Prince Albert hosts second annual Winter Thaw Classic Pickleball tournament

Nathan Reiter/Daily Herald. The Winter Thaw Classic Pickleball tournament saw competitors of all ages at the Alfred Jenkins Field House

Players from across Saskatchewan made their way to the Alfred Jenkins Field House for the second annual Winter Thaw Classic pickleball tournament on Saturday.

The sport of pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. According to information released by Pickleball Canada in January 2023, 11% of Canadian households reported at least one member who played the sport at least once a month.

Stefan Graner is one of the organizers for the Winter Thaw Classic. He says the sport of pickleball has grown significantly within Prince Albert. 

“It’s been around since the 1960s but it really has been starting to spread in the last four or five years here in Prince Albert. I think within the last two years we had probably a hundred percent increase in our membership and it’s just taken off all over the world.”

On Saturday, there were participants from Saskatoon, Prince Albert, Regina and Melfort competing in the tournament. Graner says there was also a wide age range of athletes participating in the event.

“Pickleball has come a little bit into different age groups, so we have the youngest ones here are 11 and the oldest one is probably in their early 80s and they have been playing in the tournament as well, so all age groups, it’s still tricky to find time for court time for people who are still working, but we’re working on that, so it’s coming together slowly, but steadily.”

The Winter Thaw Classic was organized by Pickleball Prince Albert alongside the Saskatchewan Senior Fitness Association. Graner says one major point the organizing committee was aiming for was the ability to have every player play a significant number of games, regardless of result.

“We started organizing this in January, we figured out a play format that would be a little bit different from what usually happens in tournaments where you get eliminated pretty quickly. We wanted to make sure that this tournament has a lot of gameplay. Everybody who played the first round moved on to the second round split into the winners and the consolation bracket. Everybody got at least seven, eight or nine games.”