Team Canada skip Kerri Einarson yells to her teammates at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary, Alta., Friday, Feb. 19, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Defending champion Einarson wins opener as bubble play begins at Hearts

Einarson 7 Zacharias 3

CALGARY — Defending champ Kerri Einarson opened play in the curling bubble with a 7-3 win over wild-card entry Mackenzie Zacharias at the Canadian women’s curling championship on Friday night.

With cardboard fan cutouts occupying the first few rows at a spectator-free Markin MacPhail Centre, the preliminary round kicked off with a four-game schedule as elite domestic curling returned after a long absence.

Einarson won the 2020 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Moose Jaw, Sask., but did not play at the world women’s championship last March after it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Only a handful of bonspiels were completed over the last year. A few provincial/territorial championships were played in recent weeks but many teams were invited to the Hearts by their respective associations.

In other Draw 1 games, Kerry Galusha of the Northwest Territories dropped an 8-7 decision to Krysta Burns of Northern Ontario. Wild-card entry Beth Peterson dumped Yukon’s Laura Eby 10-2 and Alberta’s Laura Walker beat Nova Scotia’s Jill Brothers 10-5.

The event will be the season debut for several players as travel restrictions, COVID-19 concerns and club closures have stymied the regular calendar.

Modified rules and adjustments were made in parts of the country when the sport returned this season but regular play — two sweepers could be used, for example — was in effect Friday night.

Team alternates, coaches and game umpires wore face masks near the team benches. Players had the option to use them during game action but most did not.

Many curling traditions have been eschewed due to the pandemic. So no opening Hearts ceremony, no bagpipes and no post-game handshakes.

One noticeable change was that electronic hog-line sensors on the stone handles were not used due to equipment delays as a result of the pandemic. The honour system was in effect and officials can observe the hog line if requested, Curling Canada said.

Curlers will be shuttled between the hotel and venue to maintain the bubble setup. Players have had three recent COVID-19 tests and another round of testing is set for the next few days.

Einarson’s Manitoba-based team held the No. 1 spot in the country when the national ranking system was paused last season.

She was in full control against Zacharias, a 2020 world junior champion, who picked up the second of three wild-card entries in the expanded 18-team field.

Three draws were scheduled for Saturday. Round-robin play will continue within the nine-team pools through Thursday night.

The championship pool begins Feb. 26 and a three-team playoff setup will lead to the final on Feb. 28.

The winner will earn a berth in the Olympic Trials in November and return as Team Canada at the 2022 Hearts.

Normally the champion would also represent Canada at the world women’s championship. However, the 2021 event – which was to serve as the main Olympic qualifier – in late March at Schaffhausen, Switzerland was recently cancelled.

The World Curling Federation may create a replacement event, likely in the early autumn next season. If that’s the case, Canadian representatives will be determined at a later date and the national champions would be “factored into” the decision.

The March 5-14 Tim Hortons Brier will be next up in the bubble. In all, six competitions will be held in the hub environment through late April.

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

Just Posted

Erika Fetterly, owner of EFP Studios, recently launched the Let Them Have A Voice campaign. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta photographer’s campaign aims to give youths a voice

An Innisfail photographer is giving a platform to young central Albertans so… Continue reading

Chopped Canada-winning chef Pete Sok is trying to focus on the future as he reopens Boulevard Restaurant and Lounge in the Holiday Inn on Gasoline Alley during the pandemic. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer’s celebrity chef looks past the pandemic with new restaurant opportunity

Pete Sok is reopening Boulevard Restaurant — and betting on the future

The Red Deer Rebels hosted the Medicine Hat Tigers in the first game of the shortened 2020-21 season on Friday. The two teams faced off again in Medicine Hat Saturday (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Red Deer Rebels fall to Medicine Hat Tigers on Saturday

Tigers 7 Rebels 2 The Red Deer Rebels have lost two straight… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Premier slams vandalism after slur painted on MLA’s office window

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is condemning alleged vandalism at the… Continue reading

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Machin waits to appear at the Standing Committee on Finance on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 1, 2016. Executives who engage in so-called "vaccine tourism" show both an ethical disregard for those less fortunate and a surprising lack of business acumen, experts argue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine tourism is both unethical and bad for business, experts say

Executives who engage in so-called “vaccine tourism” show both an ethical disregard… Continue reading

Edmonton Oilers' Jesse Puljujarvi (13) and Toronto Maple Leafs' Justin Holl (3) battle in front as goalie Jack Campbell (36) makes the save during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, February 27, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
No Matthews, no problem: Minus NHL goal leader, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 4-0

Leafs 4 Oilers 0 EDMONTON — The Maple Leafs knew even with… Continue reading

Leader of the Government in the House of Commons Pablo Rodriguez rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Gummed-up bills in House of Commons: harbinger of a federal election?

OTTAWA — All federal party leaders maintain they don’t want an election… Continue reading

The Pornhub website is shown on a computer screen in Toronto on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Pornhub policies reveal legal gaps and lack of enforcement around exploitive videos

OTTAWA — Serena Fleites was in seventh grade when a sexually explicit… Continue reading

Sean Hoskin stands on a neighbourhood street in Halifax on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Hoskin was diagnosed with COVID-19 almost a year ago with symptoms that still persist. Some provinces have established programs to deal with long-term sufferers but Atlantic Canada, with relatively low numbers of patients, has yet to provide a resource to assist them. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
On East Coast, exhausted COVID-19 ‘long haulers’ hope specialized clinics will emerge

HALIFAX — On evenings when Sean Hoskin collapses into bed, heart pounding… Continue reading

Ottawa Senators goaltender Matt Murray (30) stands in his crease as Calgary Flames left wing Andrew Mangiapane (88), left to right, defenceman Rasmus Andersson (4), Matthew Tkachuk (19), Mikael Backlund (11) and Mark Giordano (5) celebrate a goal during second period NHL action in Ottawa on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Calgary Flames beat Ottawa 6-3 to end Senators’ three-game win streak

Flames 6 Senators 3 OTTAWA — The Calgary Flames used a balanced… Continue reading

Crosses are displayed in memory of the elderly who died from COVID-19 at the Camilla Care Community facility during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on November 19, 2020. The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection is likely to be much higher than recorded because of death certificates don't always list the virus as the cause of a fatality, experts say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Death certificates don’t accurately reflect the toll of the pandemic, experts say

The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection… Continue reading

Most Read