The organizer of a new curling players’ association said the group’s efforts have been generally well received by athletes since their leadership group and plans were unveiled a month ago.
Rylan Hartley recently held a townsfolk meeting with curlers keen on the next steps by a group that lists Swede Niklas Edin as interim president and Canadians Tyler Tardi and Emma Miskew as its leaders.
Over 60 athletes have signed an initial “letter of support,” Hartley said, a number he believes will rise significantly by spring.
“Obviously you’re still going to have a few segmented groups from different places that are kind of at odds with things,” Hartley said. “I would say that more needs to be done to get everyone involved in this initiative.
“But I think the general reaction has been pretty positive so far.”
However, many questions remain as the federation takes baby steps. There is no voting date for board elections, details of bylaw plans have not been disclosed, and there is no word on financial outlay requirements.
“I just hope we don’t put the cart before the horse,” said reigning Canadian men’s champion Brad Gushue. “We want to make sure that when we put it together it’s put together right.”
Additionally, Hartley — who also runs a marketing agency — is a co-founder of a curling streaming service. And in his first press release, he listed himself as the CEO of a new Players’ Tour (for select non-major Bonspiels).
When asked about the apparent conflict, Hartley said the club will intentionally be a non-profit organization, adding that he organizes the PA Curling Betterment Initiative to advance the sport.
WATCH: This curling show – Canada’s Miskew meddles with Players’ Association:
The varied list of positions still caused a stir in parts of the curling community.
“I definitely think there needs to be a little better communication on those points,” Hartley admitted. “I think some people see that I’m the founder of both and they assume I’m therefore an owner and that I have some kind of stake there.
“But the reality is yes, I founded these two entities, but the Curling Players’ Association is for the players and by the players. And the Players’ Tour is a brand that I own to tie these events together.”
The federation’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). The Next Gen category includes Tanner Horgan and Mackenzie Zacharias.
Past failures call for caution
Scheduling difficulties, unexpected rule changes and a general lack of communication have long been problems for elite curlers. Many have longed for formal representation at the table with those in power in sport.
“I think when the day comes when the players can actually band together and work together, we’ll be treated better,” said Darren Molding, who plays third for Horgan. “Because right now I think players are being taken advantage of in certain scenarios.
“It’s because we don’t have a seat at the table and we don’t have a common goal.”
In the past, other associations of curling players were formed, but these groups did not last long.
A new attempt gained momentum a few years ago, but the COVID-19 pandemic stifled plans and efforts appear to have gone dormant. A curler associated with this group declined to comment on the recent developments.
Gushue, meanwhile, took a look at the new City Hall and said it made him “cautiously optimistic.”
“There are many questions that need to be answered,” he said. “I think if they get answered and they get answered right, I think we’re going to see that.
“But I don’t want to speak out 100 percent for it at this point.”
Hartley said it’s up to the players how he will ultimately commit to the federation. At the moment he is concentrating on organization and communication, hoping to get some parts ready for next season.
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-sufficient federation, owned and operated by the players.
“It has to be completely separate,” said Brent Laing, who is second on Team Mike McEwen. “That was one of the things that came up on the call.
“It must be player-run, player-owned, and player-operated, and not have outside influence from people who have other interests in the game.”