Friday, November 20, 2009

The game may change

I thought that I would present my thoughts on some of the new rules and regulations for the top international events that may be brought into our sport soon. A new World Curling Federation rulebook is scheduled to be published on June 1, next year. There are a lot of discussions ongoing at the moment on what rule changes might be included. Suggestions will no doubt be discussed at the WCF semi-annual meeting in Aberdeen next month, then confirmed and approved at the Annual General Assembly in Cortina in April 2010.

There's a lot up for discussion. Some things might well be described as esoteric, and some inconsequential. For example, when a stone breaks, the rules note that a replacement stone is placed where the largest piece comes to rest, but if that piece touches a side line/board, do we use the next largest piece, or is the stone removed from play for that end? (WCF Recommendation: Allow the teams to use the 'Spirit of Curling' and decide where the stone should be placed, and if they cannot decide, an umpire will make that decision.)

But what should the colour of one's socks be if these are worn outside the trousers. Or can team members wear different hats. Or can some players on a team wear kilts and some not. Decisions, decisions.

However, other proposed rule changes are rather more substantial and will significantly change the way our sport is played in the future. Here are just a few examples.

1. The system of timing games should be changed, and after 2010 this would be based on 'thinking' time. But what should the time allotted be?

The WCF recommendation is to accept this proposal. A time clock would cease to run as soon as the stone being delivered has reached the tee line (hog line for wheelchair curling) at the delivering end; there then would be 'dead time' until all stones have come to rest, then the opponent’s time clock will start to run. (However, the delivering team’s clock will be restarted and continue to run during the period in which stones that are displaced due to violations by the delivering team are returned to their original positions, and until the delivering team relinquishes the playing area to the other team.)

What should the recommended amount of time for each team for ten ends be? What for eight end games? What for wheelchair games?

My own view? This way of timing games is long overdue!

2. Eight ends or ten ends? There are two schools of thought on this.

The WCF recommendation is to keep the length of games as they currently are, but look for other ways to bring down the total time required for each game (i.e. eliminate time-outs, eliminate elaborate march-in ceremonies, etc.).

For what my opinion matters, I agree. But I do find it strange that our top curlers spend all their time playing just eight ends in World Curling Tour and Curling Champions Tour events, then have to switch around their thinking to ten ends when it comes to Europeans or Worlds.

3. There is a proposal to eliminate tie-breakers. The ranking system in the current rule book would determine the play-off and relegation teams.

The WCF recommendation is to accept this proposal. It is intended to reduce the competition by one day, and to allow the organizing committees to know exactly when games will be played near the end of the competition schedule.

I have to say I disagree completely with the WCF recommendation on this. If two teams finish with the same won-loss record, one may well have beaten the other, but the team that is going to be eliminated may well have defeated the top team in the competition to finish with the same record. Or if multiple teams are tied for position, to have the draw shot distances decide relegation at the Europeans or at the World Juniors or World Wheechairs is invidious. Keep the tiebreakers I say. I actually thought this fight was one we had won, see here. (If only to reminisce about logic, Star Trek and T'Plana-Hath, Matron of Vulcan Philosophy)

4. Eliminate time-outs, maybe only allowed at junior events.

The WCF recommendation is to eliminate time-outs from all WCF competitions except junior curling events. Allow time-outs for all junior events (with or without time clocks).

Let's just get rid of time outs from ALL events. A coach has no right to be suggesting what a team does in any game, outside of the half time break. Let the youngsters get on with it. If they make a wrong tactical decision and the game is lost, so what, that's all part of the sport. The result should NOT depend on a coach's input in the last end of a tight match.

5. Should extra ends in games be eliminated?

The WCF recommendation is that unless a game needs a clear winner (i.e. medal games) there will be no extra ends. Suggest 3 points for wins, 0 points for losses, and 1 point each team for ties.

What nonsense is this? The extra end is one of the key most exciting parts of the game for player and spectator alike. We'll be counting ends and shots up next. No, world championships are not your local club games. Keep extra ends, I say.

That's just a few of the more than twenty discussion points that will be for WCF delegates to decide. I'm sure you will agree that if all these WCF recommendations are accepted, the game will be quite different from now. For good, or bad? The Royal Club's reps on the WCF are Hew Chalmers, Edith Loudon, Jeanette Johnston and Bill Marshall. Why don't you tell them your views, if you are interested. And you could discuss them on the Scottish Curling Forum.

One other WCF recommendation is that, because of the congestion at the end of each curling season, the WCF suggests moving the World Seniors and World Mixed Doubles events into November, starting in 2012. Makes sense to me. What do you think?

On other World Curling Federation matters, I see that the Pacific region has decided its representatives for the Ford World Women's Championship in Swift Current and for the Capital One Men's Championship in Cortina. At the Pacific Championships in Karuizawa, Japan, China and Japan finished in gold and silver positions in both events, and these two countries are included in the draw for the world championships. Korea took bronze in both events. The story, and photos of the winners, is here.