CURLERS SAY TIMING ISN’T RIGHT
Veterans complain new rule forced them to rush their shots at the Canada Cup
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.”
Skip Brad Jacobs says the new timing system tested at the Canada Cup was “exhausting.”