CURLERS SAY TIM­ING ISN’T RIGHT

Veter­ans com­plain new rule forced them to rush their shots at the Canada Cup

Calgary Herald - - SPORTS - TED WY­MAN [email protected]­media.com Twit­ter.com/Ted_Wyman

If player re­ac­tion to the test­ing of a new and con­tro­ver­sial way of us­ing time clocks at curl­ing events is an in­di­ca­tion, any fu­ture plans to make the change per­ma­nent will be met with con­sid­er­able re­sis­tance.

Curl­ing Canada used a per-end tim­ing sys­tem (four min­utes per end) as op­posed to giv­ing teams the usual al­lot­ment of 38 min­utes for the en­tire 10-end game dur­ing last week’s Canada Cup in Este­van, Sask.

The sys­tem caused con­fu­sion with the curlers and the on-ice of­fi­cials and re­sulted in sev­eral teams los­ing points be­cause they ran out of time in a given end.

“I don’t think it’s great for curl­ing,” said Win­nipeg ’s Jen­nifer Jones, who won the Canada Cup women’s ti­tle for the fourth time in her ca­reer, beat­ing Kerri Ei­nar­son in the fi­nal. “It wasn’t that fun to play in and hope­fully it won’t con­tinue. It takes away, in my opin­ion, a big part of what curl­ing is all about and that’s the strat­egy.

“Play­ing in it, it just re­in­forced the fact that I don’t think it has any place in the 10-end game.”

While Jones and Brad Ja­cobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., man­aged to ad­just to the tim­ing change and take home the tour­na­ment ti­tles, many other teams were left shak­ing their heads about what had just hap­pened.

Kevin Koe, who rep­re­sented Canada at the Olympics this year, lost the fi­nal to Ja­cobs and lost two points when his team ran out of time in the fifth end. Though Koe wasn’t overly crit­i­cal of the tim­ing — he ad­mit­ted he missed his shot in the fifth end any­way and wouldn’t have re­ceived the points even with time on the clock — others were much more vo­cal.

“I didn’t like it and I didn’t hear a sin­gle pos­i­tive com­ment from any of the play­ers,” said Brent Laing, the sec­ond for John Ep­ping ’s Toronto team and a 2018 Olympian (with Koe’s team).

“I don’t know what is­sue we were try­ing to ad­dress by chang­ing it. I don’t think we have a slow play is­sue in curl­ing. If we want it to be a shorter TV broad­cast, I think we all know eight ends is prob­a­bly a sim­ple way to do that.”

This was the first ma­jor Curl­ing Canada event of the sea­son and it had a very dif­fer­ent look from years past. For the first time, it fea­tured the five-rock free-guard zone, mean­ing the first five rocks of each end can­not be hit out of play if they come to rest in front of the house.

The five-rock rule has been used reg­u­larly on the World Curl­ing Tour, where they play eight-end games, but it brought a new wrin­kle to the 10-end game. Add in the con­fus­ing tim­ing and it made things a lit­tle crazy.

“It was some­thing that was a lit­tle bit tough to get used to at first, be­cause we’ve never played with that tim­ing sys­tem be­fore with five-rock rule, 10 ends,” said Ja­cobs, who made a quick trip from Este­van to Con­cep­tion Bay, N.L. — along with many of the other Canada Cup curlers — for Tues­day’s start of the Grand Slam Na­tional.

“It’s a lit­tle bit more ex­haust­ing play­ing five-rock rule.

It’s a men­tal grind, a lit­tle bit more than usual. It re­quires more men­tal tough­ness, more pa­tience. It’s so ex­haust­ing and it feels like you’re think­ing a lot more. There aren’t so many strat­egy calls that are au­to­matic.”

That be­ing said, Ja­cobs won the cham­pi­onship de­spite be­ing with­out his reg­u­lar third, Ryan Fry, who has been on a break from the game since a drunken in­ci­dent last month dur­ing an event in Al­berta. The Ja­cobs team, with re­place­ment third Marc Kennedy on board, fig­ured out the tim­ing more quickly than others.

That doesn’t mean Ja­cobs ex­pects the tim­ing to stay.

“Do we love the tim­ing sys­tem? No. Shots did feel rushed from time to time and cer­tain calls as well.

“I would have to say, with a lot of the com­plain­ing from a lot of other teams, I can’t see it be­ing im­ple­mented in the near fu­ture. They’re gonna want some feed­back from the teams and I don’t think the feed­back is go­ing to be very good.”

Curl­ing Canada has said the tim­ing could be tested again this sea­son at the Con­ti­nen­tal Cup in Las Ve­gas, but tra­di­tional tim­ing will be used for all other events, in­clud­ing the Brier in Bran­don, Man., and Tour­na­ment of Hearts in Syd­ney, N.S.

Ul­ti­mately, a de­ci­sion on fu­ture use of the new tim­ing sys­tem will be made by the World Curl­ing Fed­er­a­tion af­ter a care­ful anal­y­sis of all the data.

One per­son who be­lieves the new tim­ing has a fu­ture is Kennedy, a two-time Olympian who took a step back from the game this sea­son be­fore join­ing the Ja­cobs team for a one-off in Este­van.

“In the big pic­ture, I think they’re on to some­thing with the time per end,” Kennedy said. “It needs a lit­tle bit more test­ing, but I like the flow. I know it works bet­ter from a TV stand­point. I ac­tu­ally like the idea of not be­ing able to bank a bunch of time for the last half of the game. They need to tin­ker with it.

“It’s too early to just to­tally bail on it and go back to our other tim­ing be­cause that had its prob­lems as well. Let’s work to­gether to try to find the best pos­si­ble so­lu­tion.”

MICHAEL BURNS/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Skip Brad Ja­cobs says the new tim­ing sys­tem tested at the Canada Cup was “ex­haust­ing.”

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