Team Saskatchewan skip Matt Dunstone flips his broom in frustration following a shot as they take on Team Alberta in the playoffs at the Brier in Kingston, Ont., on Saturday, March 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Team Matt Dunstone considers relocation due to restrictions in Saskatchewan

Team Matt Dunstone considers relocation due to restrictions in Saskatchewan

Feeling hamstrung due to provincial COVID-19 restrictions that limit their ability to compete, the members of Team Matt Dunstone are considering moving out of Saskatchewan to try to salvage their season.

Frustration had been building since Saskatchewan-based curling teams were advised this month that they had to compete, train and practise within provincial boundaries due to the pandemic. Things hit a boiling point with the last-minute postponement of a men’s tour event this weekend in Regina.

It has become an untenable situation for the seventh-ranked Dunstone side, which won bronze at last season’s Tim Hortons Brier. With the Olympic Trials just over a year away, the foursome is determined to build up for it with quality training and competition.

“We’re being totally handcuffed in our ability to do so,” Dunstone told The Canadian Press. “It seems like no matter what we do, we just find another brick wall to walk into.

“We’re totally searching, just grasping for any sort of string that we can try to pull to make something happen at this point.”

The team met Friday morning to discuss next steps. Vice-skip Braeden Moskowy said they explored all possible options for playing in Saskatchewan but that a move west – potentially to Alberta – was likely.

“Enough is enough,” Moskowy said. “We’ve got to try to do what we think is best for our careers and gives us the best chance to get better. At this point, it looks like a move to Calgary is probably the only way to go about this.”

CurlSask, the provincial curling association, said in a statement Friday that the men’s event and women’s tour stop in Martensville, Sask., were postponed “out of an abundance of caution.”

“The decision was reached based on the advice of the Government of Saskatchewan’s Business Response Team and the recent increases in COVID-19 cases,” the statement said. “We appreciate the understanding and co-operation of organizers, clubs and athletes who continue to do their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We will continue to review protocols in consultation with health authorities to ensure that we are in the best possible position to keep our sport and our province safe.”

Saskatchewan reported 33 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday and has 511 active cases overall.

Several top domestic curling events have been cancelled or postponed due to the pandemic, forcing many elite teams to focus on regional events. Clubs and teams have been following return-to-play guidelines from Curling Canada while respecting any provincial/territorial or local restrictions.

With limited options for competition, Team Dunstone spearheaded the creation of a five-team Vaderstad Saskatchewan Super Series event last weekend in Regina, a competition that went off without a hitch.

A total of 24 teams were entered in this weekend’s bonspiel at the Highland Curling Club. With six sheets at the facility, a maximum of 48 players would be in the rink at one time.

Provincial guidelines say that for sports where participants are unable to adhere to physical distancing, groupings or so-called mini-leagues should be formed. Mini-leagues can be comprised of multiple teams, but no more than 50 individuals.

Dunstone said the Saskatchewan Health Authority approved the 24-team event two weeks ago and he didn’t understand why a postponement was needed the night before opening day.

“We feel like we’re doing what we’re told and doing it to the best of our abilities and yet when push comes to shove, I guess that’s not good enough for them,” he said.

It wasn’t clear whether the fact that 96 curlers were set to participate over the weekend was a factor in the decision. A message left with the Saskatchewan Health Authority was not immediately returned.

“Every time we turn around there’s a new rule that comes out of thin air being thrown at us with no real rhyme or reason,” Moskowy said.

“A lot of people are left scratching their heads at this one,” Dunstone added.

CurlSask executive director Ashley Howard was not available for an interview.

Adding to Moskowy’s frustration was that while competitive curlers have been restricted, 12-sheet clubs have been running with full leagues and junior hockey is returning in the province.

The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s pre-season is underway with 150 fans allowed to attend games. The Western Hockey League is set to begin Jan. 8.

“They’re sharing sweat and blood and all that,” Moskowy said. “We’re curling. We’re not even coming close or touching the other team. That’s what’s frustrating for us.”

The Dunstone rink originally planned to play bonspiels this fall in Red Deer, Alta., and Penticton, B.C., but have been unable to confirm their participation.

Dunstone, Moskowy, second Kirk Muyres and lead Dustin Kidby all work from home and could continue remote work from out of province if needed, Moskowy said.

“We’re not too sure on all the logistics but we know if we make the move out to Calgary in the next week or so, that we’ll at least be guaranteeing ourselves a tour season up until Christmas,” he said.

The event postponement also drew the ire of Saskatoon’s Colton Flasch, who’s skipping a new team this season after his departure from Team Kevin Koe.

Flasch said he was frustrated with the “lack of consistency within our government” and “the control they have over us.”

“All I know as of now is they changed their minds on how many people are allowed at curling events,” he said via text. “It was 10 per sheet and then all of a sudden they let us know the night before the event we cannot have more than 50 people.

“As you can see, my frustration (is) there is curling in every province but Saskatchewan and all curlers can travel but Saskatchewan. We are the only province doing this so it’s just frustrating.”

The Saskatchewan Health Authority says that in addition to interprovincial travel not being permitted for competition, out-of-province teams are also not permitted to play in Saskatchewan bonspiels.

It wasn’t clear whether a relocation would affect Team Dunstone’s ability to defend its provincial title at the Feb. 3-7 SaskTel Tankard in Estevan, Sask. A message left with CurlSask on that subject wasn’t immediately returned.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 23, 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