Potential bubble venue provides excitement for competitive curlers
It has been an up and down start to the competitive curling season across Canada due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, some hope has appeared for the top rinks in the country earlier this week as Curling Canada announced their intentions to hold the Scotties Tournament of Hearts and the Tim Hortons Brier in a bubble venue at the Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary later this winter.
“When Curling Canada made the announcement about having a hub city, it was a real bright spot not just for the curlers, but for all of the fans. It’s exciting to know what we will have something to look forward to in the new year,” Kirk Muyres, who is the second for Matt Dunstone’s rink from Regina said on Friday.
“Like everyone else over the last little while, it’s been bad news for us in curling as we’ve seen the numbers of cases go up, and we’re all trying to do whatever we can at the moment to try and contain the spread of the virus.”
In addition to the Scotties and the Brier, Curling Canada also announced that the Men’s World Curling Championship and the National Mixed Doubles Championship will also be held in the bubble.
The Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling is also planning to hold their Players’ Championship and Champions Cup competitions in Calgary.
“That’s huge for all of us to know that we’re going to have these major events to take part in, especially as we are all trying to get into the Olympic Trials next year in Saskatoon,” Muyres said. “You need to have that high-level of competition during the course of a season, especially if you are lucky enough to make it to the Olympics and take on the best teams in the world.”
“It’s been a strange year but we truly appreciate all the hard work that has gone into making this happen,” Emma Miskew, who is the third for Rachel Homan’s rink from Ottawa, added in a prepared statement. “We are really looking forward to it.”
A handful of cashspiels were held throughout Canada during the fall, but many events were cancelled over the course of the last month due to the rise in COVID-19 cases.
“We had planned on taking part in two more Saskatchewan Curling Tour events after Christmas, but we knew that wasn’t going to be possible with the way the numbers were going,” Muyres said. “We’ve been communicating a lot in regards to our off-ice stuff, such as our mental work and team dynamics, but there’s certainly been a lot of excitement this week with the news about the hub.
“A lot of people have asked us what we’re doing right now, and I tell them that curlers are just like everyone else in Canada and around the world. We’re just taking things day-to-day and week-to-week.”
One of the biggest question marks at the moment is how each province and territory will determine their representatives for the national championships.
CURLSASK announced on Wednesday evening that the men’s and women’s provincial playdowns will not take place in Estevan as originally planned, but that they have four different scenarios in place to determine Saskatchewan’s representatives at the Scotties and the Brier.
“They (CURLSASK) have been really good in their communication with us in terms of what things could look like,” Muyres said. “I know that they have until Jan. 7 to make a final decision, so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens, especially with what things are like in Saskatchewan.
“I think all of the teams in the province want a chance to compete for the Tankard. That’s what curling is all about that setting is always an exciting part in the journey to make it to the Brier.”
As of Friday afternoon, British Columbia and Quebec are the only provinces to confirm their plans to hold their playdowns in late January, though that will depend on COVID-19 restrictions.
TSN’s Bob Weeks reported earlier this week that the Northern Ontario Curling Association is expected to cancel its playdowns and send defending provincial champions Krista McCarville and Brad Jacobs to the Scotties and Brier respectively.