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As a first-year skip, Christina Black was looking forward to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
The Sydney River native had been to the women’s national tournament three times since 2015, all as a third with the Mary-Anne Arsenault rink.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Black was anxious to play in the Nova Scotia provincial playdown and earn the right to represent the province at the Scotties in Calgary next month.
However, Black’s hopes can to an end on Monday when the Nova Scotia Curling Association announced the Scotties and Tankard provincial events would be cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.
With the cancellation, the curling association offered the Jill Brothers rink the opportunity to attend the Scotties because the team was the 2021 money list leader following three tournaments in the fall.
“I’m definitely disappointed,” said Black. “I wanted to compete in the provincials and I was getting excited thinking it was going to happen.”
Black admits the reality of not competing in the provincials was evident last Friday when the province extended the sport restrictions until Jan. 24 at 11:59 p.m.
“I knew it was going to be cancelled at that moment,” said Black. “I’ve had a few days to basically come to terms with it. We’ve been in a good position in terms of COVID-19 numbers and that’s because the government has been cautious, so I understand completely.”
The Scotties playdowns were originally scheduled for December at the Bluenose Curling Club in New Glasgow but were postponed by the curling association due to restrictions within the Halifax Regional Municipality.
The tournament was then rescheduled for Jan. 23-31 in New Glasgow prior to the latest cancellation.
Usually when provincial tournaments are cancelled, the defending champion would be given the opportunity to represent the province at the national event. However, at least three members of the previous year’s team must still actively be playing together. Black and Jennifer Baxter were the lone members of the Arsenault-skipped team from 2020 still together.
Arsenault moved to British Columbia to be closer to her fiancée following the completion of last season, while Emma Logan joined the Brothers rink as a fifth.
“I get the curling association was in a tough place and they had to pick a team somehow,” said Black. “Team Brothers is a good choice to go. They have a great team.”
Although understanding the rule, Black said the criteria was not mentioned at the start of the season.
“Not everyone entered all of the events, not all of these three events were the same format,” said Black. “I wish we would have known the criteria of what the backup plan was at the start of the season.
“It’s too bad, but I do get that they have to pick a team somehow, but I wish we would have known prior.”
Virginia Jackson, executive director of the Nova Scotia Curling Association, confirmed with the Cape Breton Post the criteria wasn’t released at the start of the season.
“We had no idea where we were going to be come January — it was back in September,” said Jackson.
“We had distributed all of the material that Curling Canada had given us about the protocols to be followed during a Canadian competition and we had Zoom calls with all teams and laid out that should there be a provincial tournament, would they attend.”
Jackson said a notice was sent to all teams in December regarding what would happen if there wasn’t a provincial tournament and how the association would select a representative.
As for Black, she first attended the Scotties in 2015 in Moose Jaw, Sask., before capturing a bronze medal with Arsenault, Baxter and Jennifer Crouse in 2018 in Penticton, B.C.
Last year in Moose Jaw, Nova Scotia finished tied for the final playoff spot with B.C.’s Corryn Brown, which forced a tie-breaker game in Pool B. Nova Scotia lost 5-4.
As for Brothers, she’s attended four Scotties Tournament of Hearts since 2007. She last appeared in the tournament in 2019 in Sydney, leading Nova Scotia to a 2-5 record and a sixth-place finish in Pool A.
The Brothers rink had until Wednesday to decide whether they’d attend the tournament. If the team declines the invite, Black and her team would be next in line.
As of press time, Brothers' decision was unknown. However, Black said if her team was asked to attend they would immediately accept.
“Three of us for sure are prepared to go if we were asked,” said Black. “You’re allowed to have three on the team and replace one person, but I really feel Jill and her team are going to go.”
As for the 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the tournament will be hosted in a bubble-format at the Markin MacPhail Centre, Feb. 20-28 in Calgary. No fans will be in attendance due to the pandemic.
“I know the plan out there is super safe,” said Black. “Once everyone is there, you’re in your hotel and the curling arena and there’s nothing else.”
As for the Tim Hortons Brier, the Jamie Murphy rink has already accepted the invite to represent the province.
Paul Flemming, Scott Saccary and Philip Crowell will take part, however, Murphy himself will not be attending due to Nova Scotia’s 14-day isolation rule upon return.
Brent MacDougall, originally of Sydney, was scheduled to skip a team in the Tankard playdowns. The Post reached out to MacDougall for comment on the tournament cancellation, however, was unable to reach him at press time.
The Brier is slated for March 6-14 at WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park in Calgary. The tournament will also be a bubble-format with no fans.
Jeremy Fraser is the sports reporter for the Cape Breton Post. He's been with the publication for four years. Follow Jeremy on Twitter @CBPost_Jeremy