Players Too Good, Rule Changes Imminent

Nugget Column #11 – Tuesday December 9th, 2014

It seems as though that the moment we have this crazy game of ours figured out, the higher-ups motion to throw a wrench in the mix. Is curling ready for another rule change and what is the best solution if taking into consideration the men’s game versus the ladies’ game and competition versus grassroots?

The issue seems to be that the top teams in the world are too good when in the lead and that simply scoring two points in the first end of a game provides that team with a 74.81% – 75.45% chance of winning (since 2010-2011). Last rock advantage in the first end is at least now decided by a skill-based challenge (draw to the button) or by virtue of standings but like the shootout in hockey, it’s not the same as the sport itself.

Team Mike McEwen for example is 66-5 when scoring a deuce in the first end. Give them a five point lead like Sunday’s Canada Cup final against Team Brad Jacobs and they’ve never lost. So how entertained were the fans from the third to last end you ask? Not very.

Many suggest that the 5-rock rule is coming and in fact it has already been implemented by the Grand Slam of Curling which features five major events a season. The rule prevents removal of rocks in the free guard zone (above the house) until the second’s second rock. Currently guards are un-removable until the second’s first rock.

Alternative recommendations include extending the four-rock rule to rocks that are in the house and a no-tick shot rule that can be worded to either prevent not only the removal of guards until second’s stones but the moving at all, or the moving outside of a determined area such as beyond the eight-foot line.

Whatever the change may be, it is intended to provide teams with more set-up stones to enable bigger scoring ends and less ability to defend a lead. Whether the solution will more often result in the better team winning the game is questionable however the spectator is assured that the losing team is not so often down-and-out before the game has officially ended.

If you look at rule changes across other sports such as the introduction of a designated hitter in baseball or the 3-pointer in basketball, these are rules driven by audiences who ultimately foot the salaries of professional athletes. As curling approaches this territory there is certain to be further adjustments that make the game for profitable; after all professional sport isn’t only elite athleticism, it’s a business.

In North Bay, curling season is winding down in time for Christmas but focus is at an all-time high as competitive teams prepare for their respective playdowns. The Granite Club has rinks aspiring to provincial championships in bantam, junior, mens, mixed, mixed doubles, senior and rumour has it even masters categories. We are behind all of you one hundred percent and wish you the best in your endeavours.

 

Bobby Ray
General Manager
North Bay Granite Club