In case you haven't heard, there was no Nunavut entry in either the boys or girls at the recent Canadian U18 Curling Championships in Sherwood Park, Alta. The NWT was there, as they always are, but no Nunavut.
It's a shame because it looks like a fun event not only for the amount of good curling the future gets but because of everything involved in it. Curling Canada does a great job of putting on events like this and really makes a show of it, almost a precursor of sorts for what these kids can expect if they decide curling is for them later in life.
The one thing I can live without, though, is Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun and his seemingly annual crapfest on Nunavut curling, or lack thereof, as he likes to make you believe. I don't care that he's a member of the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame and I could care less that he's a respected curling writer.
For some reason, Jones likes to take a shot at Nunavut whenever he can and this is where I come in.
In his latest pile of garbage knocking Nunavut curling, Jones made light that the venue which hosted the U18 nationals had twice as many sheets as the Iqaluit Curling Club and two more than the entire territory. He is right about that but to him, that's merely a punchline. Nunavut only has six functioning sheets of curling ice – let's have a right good laugh about that.
One thing you would have noticed in Jones' article is that Heather Nedohin, the event's organizer, mentioned that Yukon didn't send a boys team. Not a word in jest about that. Guess they aren't Nunavut so who cares, right, Terry? Just an oversight, I'm sure.
Jones seems to have a problem with Nunavut being involved in anything having to do with the national curling circuit. After all, he's called Nunavut's entry into the Brier “the ultimate free space on the new Brier bingo card.” The very presence of Nunavut at events like the Tim Hortons Brier and Scotties Tournament of Hearts is nothing more than a chance for Jones to lament about the fact that Nunavut even exists in the world of curling.
I'm sure more than a few people will be little pissed off at people like Terry Jones thinking that because Nunavut doesn't have as many sheets as the rest of the country or because we don't send teams to events or because we may not be as good as other provinces that we shouldn't be there.
Other teams may not say it publicly – Brad Gushue has publicly stated he's no fan of the 16-team, two pool format at the Brier nor does he like the format at the World Men's Curling Championship (essentially, he's not a fan of anything that doesn't suit him, it would appear) – but you know the moment they can rid the competition of those pesky hangers-on like Nunavut, the NWT and Yukon or any other team which doesn't meet the standard Jones and Gushue have set for the national stage, the better off it will be for them in their minds.
The standard will go up, the crowds will come back, the Brier and Scotties can return to the glory days of 20,000 or so at the Saddledome in Calgary for the final and all will be right with the world of curling. We just need to show everyone that Nunavut and others like them belong in an event where they don't disrupt things and cause teams to play eight or 10 meaningless ends, right?
Nunavut has every right to be at a national championship, just like every other province and territory. It's a Canadian championship and it's open to all members of Curling Canada, whether Jones likes it or not. Sure, there have been blowout games but that happens in every sport, no matter what the event. If they choose not to go or to not send a team, that's their choice. Nedohin and her crew found a way to fill the gap and good for them.
As much as Jones and his verbal flatulence can be Ex-Laxed into the dumpster of history, this is where we have to pick up our socks.
The easy answer is to build more curling rinks but easier said than done. If we can't build houses why would be build curling rinks? Construction of a curling rink should be near the bottom of the list.
If we don't want to listen to Jones and people like him crap on the North because we don't meet their standards, we need to get big on development and use what we have. Kerry Galusha once told me that if things don't improve on the women's side of the sport in the NWT, it would be slim pickings for the future. There's a couple of good junior teams in Inuvik and Fort Smith coming through the pipeline and here's hoping they stick with it and keep on going.
In Nunavut, we have Sadie Pinksen, who has been a wonderful curling soldier for Nunavut and someone who has plenty of national experience and will make a fine skip one day at the Scotties, if she decides to go down that road. I hope she does. Christianne West, Kaitlyn MacDonald and Melicia Elizaga also have plenty of experience along with Pinksen. Put those four together and there's a good squad for plenty of Scotties to come.
Schools can play a big role as well. I'm not suggesting phys-ed classes based around going on the ice but there is something called Rocks and Rings that is tailored to phys-ed classes. If you haven't seen it, it's curling without the ice with special rocks and floor mats with the outline of a set of rings. It's quite the set-up and is fun to do (I've played it before). This one idea, more than any others, will work wonders to get the grassroots of the sport growing. Getting them out on the ice is the optimal goal, sure, but for those who are nervous, Rocks and Rings at least shows them what the sport is all about and will generate some curiosity.
And let's exploit Jones' assertion that the Brier is a free space on a bingo card for the North. Why not, eh?
If it is a free space on a bingo card, then we need to tell curlers that. Tell them that there's the chance to go to a national championship of some sort if they're good enough. It starts at the club level, then the territorial level and ending at the national level. It's a dangling carrot waiting to be eaten and since people like Jones think we're only there to make up the numbers and keep things politically correct – something else he likes to mention when crapping on Nunavut – why not do it?
And the best part? Curling Canada will even pick up the tab for you to travel. I'm sure Jones and his ilk love that part of it.
I know that some people reading this will have their own opinion and that's fine. I'm simply here defending Nunavut from those in the south who would much rather have us watch instead of play. I know that not everyone feels the way Jones does about seeing teams from the North but since Jones has a platform to make us all read his thoughts, I'll use mine to rebut it.
To the next teams that travel to the Brier or Scotties, make sure you tell Mr. Jones I said hi and can't wait for my next chance to clap back.