Some of Canada’s best curlers came to the Curling Association plans with ‘cautious optimism’

Some of Canada’s best curlers came to the Curling Association plans with ‘cautious optimism’

The organizer of a new curling players’ association said the group’s efforts have been generally welcomed since its executive group and plans were unveiled a month ago.

Rylan Hartley recently held a town hall session with curlers who wanted to hear about the next steps for a group that lists Sweden’s Niklas Edin as interim president and Canadians Tyler Tardi and Emma Miskew among its leadership.

More than 60 athletes have signed an initial “letter of support,” Hartley said, a number he expects will rise significantly by spring.

“Obviously you’re still going to have a few splinter groups from different places that are kind of on the fence about things,” Hartley said. “I would say that there is more work to be done so that everyone is inside this initiative.

“But I think the general response so far has been fairly positive.”

One of Hartley’s main goals is to give athletes a stronger voice to address core issues. He sees the international group working as partners with circuits, federations and event organizers.

However, many questions remain as to how the baby steps association. There is no voting date for board elections, details of bylaw plans have not been disclosed and there is no word on financial disbursement requirements.

“I hope we’re not putting the cart before the horse,” said Brad Gushue, the reigning Canadian men’s champion. “We want to make sure that when we put this together it’s put together the right way.”

In addition, Hartley – who also runs a marketing agency – is the co-founder of streaming service curling. And in his first news release, he listed himself as CEO of a new Players Tour (for select non-major bonspiels).

When asked about the apparent conflict, Hartley said the association will be a non-profit organization on purpose, adding that he is organizing the PA initiative for the benefit of curling to help move the sport forward.

WATCH: That curling Show – Canada’s Miskew weighs in on Players Association:

‘We deserve a say’: Emma Miskew on new curling players’ association

Emma Miskew from Canada is serving as a member of the executive group of the newly formed curlers association. She joins Rylan Hartley and Jill Officer on That Curling Show to discuss the association and their future plans.

The diverse list of jobs has raised some eyebrows within sections of the curling community.

“Definitely I think there needs to be a little better communication on the points,” admitted Hartley. “I think a few people see that I’m the founder of both and assume that I’m the owner and that I have some kind of involvement.

“But yes, yes, I got these two entities but the players and the players have a curling association. And the Players Tour is a brand that I have to connect these events.”

The association’s leadership group is divided into four regions: Canada (Tardi, Miskew), Europe (Edin, Silvana Tirinzoni), USA (Korey Dropkin, Tabitha Peterson) and Pacific/Asia (JD Lind, Anna Ohmiya). Tanner Horgan and Mackenzie Zacharias are included in the Next Gen category.

Past failure encourages caution

Scheduling difficulties, unexpected rule changes and a general lack of communication have long been problems for elite curlers. Many wanted formal representation at the table with the sport’s power brokers.

“I think when the day comes when the players can bond together and work with each other, then we’ll start throwing better,” said Darren Moulding, who plays third for Horgan. “Because now I think, the players, it’s taken advantage of in certain situations.

“It’s because we don’t have a seat at the table and we don’t have a common goal.”

Other curling player associations have been formed in the past, but these groups did not survive on a long-term basis.

A recent effort was sparked a few years ago, but the COVID-19 pandemic stymied plans and the effort appears to have gone dormant. A reporter associated with that group declined to comment on recent developments.

Meanwhile, Gushue took part in a recent town hall and said he felt “cautiously optimistic.”

“There are many questions that must be answered,” he said. “I think if they’re answered and if they’re answered in the right way I think we’ll see this happen.

“But I don’t want to come out 100 percent in their favor at this point.”

Hartley said that it is up to the players how he will ultimately relate to the club. Currently, he is focused on organization and communication and hopes to implement some pieces for next season.

“It’s going to take a village to put this together,” he said in a recent interview. “I think there are a lot of curlers who understand and understand that.”

Hartley is planning webinars in the coming weeks as the recruitment process continues. The long-term goal, he said, is to have a fully self-sustaining association owned and operated by the players.

“It has to be completely separate,” said Brent Laing, who plays second base on Team Mike McEwen. “That’s one of the things that came up on the call.

“It has to be player-run, player-owned, player-owned and have no outside influence from people who have other vested interests in the game.”

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