going to be what we've been watching up to 2015, we as fans seemed to like that sport!

New position
Recently Curling Canada announced that I have joined their team as a consultant. The first project I will be involved in is the Event Model Review, leveraging my knowledge as a recent athlete as well as my financial background to join the team in undertaking a deep dive into the Season of Champions and all events ran by Curling Canada. I am excited to try to help provide a new perspective that has often been missed in the past and hopefully our team, along with consultation from all stakeholders, are able to make the changes necessary to strengthen the events ran by Curling Canada.

Although the Event Model Review is the project that will consume the majority of my time when I hit the ground, I hope to get my hands dirty in many areas of our sport. I loved curling not just when I won the World Championships but when I was a little 12 year old walking down the Wheat City Curling Club to practice after school. I loved curling when my parents drove our teams to little bonspiels from Brandon to Neepawa to Deloraine to Winnipeg and everywhere in between. I want to see the entire sport grow. Sure the differentiation in the levels of our sport are becoming more defined from the elite on down to the grassroots, but there is a place for everyone in curling, and I hope to help the team find ways to bring more and more people into our sport.