Have you heard about the SaltWire News app?
Black teenager launches racial justice project in Nova Scotia
Daily fall forecasts and weather facts from Cindy Day
SaltWire's cartoonists bring heart and humour to the news.
SaltWire Selects: Stories worth sharing today
What you need to know about COVID-19: September 28, 2020
Change, historically, never comes easy to curling. When it comes, many involved go kicking and screaming against it. But this change should be celebrated by most.
For the first time in history, the provincial men’s and women’s curling championships, are going to be combined into one celebration of the sport and held in late January at the Seven Chiefs Sportsplex & Chief Jim Starlight Centre in southwest Calgary.
The hope is that it will turn Alberta from two annual shabbily showcased events into one exceptional event of a significantly different status more in line with the Alberta-hosted Briers and Curling Canada, Slam Tour and major international events held here.
Alberta has a history of providing the nation with champions (11 of the last 20 Brier champions are from the province) but before they get there, the province has held provincial championships that have often been a second-rate show by comparison.
Alberta’s own championships have been underwhelming events that have struggled to find host cities and have even ended up in a couple of curling clubs recently instead of being held on arena ice.
This represents a bold attempt to change that.
While the curling season was shut down early and Brier champion Brad Gushue and Scotties winner Kerri Einarson of Winnipeg weren’t able to represent Canada at the World Curling Championships, Jill Richard spent her self-isolation time in her Edmonton home putting together the project.
Richard, the first executive director of the newly formed Curling Alberta entity that replaces the three regional associations SACA, NACA and PCA, says it hasn’t been officially announced yet. But I’d suggest the following industry notice pretty much has managed to do that on its own:
“Curling Alberta is excited to be hosting the 2021 Men’s and Women’s Provincial Curling Championships as a combined event in Calgary next season from Jan. 24 to 31. As we are in the early stages of planning, we are now looking for a dedicated group of volunteer directors that will be instrumental in the success of the championship.”
The details of duties of the successful applicants to head the project on the ground there go on at some length revealing a highly ambitious project.
Not that you couldn’t see this coming.
Richard telegraphed it to me last year at the women’s championship in Okotoks that was designed as a pilot project to try out an eight-team field instead of 12 as would be required if they were to combine the two events.
“There is a possibility of a combined men’s and women’s provincial championship,” revealed Richard to me during the event won by Edmonton’s Laura Walker.
“It needs more exploration. To be honest, we’re not there yet given the other competing priorities of a newly amalgamated organization. However it has been identified as a real consideration for the future.”
Obviously she got there.
It’ll be a Sunday-to-Sunday event instead of a pair of Wednesday-to-Thursday events. The Scotties and Brier both wrap around two weekends and are both nine-day events, 10-days if you include the Friday night ‘Wildcard’ play-in games. Most of the Pinty Slam events feature men’s and women’s teams each competing for six-figure prize money on the same program.
With two games one day and only one the next, that would take both men’s and women’s eight-team field through round robin play and the traditional Page playoff system leading to a women’s final Saturday and men’s final Sunday.
For several years, as was the case in Okotoks and Westlock this year, both Alberta finals were televised by Sportsnet. You’d figure the network would be happy being able to telecast both out of the same location.
While many expected that if this was to happen it would likely be put together, for launch, in one of the junior hockey facilities that exist in Red Deer, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Camrose or Grande Prairie. This venue will be a real eyebrow-raiser.
The mission statement of the new facility is one that the 7 Tsuut’ina Chiefs believe fits perfect with the curling event culture:
“To provide an outstanding experience, professional service and the legendary hospitality of the Tsuut’ina way for our Nation Members, our neighbours in the Calgary community and guests from across Canada and around the world when they visit the 7 Chiefs Sportsplex & Jim Starlight Centre.”
Ten minutes away on 7 Tsuut’ina Chiefs land is the Grey Eagle Resort & Casino complete with a four-star hotel.
The main arena features 2,000 seats. It has a second 400-seat arena and a field house with 45,000 square feet of event space.
It’ll be interesting to discover other details when Richard officially announces the new annual showcase event for Alberta’s season.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020