Curling Canada under fire for limiting eligibility for pregnancy exemptions

Curling Canada came under fire Wednesday for restricting eligibility for pregnancy waivers for teams hoping to add out-of-province free agents to the top five rinks in the rankings in the national playdown.

This waiver allows teams to use substitute players in the Scotties Tournament of Hearts even if the player did not play in the state/territory championship or did not meet the residency requirements.

However, the decision prevented 13 of the 18 teams that qualified for the February 17-26 event in Kamloops, British Columbia from applying for similar lineup changes if necessary. Several prominent curlers, including Olympians Dawn McEwen, Mike McEwen, Felix Asselin and Beth Peterson, have criticized the eligibility rules on social media.

“The timing of pregnancy can be stressful and difficult for many female athletes,” Dawn McEwen said on Twitter. It’s messy.

“Give everyone the same opportunity CurlingCanada.”

Details of the waiver were provided Tuesday in a Curling Canada news release announcing the Scotties’ draw.

The organization said Manitoba’s wild-card team, skipped by No. 4 Kaitlyn Rose, was allowed to use Laura Walker as a replacement for deputy Serena Niegovan, who was given maternity leave.

“The waiver applies only to the top five teams as it limits their ability to replace a player with someone of equal level of ability and commitment,” the release said.

Nolan Thiessen, executive director of marketing and fan experience for Curling Canada, said the organization worked with the Athletes Council and leading experts in the field to discuss the concept.

“All listings and rankings have a cutoff and it can be a difficult process to determine where that falls.” It was understood that the pool of elite players was very limited.

“Outlines that after a team has made reasonable efforts to secure a replacement athlete who meets the requirements of the residency eligibility rules, if it is unable to do so, the team may seek a replacement athlete who does not meet these requirements. Did.”

Under residency rules, at least three of the four players must reside in their respective state or territory or have birthright status. She is the only free agent allowed unless a waiver is granted.

Njegovan, lead Kristin MacCuish, and Lawes are based in Winnipeg, and Jocelyn Peterman, who lives in Calgary, is the importer.

Edmonton-based Walker has been focusing on mixed doubles this season, but he’s also been an understudy for the team. Had Rose been no higher than 6th, her addition would have been impossible.

Asselin, who will skip the Quebec entry at next month’s Tim Hortons Brier, called the rule an example of “elitist” and “favourism.”

“All female curlers should be allowed to be exchanged in case of pregnancy with someone who follows all residency rules,” Asselin tweeted. It’s very sad.”

The 2022 Scotty was won by Manitoba’s Kelly Einarson.

She defeated Northern Ontario’s Christa McCarville (currently ranked No. 61) in the final. Einarson beat New Brunswick’s Andrea Kelly, who is currently ranked 16th, in the semi-finals.

Einarson (284.750 points) leads Ontario’s Rachel Homan (270.750 points), Manitoba’s Jennifer Jones (206.000 points), Lowes (183.250 points) and British Columbia’s Clancy Grundy (166.625 points).

Alberta’s Casey Scheidegger (161.750) is sixth, and Manitoba’s Megan Walter (160.500) is just outside the top five in seventh.

“I’m confused as to what position/standing in the CTRS (ranking) has to do with this,” Scheidegger’s second Jessie Haughian said on Twitter. “A pregnancy is a pregnancy.”

Peterson, who made his Scotty debut in 2021, also joined the rule.

“Sorry, isn’t this disrespectful to other pregnant women?” she tweeted. “Giving some teams waivers and not others is simply irreversible.”

Some curlers compete while pregnant — Homan was memorably eight months pregnant when she reached the 2021 Scotties final — but sometimes replacements are needed.

When asked to elaborate on why only five teams could apply for the waiver, Thiessen responded by email:

“We have consulted legal and subject matter experts and generally the top five are the teams participating in the varsity program funded through Sports Canada. and they provided feedback that this was a valid policy change.”

“When I went through this process, I wasn’t looking at a ranking list.”

Scotty Champion will represent Canada at the Women’s Curling World Championships March 18-26 in Sandviken, Sweden.

Also on Wednesday, Curling Canada announced that the 2023 PointsBet Invitational will run from September 26th to October 26th. #1 at the 16 Mile Sports Complex in Oakville, Ontario.

This report by the Canadian Press was first published on February 1, 2023.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

Gregory Strong, Canadian Press

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