Time to re-hash an old idea – promotion and relegation at the Canada Games

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So I had a thought while writing the story about the Canada Winter Games boys and girls hockey teams. I know – stop thinking, James, because you’ll only hurt the team.

Liam Tereposky tries to peek through traffic during action against Nunavut in the Arctic Showcase tournament last month at the Multiplex. The NWT boys and girls teams face an uphill battle to make the playoffs at the Canada Winter Games so a promotion/relegation system would make things easier and more competitive for the teams, says sports editor James McCarthy. NNSL file photo
Liam Tereposky tries to peek through traffic during action against Nunavut in the Arctic Showcase tournament last month at the Multiplex. The NWT boys and girls hockey teams face an uphill battle to make the playoffs at the Canada Winter Games so a promotion/relegation system would make things easier and more competitive for the teams, says sports editor James McCarthy.
NNSL file photo

Seriously, though … there’s only two playoff spots up for grabs in each of their pools in Red Deer. The boys have two games where they’ll be expecting to win, but the boogeyman comes against Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador. Same deal with the girls, minus Nunavut.

If they finish first or second in their pool, they move into what’s known as the qualifying round where they will play either the third or fourth-placed team from Pool A, the big boys/girls pool, depending on where they finish. That means the four teams from the big kids pool qualify for the playoffs.

This is something that bugs me and it’s time to talk about the option of promotion and relegation from each pool.

Here it is:

Those teams in Pool A, Pool B and Pool C will play their three (or four) games against each other for placement purposes. Once the places are decided, it’s playoff time. The teams in Pool A will play for the medals while Pool B and Pool C play for a chance to move up into another pool, hence the promotion part.

First will play fourth and second will play third in each pool. In the case of a five-team pool, the fifth-placed team doesn’t qualify for the playoffs. Sorry.

The relegation part comes like this: the third-place game not only decides who finishes third but also decides who gets sent down to the next pool below. In the case of Pool C, no one moves down because there’s nowhere else to go. And do we really want to have a play-in system for the privilege of playing in an event? Ask Curling Canada how popular that idea was.

Everyone has something to play for and every game will mean something. The big boys/girls will play for the medals while the Pool B and C teams will play for the right to move up into the next highest pool. The teams in the third-place game will be fighting for their lives.

It’s cutthroat and it could get nasty, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It ensures everyone involved that you are playing in a meaningful game.

Now, there will be some of you who will say that not every team will get a chance to play for a medal, thus ruining the spirit of it all. Let’s face it: the way things are set up, do you think every team has a chance to play for a medal already? All four teams in Pool A make the playoffs. The deck is stacked in their favour.

People will also say that it could be meaningless, because the teams will be different four years from now. You’re absolutely right, I say. I couldn’t agree more. All the more reason for teams to play as well as they can at that time in order to ensure the players coming up behind them have a good placement and a spot in a pool to protect, if they happen to be in Pool A and B.

This concept can be used in other team sports as well and even in the Canada Summer Games with soccer and volleyball, for example.

Could it work in individual sports? It would be tough, because there aren’t any sort of pools within those sports. If there’s a way to do it, I would love to hear it.

I can’t take all the credit for this. Mike Doyle, who’s coached pretty much everything there is when it comes to soccer in the NWT, was talking to me about this sort of thing once upon a time and we were wondering if there was a way to do it. Well, I’ve just outlined how it can be done and keep things interesting.

Whether the Canada Games Council takes the idea and runs with it is another matter. Speaking from experience of serving on executive boards and attending national sport organization meetings in prior years, I can tell you with absolute certainty that the big provinces don’t like having their knickers twisted. It’s almost a sort of inferiority complex with them in a way.

They enjoy seeing the smaller jurisdictions get a chance to play, but only with their own types i.e. NWT versus Nunavut, Nunavut versus Yukon etc. It wouldn’t be fair for them to play us because it wouldn’t end well for anyone, they like to tell us. Fine. You play in your little club and we’ll play in ours. Winning promotion could – and probably would – be as good as winning a gold medal to some teams and if this system were to ever happen, remind them of that.

Because if we get promoted and a big province ends up getting relegated, at least we won.

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