Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Stoughton would ignore odd heckling rule

Can't see any curler taking advantage of obscure regulation

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EDMONTON -- Picture this:

It's Friday night at the Brier, an extra end between Manitoba and B.C. and Jeff Stoughton climbs into the hack, needing to draw the full eight-foot with the final rock to clinch second place for his team and simultaenously eliminate a red-hot Alberta team that had just moments earlier won their sixth game in a row over previously undefeated Ontario to keep the hometown team's slim playoff hopes alive.

Not hard to imagine -- in fact, that was exactly the situation at Rexall Place Friday night.

But here's the wrinkle -- instead of making his last-rock draw in the extra end, like Stoughton did, let's suppose he didn't make it. And then let's suppose Stoughton complained to a Canadian Curling Association on-ice official that he never had a fair chance, that the thunderous -- and unprecedented -- roar and heckles of a partisan Alberta crowd during his delivery had interfered with his shot.

What then? Well, it turns out that the CCA officials were wondering the exact same thing themselves. And a CCA official said Saturday that if Stoughton had asked, they'd have given serious consideration to allowing the Manitoba skip to re-throw his final rock in the extra end -- or even the errant final stone he threw in similar conditions at the end of the 10th end -- because of all the crowd heckling.

It's in the Curling Rules book: "If an extreme circumstance occurs during the delivery that distracts the thrower to a significant degree, the stone may be redelivered prior to the opposition delivering their next stone."

So imagine that -- Stoughton misses against B.C. to advance Alberta to a tiebreaker game, but is then given a second chance because of crowd interference and this time makes it, eliminating Alberta.

There's a lot of concrete in Rexall Place, but you have to figure that whatever could burn would have burned.

Now, CCA oficials were careful on Saturday not to say they'd have necessarily granted the request for a re-do, simply that there were exceptional circumstances in play and they'd have seriously considered it.

Manitoba third Jon Mead said an on-ice official told his team the same thing after the game. "The official went up to Jeff or somebody and said had he missed that draw against B.C....the amount of noise and the way it was coming down, there's some sort of rule about a big enough distraction being given a do-over.

"I don't think Jeff in a million years would have taken it, if he would have missed... I've never heard of it, I've never seen it. There was discussion about it, but we didn't know about it before we threw."

Stoughton says he cannot imagine any curler ever availing themselves of a re-throw in those circumstances -- including himself. "I don't think anyone in the curling fraternity would ever pull out that rule," Stoughton said.

While both Stoughton and Mead said they have no difficulties with boisterous crowds at curling events, they also both felt Friday night crossed a line. And they weren't alone, said Mead.

"I know there were a lot of embarassed people who came up to us after the game and said, 'On behalf of the city of Edmonton, we apologize,' " said Mead.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 10, 2013 B7

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