Red Deer Curling Classic returns next week

One of the biggest events on the Central Alberta curling calendar is set to hit the ice next week in Red Deer.

The annual Red Deer Curling Classic is back again, featuring 56 teams from the World Curling Tour will play in the four-day bonspiel from Nov. 15-18.

While the draw is solid for this year’s event, it is missing the notable big-name stars that once made it a must-see event.

Red Deer Curling Club manager Wade Thurber figures that’s due to the expansion of Grand Slam of Curling and the big money available at some of the events that tour hosts. For example, this weekend many of the best players in Canada are in Nova Scotia at the Tour Challenge.

That makes it a tough trip to get back to Red Deer in a week.

“The way competitive curling world has gone with these grand slam events, so spiels like ours– it changes (the curlers) schedule because they’re playing on national TV for bigger money, so you can’t blame them. So you’re almost like a Tier II type event and hopefully a feeder system,” Thurber said.

“Right now, anyone can win our spiel, because it’s equal. You don’t have the Kevin Koe’s or the teams you see in the slam.”

Of course, Thuber is hoping for a quieter affair this year after Ryan Fry’s shenanigans that turned the worlds’ gaze on the local spiel. None of Jamie Koe’s rink that was part of the order is back in Red Deer this time around.

“Hopefully have a tamer, nice relaxed event. That was a one-off, not typical of curling,” added Thurber.

Both defending champions, Robyn Silvernagle and her rink on the women’s side, along with Kody Hartung and his group, who won the men’s side are back this year.

Tyler Tardi and his team, the two-time world junior champions are in the mix in Red Deer this year along with Ted Appleman, a constant top team in the province. There are some local connections, too, including Kalem Hamilton, who is from Red Deer and now curls out of Edmonton. Shaun Meachem lived in Innisfail and curled in Red Deer leagues and now curls out of Saskatchewan. Kerr Drummond is playing with the Aaron Sluchinski team from Airdrie but works with juniors in Red Deer.

On the women’s side, Lacombe’s Marla Scherrer returns for a chance winning on home turf. Lacombe’s Chantelle Broderson is playing third for Selena Sturmay and Michelle Englot brings a rink from Saskatchewan. Englot has been to the Scotties 10 times and is one of the most successful curlers in Saskatchewan history. She is skipping for Sara England, the daughter of Canadian curling legend Sandra Schmirler.

In addition to showcasing some of the world’s elite curlers, the curling classic also helps support local curling programs by raising funds, including the Red Deer Junior Curling Academy.

The action kicks off on Nov. 15 at 9 a.m., with the finals set for 3 p.m. Nov. 18.

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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