On hold

Members of the organizing committee and local politicians and volunteers stand together in February 2020 at Fort William Curling Club upon the announcement of Thunder Bay hosting the 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that the Scotties Tournament of Hearts scheduled for Thunder Bay in late February 2021 will probably not happen as planned.

Curling Canada has made no official announcement on the status of the 2021 Canadian women’s curling championships set for the Fort William Gardens the week of Feb. 20-28, but there have been many stories circulating that the Scotties and the Tim Horton’s Brier to be held in Kelowna in March will not happen in the host cities as scheduled due to COVID-19 restrictions.

A CBC report this week indicated that the Brier and Scotties were among six major curling events likely relocating to a Calgary bubble scenario for national television broadcast at an arena with no fans.

The venue would also play host to the men's world curling championship, mixed doubles nationals as well as two Grand Slam of Curling events. The report further states that the plan for a bubble in Calgary is in the works, and organizers are in contact with the Alberta government as they work through the evolving health restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The broadcast of the events would fulfill the commitments of Curling Canada and Sportsnet, the rights holder for the Grand Slam of Curling for network television and their national sponsors.

As for curling fans who were eagerly waiting a return of the Scotties to Thunder Bay after 25 years, a contingency has been offered by the local organizing committee to Curling Canada to host the national championship in 2022. The 1,600 fans who had purchased tickets would likely be given the option to hold their tickets for the event that would be held earlier in January due to the fact 2022 is an Olympic year.

The substantial hosting fee of $400,000 has also been approved by the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission for deferral to 2022 with the money coming from the CEDC share of the Municipal Accommodation Tax.

Hosting the Scotties in 2022 with a potential sellout at the Gardens over 10 days would not only give an economic boost to Curling Canada coming out of the pandemic but the City of Thunder Bay.

This major sports tourism event is expected to generate over $7 million in economic impact which would certainly be a boost to the local hotel and hospitality industry crippled by impacts from the pandemic.

MAJOR LEAGUE TONIGHT: Undefeated in four starts, the Dylan Johnston rink will look to add to their first-place record when the Tbaytel Major League of Curling resumes with Draw 7 tonight at the Port Arthur Curling Club.

Johnston and his team of Brennan Wark, Chris Briand, Oye Sem Won and Kurtis Byrd face Trevor Bonot’s squad in one of six games. The games will have staggered starts with three at 6:15 p.m., and the other three at 6:30 p.m.

Bonot and his second Andrew Hackner, playing with spares Joel Adams and Brian Adams Sr., handed Frank Morissette his first loss of the season last week at the Kakabeka FallsCurling Club. Bonot will shoot for a similar result against Johnston.

Bonot, the former Canadian mixed champion, expects Kent Maarup and Troy Avis back in the lineup as they shoot for a third-straight win to improve on a 2-2 record.

Morissette, one of four skips tied for second place at 3-1 in the 14-team league, is out torebound against Ben Mikkelsen. Mikkelsen is coming off a bye week, sitting in a log jam with a number of teams at 2-2.

Al Hackner is back in action against the young Jonathon Vellinga squad in a showdown oftwo teams at 3-1. Vellinga, playing with Myles Harding, Ethan Desilets and Owen Riches, is ridinga three-game win streak.

Krista McCarville (3-1) comes off a bye week to face Mike McCarville, who is 1-2. The husband-wife matchup of skips has more urgency for Mike McCarville as his team’s only win came against the Britney Malette foursome after three-straight losses to open the season.

Malette and her rink shoot for their first win against Bryan Burgess. Burgess (2-2) will be out to snap a two-game losing skid.

Dallas Burgess and his under-18 squad are also out to end a streak of their own as they share last place in the standings at 0-4 with Malette.

Burgess’ opponent is veteran Gary Weiss, who comes into the night with a 2-2 record.

AROUND THE CLUBS: The local curling season has been up and running for just over a month now with leagues at all three clubs — Port Arthur, Fort William and Kakabeka operating as curlers adjust to the COVID-19 protocols and safety measures put in place.

Now with the last grasp of summer last week behind us, there are still some leagues looking for curlers especially for mixed and senior curling.

Those interested can contact the clubs directly to find out what opportunities are available.

If you have information that you want to share in this weekly curling column, please email John Cameron at johncameron14@gmail.com or call 631-3032.