Saskatoon's Merlis Belsher Place is making a dramatic switch from hockey to curling this week.
Saskatoon’s Merlis Belsher Place is making a dramatic switch from hockey to curling this week.
The University of Saskatchewan Huskies’ gleaming new arena is hosting the World Curling Tour’s Humpty’s Champions Cup, which marks the end of the 2018-19 professional curling season.
“The ice will be fantastic, lots of movement, and the very best teams. That’s what a Grand Slam is,” said Kevin Martin, the longtime skip who now works as a commentator for Sportsnet, during a recent stop in Saskatoon.
“Between the Grand Slams and the Olympics, that’s why the game has grown so much, no question. With the Grand Slams, the premise is international teams, the best of the best. If you end up with nine teams from Sweden, that’s the way it goes — if they’re that good, great. The best against the best brings out some real good rivalries.”
The Cup, which commences Tuesday, is the season’s Grand Slam finale. It’s drawn the season’s big winners — 15 men’s teams, 15 women — playing for a $250,000 purse. Reigning world champions Niklas Edin (Sweden) and Silvana Tirinzoni (Switzerland) are both in town.
Here’s some things to know with the event close at hand.
SASK IS IN THE HOUSE
Three Saskatchewan-based teams are playing in the 30-foursome field, including two on the men’s side.
Saskatoon’s Kirk Muyres, who qualified after winning a Tour Challenge Tier 2 event, will compete at the Cup, as will Regina’s Matt Dunstone. The latter qualified by winning the Dekalb Superspiel in Morris, Man.
On the women’s side, North Battleford’s Robyn Silvernagle — who reached the semifinal at the recent national Scotties — is in the fold thanks to a win at the Red Deer Curling Classic.
THE WOMEN’S FIELD
Besides Silvernagle, the women’s teams include Chelsea Carey (Calgary), Kerri Einarson (Gimli, Man.), Allison Flaxey (Winnipeg; team will be skipped by sub Laura Walker), Anna Hasselborg (Sweden; team will be skipped by sub Eve Muirhead), Rachel Homan (Ottawa), Jennifer Jones (Winnipeg), Min Ji Kim (South Korea), Alina Kovaleva (Russia), Vlada Rumyanceva (Russia), Casey Scheidegger (Lethbridge), Jamie Sinclair (Chaska, MN), Briar Hurlimann (Switzerland), Silvana Tirinzoni (Switzerland), and Isabella Wrana (Sweden).
THE MEN’S FIELD
Besides Muyres and Dunstone, the men’s event features Brendan Bottcher (Edmonton), Reid Carruthers (Winnipeg), Niklas Edin (Sweden), John Epping (Toronto), Brad Gushue (St. John’s), Brad Jacobs (Sault Ste. Marie), Kevin Koe (Calgary), Yuta Matsumura (Japan), Bruce Mouat (Scotland), Ross Paterson (Scotland), Yannick Schwaller (Switzerland), John Shuster (Duluth, MN.; team will be skipped by sub John Morris), and Tyler Tardi (Langley, B.C.).
The Champions Cup is a relatively new WCT event; it’s designed to bring the year’s top winners together one final time.
This is the fourth annual get-together — the first was held in Sherwood Park, Alta. in 2016, with Reid Carruthers and Jennifer Jones winning top prize.
Rachel Homan and Brad Jacobs won in 2017, and Homan repeated in 2018, with Brad Gushue taking the men’s title.
Everything starts Tuesday afternoon with a 4:30 p.m. draw at Merlis Belsher Place, followed by another draw at 8 p.m. Sportsnet will begin televising draws Thursday at noon.
Other draw times are:
Wednesday: noon, 4 p.m., 8 p.m.
Thursday: 8:30 a.m., noon, 4 p.m., 8 p.m.
Friday: 8:30 a.m., noon, 4 p.m., 8 p.m.
Saturday: 8:30 a.m. (tiebreakers, if necessary), noon (women’s quarter-finals), 4 p.m. (men’s quarter-finals), 8 p.m. (men’s and women’s semifinals).
Sunday: 10 a.m. (men’s final), 2 p.m. (women’s final).