CurlSask weighs options as championships bubble announced
REGINA -- Curling Canada is moving its biggest competitions of the 2021 season to Calgary.
The Brier and the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, which are the men’s and women’s national curling championships, will be hosted at WinSport in a bubble format.
“It almost feels like the light is at the end of the tunnel, even though it’s far from,” said Matt Dunstone, a skip who helped Saskatchewan earn a bronze medal at the 2020 Brier Championship.
Curlers would be isolated in a hotel before and during the competition.
They would also be required to self-isolate for at least a week before entering the bubble. The hub is built on models used in the NBA and the NHL, with similar quarantine and testing models.
“Completely cut off from everybody, you’re basically restricted to your team,” said Dunstone.
Despite rising COVID-19 case numbers in Canada, Curling Canada’s Medical Lead Dr. Bob McCormack said they’re working closely with the provincial health officers and the Public Health Agency of Canada.
They haven’t announced dates yet to allow for flexibility.
“We are confident that what we’re doing is actually going to make sure that the public is not put at risk at all,” he said. “That’s one of the advantages of a bubble.”
Jessie Hunkin plays second for Team Robyn Silvernagle and has represented Saskatchewan at the previous two Tournament of Hearts.
“In a time of a lot of unexpected things, this is a very welcome surprise,” said Hunkin, who won a bronze medal with Saskatchewan in 2019. “The whole bubble concept is probably one of the safest places to be during this time.”
Both Hunkin and Dunstone are defending provincial champions in Saskatchewan.
However, this season’s qualification process hasn’t been determined yet.
Curling Canada is letting provincial bodies decide the format. For CurlSask, Saskatchewan’s governing body of curling, the best-case scenario is a playoff-style tournament.
“Our goal is to try and have games to play to compete to qualify,” said Pat Simmons, CurlSask’s director of high performance.
However, the recent shutdown won’t allow any competition until at least Dec 17.
Normally, provincial championships don’t start until January, but there’s concern it won’t be allowed in time for qualification tournaments.
“That’s obviously not possible with curling clubs being closed down and people not being able to compete on any level,” Dunstone noted.
If the competition can’t occur, CurlSask will still send a team. How that’s decided has yet to be determined.
“We’ll have to talk about it and have meetings and make some very difficult decisions obviously,” said Simmons, who says CurlSask has formed a competition committee to discuss the matter.
Hunkin and Dunstone are opposed to any outcome that determines a Saskatchewan representative without competition.
“I really don’t feel good about that, no matter what team it is that’s decided. I think every team should have a chance for the right to represent,” Hunkin said.
CurlSask said if they aren’t allowed to run a competition by Jan. 7, they’ll look at other options for selecting a Brier and Scottie's representative.
Curling Canada hasn’t announced dates for the National Championships. However, they say they’re aiming for the originally intended start dates of Feb. 19 for the Scotties and March 6 for the Brier.