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The Eh Game

Tim Hortons Brier: Losing playoff game doesn’t improve Glenn Howard’s dislike for Page system

Jim Morris
Eh Game

EDMONTON — The Page playoff always ranked just a little below root canal surgery for Ontario skip Glenn Howard.

His distaste wasn't improved following his 7-6 loss to Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton in the 1-2 Page playoff game Saturday at the Tim Hortons Brier.

Leading 6-4, Howard missed a double-takeout attempt in the 10th end, which allowed Stoughton to score three points and take the victory.

"Honestly, I threw a pretty good shot," said the defending world champion. "The thing jumped, went crazy and we couldn't hold it.

"That's not a great feeling. I felt we had the game. I had a shot to win that wasn't that tough. The bottom line is I missed."

Stoughton advances directly to Sunday evening's final. Howard wasn't impressed he now has to play in a semifinal game early Sunday morning. A switch to daylight saving time will cost him an hour of sleep.

"We have to go back and play the semifinal at 8:30 a.m., which is brilliant," he said.

Howard is a smart man but he's never been able to figure out why the Canadian Curling Association uses the Page playoff.

"I can't stand it," Howard said earlier this week. "It does not make any sense to me. I have never understood it."

Under the Page system, the top two teams after the round robin meet in the 1-2 playoff game, with the winner advancing to Sunday's final. The loser goes to the semifinal.

The third- and fourth-place teams play in the 3-4 game. The winner advances to the semifinal on Sunday morning. The loser plays in Sunday's bronze-medal game against the semifinal loser.

Howard argues a team that finishes first in the round robin, especially one that goes undefeated, deserves more than playing another game.

"If there is an out-right winner of the round robin, there is no advantage," Howard said. "We could go 11-0 and somebody could come in at 8-3. Does it make sense we should be playing a game?

"If you are in second place you are elated because you have the same situation."

If Howard had his way, the winner of the round robin would advance directly to the final. If organizers want four teams in the playoffs, the fourth-place finisher could play the third-place team. The winner would play the second-place finisher for the right to go to the final.

Howard knows the real reason the CCA uses the Page system. More games increases ticket revenue and demands more money from television.

"It makes sense for TV," Howard said with a sneer. "We are playing the national championship! What are we doing here?"

Warren Hansen, the Canadian Curling Association's director of event operations, makes no apologies for the playoff format, which was introduced in 1995. In many ways, it addresses most of Howard's concerns.

"It was felt by many people at the time, for a team to go through the round robin and finish in first place, and possibly not lose a game, and then lose the final, it was too brutal," said Hansen.

The first-place finisher must be defeated twice before losing a chance at the title.

As for creating more games for television, welcome to the real world.

"We have to pay the bills," said Hansen. "The money we make out of the Brier pays for the operation of the sport in this country.

"We operate the mixed, the seniors, the juniors, the wheelchair, mixed and doubles. All these things are operated basically by the funds we generate from this event."