Manitoba skip, Kerri Einarson reacts in the 10th end of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts final against Ontario, in Moose Jaw, Sask., Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. Uncertainty will be a prevalent theme at the Canadian women's curling championship due to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Upset Potential? Few curling options during season creates question marks at Scotties

Uncertainty will be a prevalent theme at the Canadian women’s curling championship.

The 2021 edition of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, which starts Friday in Calgary, will be a one-of-a-kind playdown that kicks off a run of six straight bonspiels at the Markin MacPhail Centre.

Most of the top Canadian teams are in the field but performance levels are difficult to predict given the many challenges over the last year.

Some teams have yet to play a competitive end this season. Others will be playing with new teammates for the first time. Limitations in the unusual bubble setting will test the discipline of all involved.

Normally season results make it easy to peg favourites. But given the unusual dynamics in play this time around, the 18-team event is essentially one big guessing game.

“There definitely could be a few upsets happening,” said Canada skip Kerri Einarson. “Basically every team is in the same boat. There are some teams in different provinces that have access to ice. For a few of us, we don’t have that option.”

Never have pre-competition practice sessions — scheduled to begin Thursday morning — been so important.

A few bonspiels were completed early in the season but there has been a tour event void in recent months. Pandemic restrictions, travel issues and curling club closures left many players hamstrung.

“They’re fresh and they’re going to want to get out there,” said curling broadcaster Cheryl Bernard. “It’s like thoroughbreds that have been in the barn all winter and they finally get a chance to play and run.

“I think it’s going to be a neat opportunity for all of us to see these players fresh.”

Some curlers resorted to throwing stones on frozen lakes in recent weeks just to get some slides in.

“It’ll be tough that way, not having been able to get in those reps that we normally have,” Einarson said in a recent interview. “We’ve usually played over 60 games by now, so that will be a change.”

Unlike a regular campaign where teams can find their rhythm at lower-level competitions, curlers will go right into the deep end at the Hearts.

Early results are critical in order to make the cut for the championship pool.

“I think you’re still going to get the teams going in that have the experience on paper, but I’m sure they’re very nervous too (because they) haven’t been able to train and play like (normal),” said Sherry Middaugh, who will coach Team Wild Card No. 1.

“So I think this year is probably the year for upsets or things that normally wouldn’t happen, which I think is exciting too for the sport.”

Three wild-card teams are in the expanded field this year and all are based in Manitoba.

Chelsea Carey is the substitute skip for Tracy Fleury on the first wild-card team. Fleury is staying home with her young daughter, who is receiving treatment for a medical condition.

Carey, a free agent this season, is a two-time national champion.

“You don’t want to settle and we know we’re not settling with Chelsea,” Middaugh said. “She’s going to fit in perfectly.”

World junior champion Mackenzie Zacharias will skip Team Wild Card No. 2 and Beth Peterson, a shade below Zacharias in the national rankings, will skip Team Wild Card No. 3.

A full round-robin will be played within the nine-team pools. The top four teams in each pool will advance to the two-day championship pool with records carried forward.

Einarson, Ontario’s Rachel Homan and Alberta’s Laura Walker are the top three seeds in Pool A. Team Wild Card No. 1 tops the Pool B seed list ahead of Manitoba’s Jennifer Jones and Corryn Brown of B.C.

Zacharias and Peterson are in Pool A along with Kerry Galusha of the Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia’s Jill Brothers, Northern Ontario’s Krysta Burns and Yukon’s Laura Eby.

Pool B is rounded out by Suzanne Birt of P.E.I., Sarah Hill of Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick’s Melissa Adams, Nunavut’s Lori Eddy, Quebec’s Laurie St-Georges and Saskatchewan’s Sherry Anderson.

The Page playoff will not be used this year. Instead only three teams will make the playoffs.

The second- and third-place teams will meet in an afternoon semifinal on Feb. 28 with the winner to face the first-place team in the final that night.

Einarson’s Canada rink is the betting favourite to win at 1.75-1, according to Bodog odds.

Team Wild Card No. 1 is next at 3-1, followed by Manitoba and Ontario at 5-1. Longshot picks include Nunavut at 50-1, Newfoundland and Labrador at 60-1 and Yukon at 80-1.

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

Just Posted

Lyn Radford, 2019 Canada Winter Games board chair, was named 2020 Sport Event Volunteer of the Year at the Prestige Awards. (File photo by Advocate staff)
WATCH: Lyn Radford wins award for volunteer efforts

The board chair of the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer… Continue reading

A candlelight vigil will be held in Red Deer on Thursday to honour the 350-plus people killed in the Easter bombing attack in Sri Lanka. Contributed photo
Candlelight vigil planned for deaths linked to Olymel COVID-19 outbreak

A candlelight vigil is being planned for those who died due to… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels forward Jaxsen Wiebe battles Calgary Hitmen forward Cael Zimmerman for a loose puck when the two teams squared off in February last season. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Calgary Hitmen shutout Red Deer Rebels

Rebels name centre Jayden Grubbe team captain ahead of Friday’s game

Traffic will be delayed on 40th Avenue and 19th Street until the end of February. (Advocate file photo).
Traffic delays expected downtown this weekend

Red Deer drivers will be delayed in the downtown area of the… Continue reading

Bryson, six, and Mara, eight, play with puppies from Dogs With Wings Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
WATCH: Dogs With Wings introduces Red Deer program

A program that trains puppies to be certified service, autism, facility and… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Funeral for Walter Gretzky to be held Saturday in home town of Brantford, Ont.

The funeral for hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s father Walter will take place… Continue reading

A sign for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service building is shown in Ottawa on May 14, 2013. A newly released audit report shows that difficulties with the judicial warrant process at Canada's spy agency — an issue that made headlines last summer — stretch back at least nine years. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Spy warrant shortcomings stretch back almost a decade, newly released audit shows

OTTAWA — A newly released audit report shows that difficulties with the… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday night’s Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the estimated $29 million… Continue reading

A trial countdown sign marks the days at George Floyd Square, March 4, 2021, in Minneapolis. Ten months after police officers brushed off George Floyd's moans for help on the street outside a south Minneapolis grocery, the square remains a makeshift memorial for Floyd who died at the hand of police making an arrest. The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin will begin with jury selection on March 8. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Officer’s trial could reopen intersection where Floyd died

MINNEAPOLIS — During a group’s recent meeting at the now-vacant Speedway gas… Continue reading

FILE - In this Aug. 30, 2020 file photo Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell calls for an end to violence in the city during a news conference a day after a demonstrator was shot and killed in downtown Portland. Amid protests following the police killing of George Floyd last year Portland dissolved a special police unit designed to focus on gun violence. Critics say the squad unfairly targeted Black people, but gun violence and homicides have since spiked in Oregon's largest city, and some say disbanding the 35-officer unit was a mistake. (Sean Meagher/The Oregonian via AP, File)
As violence surges, some question Portland axing police unit

PORTLAND, Ore. — Elmer Yarborough got a terrifying call from his sister:… Continue reading

Harley Hay
Harley Hay: Just don’t call it cod liver oil

Many people swear that a daily dose of various vitamins is an… Continue reading

Email editor@auburn-reporter.com
Letter: Preserving green spaces in Red Deer

The Advocate published an article Feb. 11 about Sunnybrook residents concerned about… Continue reading

Former Toronto Argonauts lineman Chris Schultz remembered as a gentle giant

Former Toronto Argonauts lineman Chris Schultz remembered as a gentle giant

Most Read