With the 2016/17 curling season right around the corner, teams are in full preparation mode. The consistent off-ice gym routines are slowly being phased into on-ice practice schedules and tour management preparation. Each team enters a new season with the big dream of winning a grand slam, winning a provincial/territorial championship, winning a national championship and, ultimately, ending the season being crowned World Champion!
Now before everyone starts freaking out about these “categories” let me present a clear statement here. Yes, I realize teams put in amazing hours of training, gym time and on-ice practice time to become the athletes we see competing throughout the season. These “categories” are not meant to disrespect one group over another nor pit one group against another. There are numerous factors in play outside of the sport itself that lends to the schedule a team can play during the season. I mean no disrespect to any player and/or team in the elementary categorization of teams. However, this is the way the rankings and season has been unfolding over the past few years....and ignoring it is not going to change anything.
Total teams: 32
Now let’s look at purse size. For points eligibility, a Tour Cashspiel event must equate to $300/team playing. Basically the standard 24-team event would have a minimum purse of $7,200. In our example above, let’s say the total purse is $50,000. The purse factor total would be determined through a simple (?) formula:
1st: 7.43 (event) * 7.00 (base) = 52.04
To find a new system, we need to find a comparable sport. A sport that offers various purse amounts per event. A sport with various entrant formats. A sport with grand slam events but also strong seasonal events. A sport like....tennis? Let’s look at the current tennis model on the ATP (men’s) tour. Note the WTA (women's) tour uses a similar model with a few changes in the actual points distributed.
Tour Final/Special Events – 4 events (Tour Challenge Tier I, Tour Challenge Tier II, Elite 10, Champions Cup)
Tour 1000 Series – 9 events (Total purse: $40,000 - $99,999)
Tour 500 Series – 44 events (Total purse: $10,000 - $39,999)
Tour 250 Series – 22 events (Total purse <$10K)
How would the ranking points be distributed you ask? Well you know #TwineTime has thought of that as well. What do you think of this suggestion: Keep the point values the same as tennis! If the wheel ain't broke why go fixing it?
Worth noting with this proposed #TwineTime system, a fair mix of international events would be evenly distributed within the category structure. We need to also ensure we #growthesport around the world, not just within Canada and/or North America. Europe, Asia and, now, USA are hosting bigger events throughout the season. These events need to have equal importance towards the ranking system and the international events would be fairly categorized across the board as equal as possible. I have not forgot about you my international curling friends! Maybe we could even see more Canadian teams travel to international tournaments rather than always forcing international teams to travel to Canada to play big events and try to acquire the big rankings points.
#TwineTime also recognizes that some teams just won't be able to play with the mandatory fixed qualification schedule as noted above. Due to work commitments, travel, finances, family...there are numerous factors in play for all teams during the season. However, just because a team may not be able to play a grand slam qualification schedule does not mean all hope is lost for the season. Perhaps the team decides to enter all Tour 500 Series and/or Tour 250 Series events. They can still see their world rankings increase and, perhaps, even find a reward at the end of the season? More on that below though....
The point here being this adds intrigue, interest and innovation into the next tier of events below the grand slams. The tour needs the events throughout the season to be successful for the sport to stay strong, relevant and professional. The players need these events to earn enough points towards grand slam qualification. The spiels themselves need the players, fan support and high impact performance factor to continue to succeed. With this format, wouldn't all teams try to register for Tour 1000 Series events? Oh no, what if they do but the entry level is capped at 32 teams? You mean we might have to increase the amount of Tour 1000 Series events? We might need to create Regional Tour 1000 Series events to cut down on travel costs for teams but by also keeping a level, open playing field for all teams? Oh no....imagine the pandora's box we would be opening!
I have a hard time understanding the rationale behind this change. All this did was take away a spot from a team who would have won a tour event and deserved their spot. In the new #TwineTime system, the auto spot for returning champion would be a burnt stone...an idea sent off to the side of the house and out of play. The standard qualification of events works for specific tournaments earning auto berths here (i.e. Scotties, Brier, Europeans, Asia/Pacific, Word Juniors, Grand Slam winners etc). It is those 3 or 4 other spots. I would give one to each of the Tour Series Champions. The team who accumulated the most points from Tour 1000 Series, Tour 500 Series and Tour 250 Series events throughout the season (of course assuming they did win at least 1 title!). Imagine the excitement to have a team perhaps only able to compete in mostly Tour 250 Series events but win 4 or 5 of them. They finish the season as the top Tour 250 Series point earners and qualify for the season-ending Champions Cup. Wouldn’t that be a cool story? It would provide the opportunity to compete on the grand slam stage for a team who wouldn’t have had the chance under the current system plus...who doesn’t love cheering for an underdog story? This is what makes sport exciting!
Of course, as mentioned above, team lineups change during the season and in the off-season. We cannot ignore this fact. The current system in place makes sense to me. Front end players can take a certain percentage of points earned with their old team over to the new team. Back end players can do the same. I don't have a problem with this. Sometimes teams just don't work. Each player should still be able to carry with them the positive rewards of playing with their old team during the season. So let's keep this rule in play under the new #TwineTime system.
Let's keep that rule but also remember we are adding the reward factor into the points structure. As in tennis, consistent results at specific tournaments and during the Tour Series events can keep a team near the top of the rankings. Falter in a few events, show inconsistency in play or decide to play less events the following season and your rankings points will suffer. Yes you keep your points from the previous season on a rolling basis....until those point totals from Week 6 come up again the following season during Week 6. It's a double-edged competitive sword. You win an event one year, congrats you are earning major ranking points and, more than likely, grand slam opportunities. But don't get too cocky. If you can't back it up year in and year out, don't expect to stay at the top. How do the best tennis plays stay at the top...consistency! Teams should be rewarded for outstanding play and results but they also should not earn cushion space for the next year or two because of their strong play over a few months.
You may have noticed I also swept away from the heated rock known as the "Backdoor". Oh you don't know about the backdoor? That newly created automatic qualification spot into the Scotties and Brier for the top ranked CTRS points leader, should they fail to win their own provincial/territorial championship. Now you know what I mean by the "backdoor". I won't get into my thoughts on this here...trust me though it is coming! However, since this is the way of the future now, the new #TwineTime proposed ranking structure at least, I feel, creates more opportunities for more teams to claim that spot. As mentioned above, a team can crush the Tour 500 Series and still end up with a high world ranking at the end of the season and, perhaps, even earn the auto spot in a national championship due to their CTRS ranking. It's not out of the question. Can we say the same about the current system?
There you have it curling fans. A #TwineTime proposal on how to not only elevate the sport during the season but also remove the confusion towards the rankings system. We don't need some crazy multiplication and division formulas that make sense to nobody just to tell us who the #14 ranked team in the world is do we? This proposed system reduces point confusion, provides clarity towards event point totals and ultimately adds a new level of excitement to the sport for ALL teams from the beginning of the season. What's not to love here?
Agree? Disagree? Like some points but hate others? Feel free to share your comments with me and other curling fans in the comment section below. Or find me on twitter and engage me in a conversation. Are there flaws in the #TwineTime system? I am sure there are. Are there flaws in the current system? Heck yes! Will there always be some flaws in any system with people finding reasons why they love or hate the system in place? Oh hell yeah! But change can also bring opportunity for all: governing bodies, sponsors, equipment manufacturers, players and...of course..fans! Always remember #growthesport my friends...#growthesport!!
The #TwineTime 2016/17 Season Preview will be sliding down the hack into your house shortly as well....#StayTuned