SUMMERSIDE – The world’s elite curlers will be in the limelight in Summerside this week.
The Players’ Championship, which will feature eight-end games, gets underway on Tuesday at 7 p.m., and continues through to the championship games on Sunday.
“The Players’ Championship is the final event of the season,” explained event manager Jennifer Bradley in an interview at Eastlink Arena on Monday morning. “It caps off four Grand Slams of the season, which are the four majors, based on the Order of Merit rankings, which are the world rankings in the curling world.
“We took the top 12 teams and invited them here. Given the circumstances after a four-year Olympic run, there were a handful of those top teams that disbanded. We originally were going to be 15 on each side, and we decided to narrow it down to increase the strength of the field and maintain the top 12 men and top 12 women (teams).
“We are going to see some of the best teams in the world compete again after the Olympics. We have all the Olympic medals here. . .
“There is a lot of interesting stuff in the curling world, announcements being made of teams moving forward. This is potentially one of the last times you will see some of these incredibly influential teams play and play against each other.”
There is the possibility of $400,000 being awarded in purse money. The men and women will each play for $100,000. With the women only playing in two of the Grand Slams, if Canadian women’s champion Rachel Homan wins the Players’ Championship, she will receive $100,000 on top of her first-place prize money for sweeping both events. Homan won the Grand Slam’s opening event – Masters – in Abbotsford, B.C., in November.
There is also a possible $100,000 in bonus money up for grabs on the men’s side.
This marks the second time the Players’ Championship has been hosted in Summerside.
“We were here two years ago, since then the Grand Slams have switched ownership,” explained Bradley. “They were with a previous owner, but since then Sportsnet and Rogers have picked up the Grand Slam of Curling property, so now they own and operate it completely.”
Another major difference, compared to 2012, is live television coverage. Bradley went on to say: “When we came last time there were actually two draws (finals) broadcast, both were on Global. This event, we are very lucky to have 11 draws broadcast on Sportsnet and Sportsnet One throughout the week, running all the way to Sunday.
“There will be a lot of live updates on the website for those draws that aren’t broadcast, but we are looking at close to 30 hours of live television coverage coming from Summerside.”
Attendance-wise, what would be a realistic number for the event?
“Exact number, I don’t know,” answered Bradley. “We had a great turnout last time. I know we are sitting with more seats bought thus far than at this stage of the game last time we were here. The promotion has been a little bit different.
“I would hope this city and this Island will rally around this event, knowing what kind of history it’s going to make and come and check it out. Especially, throughout the weekend and the evening draws, we are hoping to see this place full.”