ON THE ROCKS: Uncertainty surrounding Scotties, mixed doubles at Olympics, has Canadian curling awash in controversy

Article content

A day after winning the Alberta women’s curling championship and booking a ticket to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts for the third straight year, Laura Walker was experiencing bittersweet emotions.


Article content

“It definitely feels better to win than it would to be selected,” Walker said Monday, after she and her Edmonton teammates beat Casey Scheidegger of Lethbridge 6-5 in Sunday’s final in Grande Prairie.

“We did think of everyone else who was kept home from their provincial championship. And not only that, but everyone in this country who is kept home from what they love to do right now.”

The Alberta men’s and women’s provincial championships went forward last week, while many other provinces and territories cancelled their playdowns because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the health restrictions that are in place in some jurisdictions.

Places such as Ontario, Northern Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and P.E.I., chose to select representatives for the Canadian women’s championship, which is slated to be played at Fort William Gardens in Thunder Bay, Ont., Jan. 28-Feb. 6.


Article content

The next question is: Will that championship even be played amid the current outbreak of the Omicron variant across the country?

“I have no idea how it’s gonna go,” Walker said. “I have no idea if we’re even gonna be getting on a plane here in a couple weeks, but right now we’re gonna think positive and look forward.”

As exciting as it was to win Alberta, everything is tempered by the uncertainty about the Scotties at this point.

“It’s exhausting, to put it in a word,” Walker said. “We’re kinda getting used to it at this point. Nothing really surprises us anymore, when it comes to things like cancellations. But it’s definitely hard on the mind and hard on the heart and all we can do right now is just wait and hope.”

Also winning provincial titles on Sunday were Penny Barker (Saskatchewan) and Mary-Anne Arsenault (B.C.).


Article content

Arsenault, 53, will play in the Scotties for a 15th time, though it will be the first time representing B.C.

Arsenault, who won five Canadian championships as the second for the Colleen Jones team out of Halifax, is aware of the obstacles for the upcoming Scotties, but said her team will just take things as they come.

“We didn’t even believe that the B.C. Scotties was going to happen,” she said from her home in Lake Country, B.C. “We thought it could be cancelled part way through it. We were not gonna believe it until the last rock of the last end of the final.

“But as far as the Scotties, I don’t have any anxiety there. I know a lot of people are freaked out but hopefully we’ll get to play cause there are rumblings about the case counts in Ontario.”


Article content


It looks like Manitoba’s Tracy Fleury and Saskatchewan’s Chelsea Carey will be the wild card teams for the Scotties in Thunder Bay, based on their standing in the Canadian Team Ranking System, although it’s more complicated than usual because of all the provincial championship cancellations.

Fleury is the top team in the CTRS standings and is a lock to be one of the wild cards, while there is some controversy related to the next eligible team — that doesn’t already have a Scotties berth — on the list.

Carey moved into the coveted position over the weekend by making it to the final of the Saskatchewan provincial championship, before losing to Barker.

However, her team gained points in a provincial championship, while other teams — like Hollie Duncan and Rachel Homan of Ontario — did not have that chance because the Ontario provincials were cancelled.


Article content

This will all have to be sorted out by Curling Canada — there’s a fair bit of math in the equation — this week before the wild card teams are announced.

The two wild card teams will square off in a play-in game the day before the beginning of the Scotties in Thunder Bay.


That’s not the only controversy unfolding this week, with many curlers in limbo as they wait to hear about which team will represent Canada in mixed doubles at the Olympics in Beijing.

The mixed doubles Olympic trials, which were supposed to take place 10 days ago, were cancelled and since that time Curling Canada, the Canadian Olympic Committee and Own the Podium have been working to select a representative.

It should be decided soon, likely by the end of this week, but that might not be soon enough for the mixed doubles curlers who are in the mix.


Article content

“We don’t know and it is frustrating,” said Walker, who curls in mixed doubles with Kirk Muyres.

“The trials were supposed to end over a week ago now and we’ve known it was cancelled since Christmas Eve. I do appreciate that there are things in the background that go on between Curling Canada and the COC that have to happen that way — and maybe the team has been notified and we’re not that team — but I do think that we’re cutting it quite close and making it difficult on our teams to prepare to do something like that.”

John Morris and Rachel Homan, Nancy Martin and Tyrel Griffith, and Walker and Muyres are among the favourites to be selected

“It’s definitely been a long few weeks and a little bit of a frustrating waiting game,” Walker said.


Article content

“I can’t wait to find out because it’s going to be a tight turnaround for whatever team is selected.”


Curl Ontario also waded into the controversy mix by naming Homan as representative for the Scotties in Thunder Bay, with a caveat.

The decision stated that Homan’s team will represent Ontario, unless Homan herself is selected to go to the Olympics to play mixed doubles. If that happens, Duncan’s team will represent Ontario.

There was a great deal of response on social media to that plan, with many suggesting that the remainder of Homan’s team is getting shafted under that scenario. Many believe the other three players — Emma Miskew, Sarah Wilkes and Joanne Courtney — should be allowed to pick up a replacement for Homan and continue on in the Scotties.


Article content

“I’ll put it frankly … that’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard,” Walker said.

Walker’s team could be in a similar position should she be named to the mixed doubles Olympic team and there would be no question it would be allowed to pick up a replacement player.

“There’s a three-of-four-player rule that exists for a reason,” Walker said.

“The rule exists for situations like this. The fact that that would be taken away from them for a player to have the opportunity to go to the Olympics is ridiculous and I think a complete oversight.

“I’m shaking my head.”


Two men’s teams booked spots in the 2022 Tim Hortons Brier in Lethbridge, Alta., on Sunday.

Kevin Koe, a four-time Canadian champion, won the Alberta provincial championship for the seventh time, topping Ted Appelman 8-4 in the final in Grande Prairie.


Article content

Meanwhile, the Jeff Richard team, with Brent Pierce throwing fourth stones, beat Paul Cseke 11-8 to take the British Columbia championship.

The Brier is scheduled to be played March 4-13, and most of the provincial representatives will be decided over the next month.

Edmonton’s Brendan Bottcher will return as the defending champion.


At Thunder Bay, Jan. 28-Feb. 6

CANADA — Kerri Einarson

ALBERTA — Laura Walker

B.C. — Mary-Anne Arsenault


MANITOBA — Mackenzie Zacharias


ONTARIO — Krista McCarville

NOVA SCOTIA — Christina Black

ONTARIO — Rachel Homan

QUEBEC — Laurie St.-Georges

P.E.I. — Suzanne Birt

NEW BRUNSWICK — Andrea Crawford

N.W.T — Kerry Galusha

NUNAVUT — Brigitte MacPhail

YUKON — Hailey Birnie

WILD CARD — Tracy Fleury vs. TBD



Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.