Dave Merklinger is an Unhappy Camper

If you thought I’d disappeared or given up the blogging gig, wrongo. I’ve actually been busy with a side job that’s a crucial part of this little entry.

As the title suggests, all is not joyful in Merkville these days. But before I go into the ‘why’ let me just say a few things about Dave. The best way to describe him is this; ‘Merk is Merk’. What you see is what you get and you’ll either love him or hate him, but one thing for certain; once you meet him you’re not likely to ever forget him.

Which, come to think of it, is not a bad legacy or epitaph. A person could do far worse in life.

He’s mercurial, mischievous, hard-working, a bit of a 1960’s throwback, a wonderfully imperfect human being and hands down the best Curling Club Manager/Ice Maker I have ever known. He busts his ass here in Vernon and I cringe to think of where the club would be had he not walked in our doors 10 years ago. We are very lucky to have him, warts and all.

To top things off, in recognition of his efforts on behalf of the game, this past week Dave got inducted into the Governor Generals Curling Club. It’s a small group of politicians and curlers, numbering only 125 members, so it’s a big honor of which he should be, justifiably, proud.

So now that I’ve blown smoke up his ass and he has a brand-new, shiny red blazer adorned with a Maple Leaf badge, why is Merk still frowning?

Well, every year the VCC, in early October, hosts a Men’s and Women’s double cashspiel: the Prestige Inns Curling Classic. With Merk as the merry ringmaster of the three ring circus. It’s always well attended by the women, but the last few years have been a struggle to fill the Men’s side. This year was no exception. He was barely able to scrape together an 8 team field for the guys, including scrambling for a last minute, throw together squad when a team backed out.

Where were the men? We have arguably the best club ice and rocks in the province, a solid sponsor, convenient location with an international airport only 30 minutes down the road and a good purse-when we get a full field. Lots of pluses, few minuses. Okay, yes, there are other, more lucrative events going on at the same time on the tour-three other spiels as a matter of fact-but only one had a larger purse.

Only one team was out of province so there was still lots of teams in BC who could, and should, have supported this event. Adding 4 more teams wasn’t a stretch and would have met minimum CTRS qualification. I can understand Cotter/Morris going to Saskatoon but where was Brent Pierce? Sean Geall? Tom Buchy? Chris Baier? Stephen Schneider and others? Hell, Mark Longworth didn’t even enter his own club’s spiel. And those are just the names off the top of my head.

Obviously I don’t expect everyone of the aforementioned to play in every BC event, and there are others out there who could have made the trek to Vernon. But certainly we could have had 4 more teams to hit the magic CTRS number. So is it any wonder Merk is perplexed? (And for the record, I didn’t enter as I’m still pondering whether it’s Men’s and Seniors or just one this year. Budget takes precedence sometimes.)

Regardless, the event soldiered on with Jeff Guignard taking the Men’s crown and Rachel Holman the Women’s. Merk was left to ponder, just like the year before, if it’s worth continuing to run the event. And when any host club starts asking that question about their cashspiel, it’s not a good thing.

Then, right in the middle of our own problems, news about Kamloops landed with a thud.

The Kamloops Crown of Curling has been a staple of BC cashspiels and is one of the longest running events in the country. While their Women’s event ran, they had to cancel the Men’s due to a dismal 5 entries. And this is in a location that is even easier to get to than Vernon.

On the heels of this news, Dave felt he had to do something. He called an informal discussion with the teams about the general state of BC competitive curling and then put his thoughts to paper (well, electronic paper), distributing them to the rest of the BC curling world, Curl BC and a few folks from out of province.

Now Dave has asked that the letter in it’s entirety not get released on social media sites-like Curling Zone. I’m not sure why, it’s passionate, well written, polite and addresses a lot of concerns that the majority of competitive men curlers have with the current state of things, within BC and beyond. But I’ll respect his request. However, it’s no secret this letter is out there so I think it’s not contrary to his wish to mention a key topic he raised; a BC Tour.

Now this isn’t a new idea. If you recall my entries from the spring regarding the new, ridiculous and geographically discriminating playdown system Curl BC foisted on BC, I made reference to the fact that curlers have been calling on Curl BC to form and support a tour for almost 20 years now.

That request continues to be ignored. Even though two years ago, as pointed out in the blog, this same governing body led by the same Scott Braley, rubber stamped the motion-with little discussion or hesitation-to create a BC Jr. Curling Tour, with direct berths to the Provincial Championships as part of the package. Pretty much the exact same thing adults and clubs have requested for years.

The justification was simple: help the athletes and help the events attendance by adding value to every Jr. Spiel. Which is, irony of ironies, the exact same things a tour for adults would accomplish.

To institute this for the kids (which, btw, is a good thing) yet not do the exact same thing for the adults is so mind-bogglingly self-contradictory that I honestly don’t have adequate words to describe it. Except that in the private sector, it’s this kind of brain-fart that puts you in the line-up at the EI office. Here in BC however, we just pay you $100 grand a year to keep on messing up. (source of that income, btw, is on the Curl BC website. You just have to hunt for the annual financial statement)

Okay, now that I’ve vented, here’s where I got involved and sidetracked from the other, probably more enjoyable to read, blog entry I was writing…

I tried to look at the whole Tour idea thing from a different perspective. Was I missing something about this in my zeal to see a BC Tour? Maybe Curl BC really couldn’t justify the thing from a financial and/or operational standpoint. It could explain their continued love affair with awarding two CTRS berths to the 14 teams who registered for it (btw, finishing top 2 in CTRS points isn’t enough to grab a berth. You’ve got to play in 4 CTRS events and be in the national top 50).

It was a stretch, yet I felt I had to give them at least that much. But that’s when I read Scott Braley’s reply to Merk and had an epiphany.

It was a typical political, somewhat glad-handing, brush-you-off reply you get from a bureaucrat or politician who isn’t willing to take a concrete stance on an issue. But within the email was a quick mention about waiting for the results of a review of the CTRS process at the end of this season.

I read that passage, laughed and thought: ‘Why? the CTRS doesn’t give a damn about BC curling’

I blinked. There it was, and on when the light bulb.

Of course the CTRS doesn’t care about BC, because it’s not supposed to nor was it designed to. The purpose of the CTRS is entirely different and therefore it will never care or worry about BC athletes and BC events.

But a BC Team Ranking System could.

In short, instead of a tour we create a BC Team Ranking System that uses only BC Cashspiels to accumulate points.

Within 48 hours I hammered out a covering letter explaining the reasoning supporting the notion of a BCTRS instead of a tour and a simple, basic points system as an example and discussion starting point. After creating these two documents I fired them off to every person attached to Dave’s original email and also to the 7 clubs listed on Curl BC’s calendar as hosts of Cashspiels in BC.

I’ll go into more detail about the BCTRS in the next blog, but hopefully this idea is the snowball that starts the avalanche of change. Meanwhile, Merk made his way home from Ottawa last Sunday. After he unpacked I hope he opened up his email and got a chance to read the idea he inspired with his passion and concern for the game.

Otherwise, enjoy the red jacket big guy. You earned it.




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