Curling Canada announces intentions for bubble venue in Calgary

Daily Herald File Photo Kerri Einarson and her rink from Gimli may have a chance to defend their Scotties Tournament of Hearts title this winter as Curling Canada hopes to hold the event in Calgary.

Scotties, Brier, World Men’s Championship and Canadian Mixed Doubles Championship planned for 2021

Calgary could become the curling capital of Canada in the new year.

Curling Canada announced on Tuesday afternoon that they are hoping to hold the 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, Tim Hortons Brier, World Men’s Curling Championship and the Canadian Mixed Doubles Curling Championship at the Markin MacPhail Centre, which is located at Winsport’s Canada Olympic Park.

“No one can deny that these are challenging times, and not just for curling, obviously, but we also know how important these events are to the athletes, to our partners and, of course, to our fans,” said Katherine Henderson, Chief Executive Officer of Curling Canada, in a prepared statement. “It is thanks largely to the commitment of our business partners that we are able to have ambitions of holding some of our events, giving the best curling fans in the world something to look forward to in the new year. The support from the City of Calgary and the Province of Alberta also was appreciated, as they share our aspirations of making these events happen as safely and responsibly as possible.

“That we have hopes of staging any events at all is thanks in large part to funding provided through Sport Canada to help national amateur sports organizations such as Curling Canada stay viable during the pandemic.”

Proposed dates for the four national events were not announced on Tuesday as Curling Canada is still working with local, provincial and national health authorities on set up the facility for a bubble environment.

The release did confirm that TSN will once again televise the events, which will be held without fans.

The format for the championships have yet to be finalized, but Curling Canada announced in their release that Brad Gushue and Kerri Einarson will be returning as Team Canada to defend their Brier and Scotties titles that they won in 2020.

“It’s exciting news, and as a team we’re very pleased to see that such a high priority is being placed on the safety of the athletes and those involved in putting on the championships,” Gushue said. “We’re looking forward to playing events — if there’s a safe way to play them, let’s get them played. Other sports are playing, and the NHL and NBA have shown that it can be done safely, so I believe we can do the same in curling.”

“It’s been a difficult few months, obviously, so I’m very happy to see these events taking place in a safe environment, and very happy for the fans as they will have something to look forward to,” Einarson added. “We understand these are strange times with some accompanying challenges that go beyond sport, but as athletes, we embrace challenges and will do our best to thrive under whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.”

The release also stated that the wild card play-in game will not take place this year, which has been used to determine the 16th and final spot in the Brier field over the last three seasons.

It was not announced what the field will look like for the Brier or the Scotties, as provincial curling associations are still determining whether or not they will have playdowns.

According to Bob Weeks of TSN, the Northern Ontario Curling Association is expected to announce later this week that they will not hold playdowns and let reigning champions Brad Jacobs and Krista McCarville represent the region at the Brier and Scotties respectively.

The scheduled hosts for the Curling Canada events that are now being held in Calgary have all deferred their duties for upcoming years.

Thunder Bay, Ont., who was set to host the Scotties this winter, will now hold the event in 2022.

In addition to the national championships, two other major competitions could be held in Calgary in 2021.

Devin Heroux of the CBC, who broke the news about the bubble on Twitter last month, reported that the Grand Slam of Curling will also be hosting two events in the bubble.