When is a BC Curling Tour Not a BC Curling Tour?

Apologies and thank you. You’ve been patient. As a reward, there’s a Merklinger update within. But you’ll have to read the blog to find it.

Two entries back I mentioned how Curl BC announced long overdue tours for BC Men’s and Women’s athletes and events. You might also recall they had yet to release any details on how the tours were going to work. So I chose to reserve judgment.

Well, back on May 18th those details were released. Did you miss the announcement? If so, you’re forgiven because after reviewing the details I can’t escape the nagging feeling they purposely chose the Friday before the May Long Weekend for the big reveal.

After all, you weren’t perched on the edge of your seat wondering: ‘Gee, how is this tour thingy going to work? I sure hope Curl BC gets it right’

No, you were looking at the clock, wondering how long it would take to get everyone together, in the car and set up at camp before you could kick back and crack that first tall, cold one in front of the fire. By the time you got home late Monday you’d be too tired to remember and Curl BC’s announcement would be buried way down on your Facebook page.

But that’s okay, because you have me to enlighten, and enrage you, with all the gory details. And if you’re wondering why it’s taken me almost a month to put this analysis out into the blogosphere, the answer is; because I’m a fair guy.

I wanted to give the guy in charge, Daniel Wenczek, a chance to state his case in support of the decisions surrounding the tour and it’s operation. Daniel’s a nice kid and, to the best of my knowledge, a volunteer running both tours. Which, in my opinion, is wrong. As the tours are part of the playdown system, then the job of managing them should fall under the auspices of a Curl BC paid employee. Say, for example, the Director of Competitions? But hey, who am I to point out the fairly obvious, right?

Regardless, Daniel took the job and therefore any questions about it are directed to him. Which I did, in the form of two emails. He responded to the first-which asked when the rules and event criteria would be posted online. But he has avoided the second. Which asked more pointed questions about things. A third, follow up email has gone unanswered so it’s my guess he’s decided not to reply, or been told not to. The latter of which would not surprise me in the least.

Since Daniel and Curl BC can’t or won’t answer my questions, I guess we’ll just carry on. So let’s get to the query raised in the blog title: When is a BC Curling Tour Not a BC Curling Tour?

Simple. When it’s nothing more than a cut and paste job of almost the entire Canadian Team Ranking System (CTRS) rules and criteria with little or no regard towards the realities of the situation within BC. Let’s look at things a little more in depth, shall we?

But first, as always, my little disclaimer: GO READ THE THING YOURSELF, PLEASE!

Why the cap lock? To get your attention. As much as I believe my opinion is accurate, I’m a realist who understands and respects that I can be wrong. There are always other, and equally valid, ideas and opinions out there to consider. So you need to get better informed and then come to conclusions of your own.

All the info is available here: http://www.bccurlingtours.com

In other words; stop being lazy, get up off the recliner, go to the internet for something other than bad porn, fake news or another game of Bejewelled and get that grey matter between your ears working.

With that off my chest, let’s begin…

To start, you’ll see that there’s no heading titled; ‘Rules for Teams and Events’ Instead we have the annoyingly PC heading: ‘Standards and Best Practices 2018/19’.

You’ll be excused if, like me, you read that and thought: ‘huh? WTF?’

Since when did the word ‘rules’ become bad? And please God, don’t tell me that a bunch of Curl BC employees sat around a table debating the political correctness of a subject heading.

‘yeah, I don’t know. This word ‘Rules’? It’s sooo, how can I put it? Ruley? So harsh and strong. Let’s vague it up with something soft and friendly like Standards and Best Practices!’

And then we move on to a bunch of corporate business terms like; Mission! and Vision! (because simple, straightforward words like: Goal, Purpose or Objective must also be PC verbotten) before finally getting into the nuts and bolts of the beast.

Those Mission and Vision statements pretty much say the same thing, prattling on about how the tours will help increase and develop athletes. Nothing is really said about helping the spiels, or their host clubs. Those very events which the athletes rely upon to aide in their development.

Then we hit the ‘About’ section and everything goes sideways. All you really need to read is the second sentence which goes like this:

“All events on the BCCT will be CTRS point eligible with the goal of attracting teams from outside BC to compete”

Translated: ‘If you don’t meet CTRS criteria and aren’t on their schedule, then your event won’t be on the BC Tour’

They justify this by stating, in a nutshell, that more teams from outside BC will result in improved talent. And to attract those non-BC teams our events have to be CTRS.

Both of those assumptions are partially correct, but full of holes. Purse size has more to do with bringing big names as does locale and scheduling. While an improvement in the talent pool comes not just from playing non-BC teams, but in practice, skill development and increasing the size of the talent pool itself-via increased participation.

Each event must also be approved by the shadowy ‘BCCT Committee’-with absolutely no mention of just how many and who makes up this group. Unless they’ve changed the info on the site in the last ten minutes, you won’t find out anything else about this committee.

There is then a very brief list of the 5 women’s and 6 men’s events that will comprise the 2018-19 schedule. On the Men’s side the list goes: Maple Ridge, Vernon, Kamloops, Penticton, Abbotsford and Kelowna. For you ladies it’s the same list, minus Penticton (don’t ask me, take your complaints to the PCC for not adding a ladies side to their event).

But wait. This list is not accurate if we apply the strict CTRS event criteria. Why? Well last season, in the Men’s events, Vernon failed to meet CTRS criteria and Kamloops cancelled. Plus the Kelowna spiel is a new event which currently exists only on paper.

Therefore, right from the start we really only have 3 Men’s events and 4 Women’s (since there’s also a Kelowna ‘maybe’ event for ladies as well) that actually ran and met CTRS criteria last year. And of those 3 events only Penticton made the grade with ease. Maple Ridge and Abbotsford barely got over the bar.

The overwhelming and obvious lesson here is meeting CTRS criteria does not guarantee an event a full field of teams. Just ask Vernon and Kamloops how well that worked out for them last year. But this does show, unfortunately, that Curl BC seems more fixated on pandering to the CCA than helping out its own local clubs, events and teams.

So if you just asked; ‘if meeting CTRS event criteria didn’t help attract entries to events, why use it? aren’t we better off with our own system?” give yourself a big, shiny Gold Star.

You might recall that I advised Curl BC not to have this very kind of criteria because of the fragile state of events in BC. I told them, quite simply; if the event has a heartbeat, then let them in.

Curl BC not only chose to ignore that advice, they pretty much drove a wooden stake into the hearts of 3 other events that should be on the tour and, once again, put into place another playdown format which effectively snubs the Kootenays and the North.

Proof, you ask? Skip ahead to the ‘Best Practices’ section.   Which, in olden days, was more simply called: Rules (ew! he’s using that word again!). Here we see: a minimum entry fee of $500.00, all events must be registered with the CTRS and WCT, each event must have a minimum of 25% BC Team content to get BCCT points and you have to play in 4 events to qualify for the two provincial berths.

Further down, under ‘Draw Information’ we have field size minimums of 12 Men and 10 Women, followed by; ‘each gender must have its own competition (no crossovers).

Let’s address that gender rule first. Why? because it’s this sentence that eliminates 3 other cashspiels from being part of the BCCT. Those events are Quesnel, Nelson and Cranbrook (surprise! Kootenay and Northern events!). They’ve all been around for years (Nelson and Quesnel in particular), with entries between 16 and 20 teams and open fields. This means they will accept Men, Women, Jr’s, Seniors and Mixed teams.

What the BCCT is now saying is: on top of CTRS criteria you also can’t join our party unless you become gender specific. What they are not realizing, or willfully ignoring, is those events don’t run unless they allow totally open entry.

Look, in a perfect world every spiel has lots of entries and can run two separate events for the genders. But that’s a fairy tale. We need a system based on current realities. Those 3 events, for a variety of reasons, have to be Open fields in order to survive. Just because you might play against a women’s, Jr., senior or mixed team doesn’t make them non-competitive events. Ask any guys team in BC (and there’s lots of them) who’ve lost to such a team in these spiels.

And before you whine about the strength of a field, there is no logical reason why events with Open style fields cannot be included.   Any well thought out points system can be structured to accommodate these events and the different types of teams. As I’ve said in the past; it’s not hard to do and can be whipped up on a simple Excel spreadsheet. You just have to roll up your sleeves and do some hard work.

Unless, of course, you’re lazy and just prefer to rubberstamp a flawed system, designed for a completely different purpose, on to events in our province.

The $500 minimum entry fee? Another mistake. Is there really that big a difference in the quality of an event field if both get 16 teams and one charges $300/team instead of $500? If there is then, as I’ve said already, design the points system to take that into account.

Worried that a low entry fee means recreational bonspiels will be eligible for the tour? Bonspiels don’t have qualifying rounds followed by a championship round so that eliminates them. Plus, I’d venture all the clubs in BC understand the difference between a bonspiel and a cashspiel and are unlikely to want their annual Men’s Open spiel on the cashspiel list.

Minimum field sizes in order to qualify? Okay, I can agree to that. But for crying out loud make those requirements BC specific and reality based. 8 teams period, no matter the structure of the field, is far more realistic.

Only 25% BC content? wrong. Should be 50%. Why? 25% will allow spiels to cherry pick teams. Think about it. Your event has a 20 team field and you think big names will bring in more fans and sell more beer. At 25% you can not only get 15 top, non-BC teams but you can be ultra selective on the 5 BC teams you have to let in.

There is karma to that approach. Start snubbing the locals and they’ll not only stop entering, they won’t come to watch either. There’s more than one historic example of this happening in our province.

Also: in order for your points to be eligible for the two provincial berths your team has to play in 4 BCCT events. AT 25% BC content, it’s mathematically possible (depending upon the number of teams that register) that there will not even be enough events to give all the teams the opportunity to enter 4 BCCT events (presuming they can actually get 4 spiels).

And let’s remember we don’t have even 4 Men’s spiels that met CTRS criteria last year. We have 3. That’s right, count ’em. Three.

Here’s another question: What if a team only has the financial and time off resources to enter 3 events and accumulates enough points-through superior performance-to be at the top of the BCCT. Do you tell them they don’t get the spot to the BC’s? Good luck with that one.

A far more reasonable and logical number here is 2 events minimum and you throw out the rule of only your best 4 results count towards the ranking. When there is no grandfathering of points into a second season, all your points from all your events should count-whether you play in one event or all.

So you can see why the use of the CTRS is baffling. If Curl BC had used it as a foundation and then adjusted it to meet our own needs that would have been fine-but they didn’t. It all comes down to a simple conclusion:

The CTRS is not the savior of BC competitive curling and never will be.

The CTRS is designed for a completely different purpose and objective on a national level. Even though I disagree with some of its structure, I respect that it has a far different job to do. However it cannot, and should not, be used since it’s very purpose is contrary to ours and it is incompatible with the needs and realities of BC events, clubs and athletes. Anyone with a lick of sense can understand this.

This is why it’s such a mistake to adopt the CTRS wholesale. It doesn’t fit and never will.


Just before the final draft of this entry I checked my email one last time to see if Daniel had replied-he hadn’t. I also took another look on the BCCT website to see if it had started the list of registered teams-also not done. Lastly, I took a look on the Curl BC website as the AGM is fast approaching and what did I come across?

A brief article by Liz Montroy entitled ‘BCCT update and registration reminder’. Ms. Montroy is the Communications and Marketing Manager for Curl BC and full time paid staff. From what I can gleam from Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, she plays hockey but like some other members of the staff, does not curl much if at all.

Comprising of 3 short paragraphs, she attempts to justify the ‘Standards and Best Practices’ as: ‘…a means of having a minimum standard for an event to identify it as being an appropriate training ground for regional, provincial and national playdowns’

She then goes on to state that this all came about in consultation with existing event organizers, the BCCT Committee, WCT and the CCA. There was also, apparently, contact with organizers in the Kootenays and the North about their spiels.

So what I believe this means, dear and patient reader, is 5 things:

  1. Our governing body did not develop a tour based on our unique needs and realities
  2. We still have no information on just who makes up the mysterious BCCT Committee
  3. Outside bodies with little regard towards our province have too much influence on BC decision making
  4. Rather than adapt a system to allow the inclusion and participation of long-running, small cashspiels in the North and Kootenays, Curl BC instead tried to force them to conform to criteria that does not meet the needs of BC curling.
  5. IMO, what Curl BC really wanted wasn’t BC Tours. It was a sneaky, back-door way to award two more berths to CTRS teams.

Lastly (and here’s where those of you waiting for a Merklinger fix get rewarded), Dave Merklinger started this whole sordid chain of events last fall with his now legendary mass email chastising Curl BC and calling for the development of a BCCT.

Dave was promised to be part of the creation of the Tours and he is also the organizer of the Vernon events. I’ve discussed this twice with Dave since May 18th. He was consulted a few times by Curl BC but to say he’s impressed with the end result would be lying. He’s happy there’s finally a tour, but he too, is scratching his head at the insistence of copycatting the CTRS.

So after all this wait I can now post a final grade on the new BCCT. It’s an F for: failing to take a realistic look at how cashspiels work, not being creative and developing our own BC criteria and taking the easy, lazy way out with the CTRS.

Seriously Curl BC, if all you really wanted was to give two more provincial berths to CTRS touring teams then you should have just done so. It’s far more honest than creating two fake tours with a limited chance of success.



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