Curlers sweep a rock during in Brandon, Man., on March 5, 2019. Canada’s top curling teams are trying to cobble together a competitive fall season despite the COVID-19 pandemic decimating the calendar.The Grand Slam of Curling was whittled from six events this winter to just two scheduled for next April and November’s Canada Cup of Curling was cancelled, creating a competitive void for the country’s elite curlers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Canada’s top curling teams scramble for competition amid pandemic

A slew of September and October bonspiels across Canada called off

Canada’s top curling teams are trying to cobble together a competitive fall season despite the COVID-19 pandemic decimating the calendar.

The Grand Slam of Curling was whittled from six events this winter to just two scheduled for next April and November’s Canada Cup of Curling was cancelled, creating a competitive void for the country’s elite curlers.

A slew of September and October bonspiels across Canada have been called off, but some remain on the calendar.

Curling Canada’s return-to-play guidelines provide a template for events to go ahead with several modifications on and off the ice to prevent the spread of the virus.

“We want to play as much as we can under whatever guidelines are set and get some competition in,” said skip Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

“That’s about all we can hope for. It’s not about going out and trying to win prize money and points. None of that stuff really matters.

“It’s about finding some teams and competition. It’s a weird feeling to not be able to get out there and play like we normally do.”

The annual Stu Sells Tankards in Oakville, Ont., and Toronto were both moved to Waterloo, Ont., for the weekends of Oct. 2-4 and Oct. 9-12.

Jacobs, John Epping, Glenn Howard, Jennifer Jones and Rachel Homan are among teams entered to play at the Kitchener-Waterloo Granite Club.

Reigning Canadian champions Brad Gushue and Kerri Einarson are not.

Gushue, from St. John’s, N.L., said his team will likely enter Atlantic Canada events only for the rest of 2020.

If the three-time national champion and his teammates left the region to curl, they would have to quarantine for 14 days upon return under current provincial public health regulations.

“To go play a four-day event and have to quarantine for 14, the cost-benefit analysis doesn’t add up,” Gushue said.

“We’re probably just going to play three events where typically we’d play in seven to 10 events.”

Epping, from Toronto, also keeps his expectations modest.

“I think we’d be very happy on the men’s side of it, if we could fit in five ‘spiels before Christmas,” Epping said. “Generally it’s nine or 10.”

Einarson, from Gimli, Man., is planning to enter November bonspiels in Morris, Man., and Okotoks, Alta.

Manitoba requires people who return to or enter the province from anywhere east of Terrace Bay, Ont., to observe a 14-day quarantine, but there is an exemption for “professional athletes and team members” as long as they’re asymptomatic.

Einarson is a rehabilitation assistant who works with the elderly, so she’s nevertheless proceeding with caution.

“I just have to be quite careful because of my job,” Einarson said. “We’re going to try and stick close to home. We haven’t really discussed going east at all.”

Alberta’s curlers have worked with their provincial association to set up an in-province circuit that includes new and previously-scheduled events.

The bonspiels will also serve as qualifiers for the provincial championships.

“Curling Alberta got behind us to do up safety documents and all that stuff,” said Ben Hebert, who plays lead for Calgary’s Kevin Koe.

“We have, five, six really good teams in Alberta to give us some great competition, so that’s exciting.”

Curling Canada’s game modifications include only one sweeper on a delivered stone and no sweeping in the rings, but high-performance director Gerry Peckham says what’s allowed at events will ultimately depend on what the province, municipality and even club deem safe.

Competitive curling could look vastly different across the country this fall and early winter.

“Sweeping-related realities will vary on a province by province, region by region, club by club basis,” Peckham said. “There’s way more grey than any other colour at this moment in time.

“We’ve already heard about situations where curling clubs have put in more stringent rules than a provincial or regional health authority has.”

Gushue and Epping see the sense of one sweeper on a delivered stone in recreational leagues, but argue they and their teammates will travel together, stay in the same accommodations and eat meals together, and thus would form their own cohort or “bubble.”

“We’re not adding more risk by sweeping together,” Gushue said.

Hebert says teams need to be prepared for different sweeping rules at Alberta’s bonspiels.

“If we go to the Airdrie club and they want us to sweep with one, I get to rest my shoulders,” he said.

“We’ve already been told there are events that they definitely will be going with two sweepers, but they’re going to enforce social distancing from other teams on the ice.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 18, 2020.

curling

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 9, 2020 in Ottawa. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be joining European Union leaders for a virtual summit, where they are expected to discuss their shared commitment to international co-operation and what that means ahead of Tuesday’s U.S presidential election. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, EU leaders meet ahead of U.S. election to reinforce support of world order

Trudeau speaking with the European Union’s two top political leaders

The Hub on Ross has announced it has permanently closed. (Photo courtesy The Hub on Ross Facebook page)
The Hub on Ross in Red Deer to permanently close

The Hub on Ross in Red Deer permanently closed on Wednesday. “The… Continue reading

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

Sergio Santos, right, of the Philadelphia Union, loses the race to the ball against goalie Quentin Westberg of Toronto FC during the first half of an MLS match Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Chester, Pa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Charles Fox/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP
Frustrated coach Greg Vanney defends banged-up Toronto FC after second straight loss

Frustrated coach Greg Vanney defends banged-up Toronto FC after second straight loss

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Robert and third baseman Justin Turner pose for a group picture after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the baseball World Series in Game 6 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. Sporting venues and games certainly have super-spreader potential but that risk can be minimized with buy-in from all involved, experts said Wednesday. The subject moved into the spotlight Wednesday after L.A. Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner tested positive for COVID-19 at the World Series. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Eric Gay
Sports’ buy-in needed to prevent super-spreader potential: experts

Sports’ buy-in needed to prevent super-spreader potential: experts

In this image released by Fox, from left, Doug E. Doug, Malik Yoba, Rawle D. Lewis, John Candy and Leon are shown in a scene from the film "Cool Runnings." THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, Fox
Not cool: Jamaican bobsledder wants thief to return stolen shell to Calgary bar

An original member of the Jamaican bobsled team featured in the 1993… Continue reading

Speedskater Ivanie Blondin trains at the Olympic Oval in Calgary on October 17, 2016. Canada's long-track speedskating team is chasing ice to Fort St. John, B.C. The country's top speedskaters have been without ice in Calgary's Olympic Oval since early September because of a mechanical failure there. World champions Ivanie Blondin, Graeme Fish and Ted-Jan Bloemen are among 50 people including coaches and support staff travelling to northern B.C. for a 15-day training camp starting Nov. 1. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canadian long-track speedskating team finds temporary home in B.C.

Canadian long-track speedskating team finds temporary home in B.C.

The "Great One," Wayne Gretzky, left, holds up a banner bearing his number with some help from his friend Joey Moss during a jersey retirement ceremony at Skyreach Centre in Edmonton on Firday, October 1, 1999. Former Oilers captain Kelly Buchberger remembers how a familiar friend would come "barrelling" into the visitors' dressing room when he returned to Edmonton. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Wayne Gretzky reflects on the life, legacy of Joey Moss: ‘He gave parents hope’

Wayne Gretzky reflects on the life, legacy of Joey Moss: ‘He gave parents hope’

Most Read