Registered: Nov 2008
As a former Northern Ontarian curler, I get sick of this "should they have a team" argument repeating itself every year, so let me thoughtfully shut it down for those of you inclined to such knee-jerk rationality, before anyone else piles on.
First - be careful what you wish for, Ontario. The two skips in the Women's final have both actually won the Ontario Scotties when the province was combined. McCarville did it four times, in fact! I think it's also fair to say that Brad Jacobs would be the favourite if he played out of Ontario this year.
Second - Demographics. The region is three quarters of a million people, roughly the same as New Brunswick, and higher than Newfoundland and Labrador, PEI, and any of the territories. More importantly, geographically it is HUGE, and very separate from the rest of Ontario. The region is populated enough and distinct enough to deserve a place. Worse, lumping them back in with Ontario only further discourages participation in the region, which goes completely against the spirit of the Brier/Scotties (that any team from anywhere can get there, and maybe even win it). This is without mentioning the region's strong cultural identity, distinct in comparison to the rest of Ontario.
Third - Historically Northern Ontario is a strong performer at the Brier, and are only behind Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan in terms of Brier wins and Top Three Finishes (all modern era, I might add). Since they've been introduced at the Scotties, they've finished 5th, 2nd, and 4th - hard to dismiss as undeserving performances (and the five combined appearances by McCarville/Fleury as Team Ontario were no less relevant).
Fourth - Participation. This is a tough one because it's notable that only three women's teams played this year. The men might only get 10 teams out as well, but that's actually on par with Maritime provinces (and proportionately higher than Ontario/Quebec if you look at teams per capita, but I digress). I compare NONT right now to Newfoundland. With Brad Gushue around, not many teams find it worthwhile to even show up to try (in fact, none of the teams from the island of Newfoundland ever travel to Labrador, nor vice versa, because of him). This doesn't happen in geographically smaller provinces because travel is comparatively much cheaper, and front-runners often less obvious or invincible seeming. You ask yourself - would you drive 10-11 hrs from Thunder Bay to Sudbury (or as far as 17 hrs from Kenora to North Bay, as another possible example) just to get whacked by Fleury and McCarville?
[As an aside to the fourth point, it's both a blessing and a curse for the region to have such successful teams. Having teams like Olympic Champion Brad Jacobs, Grand Slam regular (and usually, playoff qualifier) Tracy Fleury, and perennial Scotties contender Krista McCarville, makes for huge role models who help drive aspirational youth curlers as well as generate club interest from those otherwise unaware of our sport. I myself looked up to the team skipped by the late Scott Patterson (two time Brier participant, original WCT team, and former member of Russ Howard rink) - if he could do it, maybe I could too, one day. But these teams also drive down mid-level interest in competitive play. It's a difficult conundrum, but again, as illustrated by the case of Newfoundland this is not a problem isolated to Northern Ontario, and there's no way to say if they are a net benefit or deficit to participation as a whole (nor is it as significant as societal factors pushing down participation everywhere across Canada - and we need to keep curlers wherever they are!)]
Finally - It hurts exactly zero people for Northern Ontario to have a team at the Brier/Scotties, and it means a heck of a lot to the players that live and grow up there. Some of them even go on to win the Olympics, solely because team Northern Ontario existed in the first place to inspire them. So long as we have a provincial/regional format to determine our National Champion, I can't imagine any good argument that Northern Ontario shouldn't be there as a distinct region.
So, get off your high horse, have a look at the facts, and stop it already with this argument! How do some of you not get it yet? I thought we were done with this already!
Report this post to a moderator | IP: Logged