Spat between Yukon and NWT curling associations remains unsettled

If only there were some sort of game or sport they could play to settle their differences. The Yukon and Northwest Territories curling associations are fighting for control of national-calibre players. And, until they find a

If only there were some sort of game or sport they could play to settle their differences.

The Yukon and Northwest Territories curling associations are fighting for control of national-calibre players.

And, until they find a way to fix things civilly, an inter-club feud will fester.

“This year the NWTCA made some changes, unbeknownst to us, that opened up their residency (requirements), so it is a lot easier for individuals from different locations to come into their area,” said Gord Zealand, president of the Yukon Curling Association.

Last October, the Northwest Territories relaxed its longstanding residency requirements for curlers representing the jurisdiction at national tournaments. Unlike the Yukon, players no longer need to be residents to represent the territory at the national level.

“(We) felt that by including a player from the Yukon it would provide the NWT team the opportunity to have a greater profile, which would increase participation in junior curling,” said Bill Aho, president of the NWTCA. “Recognizable mentors to encourage them participate in the sport – that was the thinking behind it.”

At the centre of the controversy is Yukon’s Jon Solberg, who is currently competing at the Brier in Calgary on Team Koe out of NWT. Solberg decided to join Team Koe after his Yukon rink split at the start of the season.

“It’s a convoluted thing that they brought my name into,” said Solberg, who is the business manager of the Whitehorse Curling Club.

“Nobody from the YCA has contacted me about the issue. The YCA asked the NWTCA to disqualify Team Koe from all territorial playdowns.

“There are members of the YCA who upset with myself for curling on a team out of NWTÉ They’re upset with me, but not one has come to me to ask for clarification or an explanation.”

The Yukon association’s request to disqualify Team Koe was ignored since all curling associations are allowed to make their own qualification rules.

“We don’t have any,” said Warren Hansen, director of event operations with the Canadian Curling Association, when asked what the national association’s rules are concerning residency. “It’s up to the provincial/territorial associations to determine the rules in regards to eligibility and residency.”

The friction between the two territories stems from their unique situations. Unlike all other areas, the Yukon and NWT rinks must compete for one available spot in the national tournaments, such as the Brier or the Scotties.

Last June, both associations began talks with the Canadian Curling Association hoping to change the current system. The Yukon and the NWT were hoping that each could eventually have their own spots and, thereby, not have to compete for one.

Zealand believes that the NWT’s rule change hurts that possibility.

“Why did a number of us go through all the work to make a case for separate entries if certain individuals feel (the old system) is OK?” said Zealand. “I know the bulk of curlers don’t approve of this.

“If you want to argue for separate entries, this isn’t the way to go about it.”

The way Solberg sees it, since there’s only one spot between the two territories, he’s representing both while on Team Koe.

“I’m representing the Yukon when I’m over there, as well as NWT,” said Solberg. “And I will be the best ambassador I can for the sport of curling.

“This is more about the two associations not getting along and being unable to communicate with each other, to be able to put the best product out on the ice to represent our area. Really the residency rule is between the two organizations to work out.”

Curlers on both sides of the argument do agree with each other on one aspect: nobody believes the friction between the associations is a good thing.

“I’d hate to see our membership start to decline,” said Solberg. “The YCA’s mandate for their organization as the governing body of curling is to promote in the Yukon. And I don’t know if the way they’re going about it is going to promote it in a positive light.”

Contact Tom Patrick at

tomp@yukon-news.com