Dominion Skins Game.

So this year, they decided to throw a wrench in the format of the TSN Skins Game. In years past, the Skins Game was one of curling’s biggest attractions. The rules of the game make it instantly entertaining, only the top teams were chosen(it was typically any combination of the reigning World Men’s and Women’s Champs, reigning Olympic champ, and points leader, though in the past, teams have been included based solely on reputation), and as a curler, the game was a chance to make some real money. Winning $44,000 for two games–as Team Koe did last year–was a once in a year chance, and an opportunity for the top teams to pad their coffers.

This year, TSN decided to switch up the format when they drew new title sponsor Dominion on board. And it was a good solution: they would open it up to a fan vote, and then draw teams after the winning curlers were decided upon. A mix-and-match of the top teams. It brought a new attention to the Skins game on television and on social media, but now that the results have been announced, one has to ask: for what purpose did this voting occur?

The top 16 curlers were revealed today, and, with only two exceptions, the 4 teams one might’ve expected to be at a Skins Game without fan voting are all represented. Glenn Howard, Kevin Koe, Kevin Martin, and Jeff Stoughton were announced as the skips. The last 4 World Champs and the Olympic Champ. No surprises there. Then all of Kevin Koe and Kevin Martin’s teams were selected to join their skips. What do you know, no surprises there either. And really, the only surprises are what essentially amount to mistakes and mishaps.

I was excited to see BJ Neufeld from Mike McEwen’s team make an appearance at third, with the only member of Team Glenn Howard–Wayne Middaugh, one of the most popular and notable curlers of all time–noticeably absent from the list. Then it was revealed on Twitter this morning that BJ only got the spot because Middaugh turned down the spot. Wait a minute, no surprise there either.

That leaves the last remaining surprise at lead, where former Jeff Stoughton lead Steve Gould got selected. But Gould isn’t even playing this year, and in likelihood, was only voted on by fans who didn’t realize that he had been replaced on his old team by Newfoundland import Mark Nichols.

So despite the event trying to throw curveballs by including Randy Ferbey and Dave Nedohin in the voting, and despite the best efforts of the top 10 teams that had a chance to be chosen, the mainstays won. Save for Gould being paired up with Stoughton, the event completely lacks drama. And given curling’s diplomatic nature, does anyone really see that happening? I’m surprised TSN even included Gould in the voting and gave us the possibility.

I could care less about John Morris playing third for Glenn Howard, or Craig Savill playing lead for Kevin Koe. Is that even interesting to a viewer? As a player, I could see the draw, but as a spectator, I’d rather see these 4 teams play together as they do all year, so we get the best games possible. The teams are just going to divide up the money amongst themselves anyway. No one is going to notice that BJ Neufeld is there instead of Wayne Middaugh, as BJ is equally as talented. It’s not going to be a storyline. And Steve Gould plays lead. Even the most imaginative and dramatic mind can’t envision a scenario that makes his inclusion interesting, though maybe they’ll show his shots on TV for once.

It’s a new system and I’ll still watch, but there are some definite tweaks that need to be made next year. There needs to be more options for voting. Maybe institute a maximum of two members per team? Maybe expand the voting system to include write-in votes so a “Vote For Rory”-type grassroots campaign could happen? I don’t know, but both those ideas seem pretty solid, and I came up with them in 2.5 minutes. Maybe include more women in the voting?

As it stands now, this format will be in serious danger of becoming extinct within only a couple of years of its birth.

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