Thoughts on the Champion’s Cup

Normally, curling posts come out on Monday.  The reason for this is that pretty much all of the curling bonspiels have their finals on Sunday, and so it’s the most convenient day to post about them.  While one might expect that the reason this post is coming out on Tuesday is due to my deciding to delay it, instead it is coming out today because the actual bonspiel was delayed.  See, what they’re doing for curling this season is running a bubble in Calgary, containing a lot of events like the Scotties, the Briar, the Worlds, and some others.  Well, the men’s Worlds were right before this event, and right at the end of that event they had a Covid scare, as some players on teams that weren’t making the playoffs tested positive right before they were about to leave.  So the event was shut down for a couple of days while everyone was tested, and they ended up with a shortened playoff and extended things slightly.  Which meant that the icemakers said that they couldn’t get the ice ready for the next event in time, and so they wanted an extra day to prepare things.  Which pushed the start of the event back a day, and thus pushed the finals back a day.  So they happened yesterday.

However, the next Grand Slam of Curling event is happening this week.  They aren’t delaying the start of that one.  It’s the same teams in that one as was in this one, so if a team was in the finals they get an entire day off before having to jump right back into the action.

That one will also be the last Grand Slam curling action this year, as in reaction to Covid what they did was cancel the last two events of the season, cancel the events in the fall, and essentially made it so that they effectively finished the previous season now, with the last two events.  No matter what they call it, that’s really what happened.  They obviously are hoping that in the fall they can return to a normal schedule and a normal season.

This event featured the return of skips to their teams on the women’s side.  First up, Tracy Fleury had had to skip the Scotties because of some medical issues with her child, but with things getting slightly better she was able to play this event with her team, and they only went 4-0 before being beaten in the semi-finals by Sylvana Tirinzoni.  From what I heard, she might not be able to stay for this event, at which point Chelsea Carey, who subbed in for her at the Scotties, will take over.  But I can’t rule it out, because it’s far less likely that she could stay for both events than that the next skip could play in, well, the events she’s already played in.

Rachel Homan went into the Scotties eight months pregnant and played the entire event, and only made it to the finals before losing to Kerri Einarson.  Then, she had her baby.  They had arranged for Laura Walker to join her team for this event, and so Emma Miskew would skip and Walker would play third.  And then, only three weeks after she had her baby, Rachel Homan decided that she was okay to play and came in and played the entire event, and only managed to win the entire thing (6 – 3 over the aforementioned Tirinzoni).  The commentators couldn’t help but note how amazing that was and, yeah, that’s impressive.  Rachel Homan truly is an intense competitor just to even try that, and also is an amazing curler to actually be able to do it so successfully.

However, Emma Miskew in an interview did seem to be looking forward to getting some experience in at skip.  I’ve noted in the past that she’s fully capable of skipping and that given the shuffle on Homan’s team the door is open for her to create her own team, so she might have a reason for wanting to get some skipping in.  Then again, the two of them have been together forever so that might not be a consideration.

The event also tried out a new rule meant to add offense to the game.  A long time back, you could hit any rock at any time and so what ended up happening was that when a team was sufficiently up they’d simply run any guards that the other team put up leaving everything wide open, which made it very hard for their opposition to score multiple points, and also made for a bit of a boring game.  So curling adopted the free guard zone, where for the first four or five stones any guard — a stone that wasn’t touching the rings — could not be removed from play.  In response, teams adopted the “tick shot” — also sometimes called “The Weagle” because Lisa Weagle was so good at it — where they’d lightly tap the rock out of the way without removing it completely, rendering them ineffective.  So at this event they added the rule that any guard that was touching the centre line couldn’t be moved off the centre line.  It could be moved up and down the line, but not off of it.  The effect of this was obvious:  teams put guards on the centre line depending on what they wanted and all the play stayed in the centre, which led to more rocks in play and so far fewer ends with blanks.  However, the play did end up being a little obvious, as in the situations where the tick shot was more likely to be used the team that would have been using the tick shot would almost always devolve into peeling those guards and trying for runback doubles.  And the men, in particular, have enough upweight ability that they were clearing things out anyway almost whenever they needed to.

I didn’t mind it, but I worry that this rule will lead to some other set strategy like the tick shot that will make the rule somewhat pointless.  I also don’t really like combining it with the free guard zone since that really limits what teams can do — they couldn’t hit any guards at all and then on top of that can’t even move the centre line ones — and so would prefer them going with only the no tick zone rule, but then that would mean that any team that puts up corner guards would have them removed making them irrelevant and so making for a new standard play of simply clogging up the centre.  On the plus side — for some, at least — that would make it far more like mixed doubles, which can be exciting.  The rule isn’t going to be in place for the next event, so they’ll evaluate it and we’ll see what happens in the future.

The next event is the Player’s Championship starting … tomorrow!

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One Response to “Thoughts on the Champion’s Cup”

  1. Thoughts on the Players’ Championship | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] week, Rachel Homan went on a tear after the birth of her daughter to win the Champions Cup.  Before that, Kerri Einarson continued her excellent play by winning the Scotties over Homan in […]

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