Defending champ should get Brier berth, says Martin

CanWest News Service
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CURLING

Kevin Martin and his Olympic gold-medal winning team is comfortably back home after a three-day whirlwind tour at the 2010 Tim Hortons Brier in Halifax.

Fans lined up, hundreds deep, for autographs on Friday, sat and listened to a question-and-answer session prior to the opening ceremonies on Saturday and media types took their turns with the Edmonton Saville Centre glamour boys, which include third John Morris, second Marc Kennedy and lead Ben Hebert, throughout the weekend.

Kevin Martin's thinking goes beyond the idea that the defending champion be guaranteed a berth in the next Brier Canadian men's curling championship. He also suggests a relegation format should be considered in the Brier. - Canadian Press file photo

Halifax -

Kevin Martin and his Olympic gold-medal winning team is comfortably back home after a three-day whirlwind tour at the 2010 Tim Hortons Brier in Halifax.

Fans lined up, hundreds deep, for autographs on Friday, sat and listened to a question-and-answer session prior to the opening ceremonies on Saturday and media types took their turns with the Edmonton Saville Centre glamour boys, which include third John Morris, second Marc Kennedy and lead Ben Hebert, throughout the weekend.

Through all their visits a common missive was relayed to fans and media alike - it's time to bring Team Canada into the picture when it comes to competing at the Brier. It's a message Martin has promoted since the curling players' association was formed in 1995. After all, if the women can run such a program at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, why can't the men?

"There are more people talking about it than there used to be. I can say that safely," said Martin, in between handshaking, camera posing and signing hats, shirts, flags and such. "I think it's a tremendous idea and I've been saying it, going back to at least the players' association (initiation) back in 1995."

And it makes perfect sense not only for the game, but for the fans.

"Just because from a marketing point of view, when you don't know who the entertainment is going to be, it's hard to market that," explained Martin, whose team stopped in London, Ont., to promote the 2011 Brier prior to moving on to Halifax, despite not knowing whether it will qualify for the national event.

"When you have a Team Canada coming back, that's a pretty natural team to have as a spokesman for the event. If you have a Team Canada you have the whole year to promote the next one. It makes a lot of sense, I think," added Martin, the two-time defending Brier champ, who isn't competing here in Halifax this year because of the clash with the Vancouver Olympic Games, where he won the gold medal.

"I think it's added to the Scotties, it sure hasn't hurt it in my mind. It's been very good," he said of involving defending national champs as Team Canada.

And it appears that the Canadian Curling Association is not only listening, but liking what it hears. The problem is determining just how to configure Canada into the equation. Eliminating Northern Ontario is one solution, but the CCA is thinking outside the box.

"It's been discussed the last couple of years," admitted CCA director of events and operations Warren Hansen. "We would have to do some adjusting to how we qualify teams for the Brier. We're cemented into 12 teams, we can't go beyond that, but there have been a lot of discussions about the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut being able to access the events through a pre-event playdown. It's being discussed back and forth about the process. Some are in favour of it, some against. I believe it would be a helpful thing, if we can find a way to do it."

His reasoning, says Hansen, comes mainly from a marketing point of view.

"It ensures that you have an element that you can sell," he explained. "When we start working full-tilt on the promotion of the Brier in London in 2011, we have no idea who is going to be playing in it and so you promote numerous teams and who you think might be. But there isn't anyone you can grab on to and say, 'Yes, this is one of the top teams that are going to be there,' like they do at the Scotties."

Replacing Northern Ontario with a Team Canada is the simple solution, but not the only one. In fact, Martin himself is promoting a relegation format at the national championship.

"There are a whole bunch of different ways of looking at it," began Martin. "To me, one thing that has bothered me over the years, is towards the end of the Brier round robin, there has been nothing games, kiss-your-sister type games. So I like the lowest team being bumped for a year. What that does is put a lot of onus on the last couple of games."

"It could be huge, they could be monstrously big for the provinces," said Martin, his voice becoming more and more excited. "That's what we want to see as fans, two teams caring if they win or lose and that's a good way to make that occur. Now it puts the onus on provincial associations for training, building a strong foundation. I don't see much negative about the scenario at all."

And it's an idea Hansen and the CCA is contemplating.

"Some of the options are like a challenge round, the bottom teams can be challenged by teams that didn't make it the year before," admitted Hansen, who believes a new format could be in place for the 2012 Brier.

"It would be a couple of years away. The earliest you'd see any adjustment to our structure would be 2012," admitted Hansen. "It's the logistics of making it all happen. We have to be careful that we don't disrupt the foundations of this 81-year-old event that has a lot of tradition attached to it. One of them is that every province or territory has played every other one and you have to be careful about what you do to those types of things."

Organizations: Team Canada, Canadian Curling Association, Edmonton Saville Centre Vancouver Olympic Games

Geographic location: Halifax, Northern Ontario, London, Ont. Canada Northwest Territories Yukon Nunavut London

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Recent comments

  • Telling it how Id
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    J,

    given the crap play of Team Gushe & co between 2007-2009 they did not deserve to be at the roar of the rings.

    Maybe 2014 if they get their act together.

  • J
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    Not that I totally disagree with Kevin's comments, but how much do you want to bet that there will be something in place for the next Olympic play-downs that will qualify the reigning gold medalists for an automatic berth in the play-downs. As the reigning gold medalists from Torino 2006, Gushue and Co. should have been at the Roar of the Rings.....jmo.

  • David
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    Just drop Northern Ontario. They are no longer competitive anyway and there is no need to have 2 teams from Ontario. Go with the same format as the ladies.

  • Telling it how Id
    July 01, 2010 - 20:18

    J,

    given the crap play of Team Gushe & co between 2007-2009 they did not deserve to be at the roar of the rings.

    Maybe 2014 if they get their act together.

  • J
    July 01, 2010 - 19:49

    Not that I totally disagree with Kevin's comments, but how much do you want to bet that there will be something in place for the next Olympic play-downs that will qualify the reigning gold medalists for an automatic berth in the play-downs. As the reigning gold medalists from Torino 2006, Gushue and Co. should have been at the Roar of the Rings.....jmo.

  • David
    July 01, 2010 - 19:47

    Just drop Northern Ontario. They are no longer competitive anyway and there is no need to have 2 teams from Ontario. Go with the same format as the ladies.