Team Northern Ontario skip Brad Jacobs takes on Team Quebec at the Brier in Kingston, Ont., on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. The weekend did little to settle the uneasiness that executive director Bobby Ray was feeling after the Northern Ontario Curling Association cancelled its playdowns and announced it would invite last season's winners to compete at the national championships in the Calgary bubble. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Northern Ontario to use previous results to determine entries for nationals

Northern Ontario to use previous results to determine entries for nationals

The weekend did little to settle the uneasiness that executive director Bobby Ray was feeling after the Northern Ontario Curling Association cancelled its playdowns and announced it would invite last season’s winners to compete at the national championships in the Calgary bubble.

It’s believed to be the first time that Northern Ontario has not held provincial championships in the organization’s history, the NOCA said. Board members voted to cancel or postpone a variety of competitions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was very challenging,” Ray said Monday. “In fact, as we have this conversation my stomach still feels a little bit unwell. That’s not uncommon with the last couple days. I’m feeling some heartbreak.”

The decision affects a number of junior competitions and senior events.

At the elite team level, reigning Northern Ontario champion Team Brad Jacobs has accepted the invitation to represent Northern Ontario at the Brier. Team Krista McCarville received an invite for the Scotties but her rink is “presently deliberating due to travel restrictions,” the association said.

The prospect of competition cancellations had been discussed extensively in recent months, Ray said, but that didn’t make the final decision any easier.

“We’ve had conversations that were hours and hours long,” he said. “I saw people involved in the decision shed tears at some moments. It’s not a decision that anybody was wanting to make.”

Longtime curling coach Rick Lang, who has worked with the Jacobs and McCarville teams, believes it was the right call, especially given the many travel restrictions in place throughout the sizable Northern Ontario region.

“I think most teams — even the ones that don’t get to go — are agreeing with it because a lot of teams would have had huge challenges in actually getting to a provincial championship (with) the health risks that are there,” he said from Thunder Bay, Ont.

The representation model is one that other provinces and territories may end up following as well in this most unusual curling season.

The 16-team fields at the Scotties and Brier are primarily filled with winners from playdowns that are traditionally held in January and February. Some provinces have zone and regional qualifiers before their championships too.

However, with COVID-19 numbers on the rise throughout the country and many curling clubs closed altogether, many play-in events are not on firm ground.

Saskatchewan’s curling association recently announced that Estevan, Sask., will not host its Jan. 30-Feb. 7 playdowns as scheduled. An alternate plan was not unveiled, but CurlSask said it has four scenarios to determine representatives for the nationals.

The Quebec playdowns set for Jan. 24-31 have been scrubbed. Quebec Curling is holding a Jan. 28-31 timeslot for a potential modified event if the provincial situation “significantly improves in the New Year.”

If required, teams would be picked for the Brier and Scotties through a selection process involving its board of directors and a Curling Canada committee, Quebec Curling said.

Other provinces and territories are said to be reviewing their options and protocols in case backup plans are needed.

It should make for a wild, wacky and unprecedented leadup to the start of bubble play around Feb. 20.

“I think there’s a lot of pent-up competitiveness in all of the teams ,” said Lang. “Regardless of who ends up playing, it’s going to be a great lineup there.

“I really think that a lot of people at home are eager to see some great curling, be entertained, and get their minds off this pandemic. So I really hope it happens.”

Dates have not been finalized for most events but the Scotties will likely go first, followed by the Brier, mixed doubles, world men’s championship and two Grand Slams.

“It’s not the way that anyone was dreaming it up or that anybody had thought about a Brier or Scotties being before,” Ray said. “But I think if Curling Canada has a safe and responsible way of hosting a national championship for the athletes, for the fans, for the sponsors, for everyone involved, I think it’s going to be quite a real feel-good story.”

If McCarville chooses to decline the invitation, the NOCA will use last season’s results to determine the next invitation, Ray said. In that case, provincial finalist Team Krysta Burns would get an invite.

Emmett Smith represented Northern Ontario at the first Brier in 1927 at Toronto. The association even held provincial playdowns when the Brier was not contested from 1943-45 due to the Second World War.

Northern Ontario was represented at the Scotties for the first time in 2015.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2020.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press

curling

Just Posted

Mayor Rick Bonnett. (Screenshot)
WATCH: Ponoka council calls on gov’t to support rural small businesses

Ponoka council is calling on the provincial government to increase funding to… Continue reading

Pumpjacks draw oil out of the ground near Olds, Alta., Thursday, July 16, 2020. A new report suggests the economic impact of the pandemic led to a massive increase in federal aid to Canada's oil patch. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta economy ‘still reeling,’ says ATB Financial

Alberta’s economy is still feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and… Continue reading

Ella Stoner, five, is ready to cut off her hair and donate it to A Child’s Voice Foundation. (Photo by Lauren Stoner Photography)
Central Alberta girl to donate her ‘princess hair’ to A Child’s Voice Foundation

A five-year-old girl from Rimbey has never had a haircut before. Now,… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta adds 1,195 new COVID-19 cases Saturday

Red Deer has dropped to 760 active cases

The Minnesota Wild celebrate their overtime victory over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of a first-round NHL hockey playoff series Sunday, May 16, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)
Eriksson Ek’s OT goal lifts Wild past Vegas 1-0

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Joel Eriksson Ek’s goal at 3:20 of overtime… Continue reading

Toronto Blue Jays' Lourdes Gurriel Jr., celebrates after hitting a double against the Philadelphia Phillies during the third inning of a baseball game Sunday, May 16, 2021, in Dunedin, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Girardi, Segura have confrontation as Phils lose to Jays

Blue Jays 10 Phillies 8 DUNEDIN, Fla. (AP) — The injury-depleted Philadelphia… Continue reading

New York Islanders' Kyle Palmieri (21) returns to the bench after scoring during the first period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Sunday, May 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Palmieri’s OT winner lifts Isles by Penguins 4-3 in Game 1

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The New York Islanders brought Kyle Palmieri home at… Continue reading

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearing to examine an update from Federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19, Tuesday, May 11, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via AP)
Fauci says pandemic exposed ‘undeniable effects of racism’

ATLANTA (AP) — The immunologist who leads the COVID-19 response in the… Continue reading

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, participates in a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Feds face growing calls for answers after general overseeing vaccine effort sidelined

OTTAWA — The federal Liberal government is facing growing calls for answers… Continue reading

Conservative MP Ron Liepert rises during Question Period on Parliament Hill, Friday, March 10, 2017 in Ottawa. Ron Liepert says these days, the phone calls and emails from people wanting to talk about his party's climate plan have slowed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Alberta MP pitches Conservative carbon price with a 24-pack of Pilsner

OTTAWA — Ron Liepert says these days, the phone calls and emails… Continue reading

A sign marks Stairs Place in the Hydrostone district in the North end of Halifax on Thursday, May 13, 2021. The street was named for William Grant Stairs, a Canadian explorer from Halifax who helped lead some of the most controversial expeditions through the African continent. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Where the streets have explorers’ names, some Halifax residents call for change

HALIFAX — When builders created Halifax’s distinctive Hydrostone neighbourhood more than a… Continue reading

Riley Oldford, 16, suffers from cerebral palsy. He was the first youth in the Northwest Territories to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Here he receives the needle from nurse practitioner Janie Neudorf in Yellowknife on Thursday May 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Braden
People with disabilities even more alone during pandemic: cerebral palsy spokeswoman

YELLOWKNIFE — Riley Oldford is usually out playing sledge hockey or hanging… Continue reading

Most Read