ABBOTSFORD, BC (ISN) – The Canadian Senior Men’s and Women’s Curling Championships get underway Saturday at the Recreation Centre in Abbotsford, British Columbia.

Abbotsford will host the 2012 Canadian Senior Curling Championships beginning this Saturday at the Abbotsford Recreation Centre. Attend the event that will host former Women’s World Curling Champion Colleen Jones, and cheer on BC teams lead by 1988 Olympic Gold Medalist, Penny Shantz & 2006 BC Men’s Champion, Dennis Graber. 

Twelve men’s and 12 women’s teams will compete in the national championships, slated for March 17-25. At the conclusion of the round robin on Friday, the first place teams advance directly to Sunday’s finals at 11:00 am PT, while the second and third place teams meet in semi-finals on Saturday, following any required tiebreakers.

The winners of the 2012 Canadian Seniors will then represent Canada at the 2013 World Seniors, at a site and date to be announced.

New to the format this year is a qualifying round involving the provinces/territories with the worst won-lost records at the Canadian Seniors in the past three years. On the men’s side, Northwest Territories, Yukon and New Brunswick must qualify for the national championship, while on the women’s side, Northwest Territories, Yukon and Quebec must qualify.

The qualifying round takes place on Thursday, March 15 at the Langley Curling Club. The format is a double knockout. Two men’s and two women’s teams will then advance to the Canadian Seniors on Saturday. Nunavut did not enter teams for either qualifier.

In the men’s qualifier, Northwest Territories first meets Yukon, with the winner facing New Brunswick. The winner of this game qualifies for the Canadian championship. The loser meets the loser of the NT/YT game to determine the other qualifier.

On the women’s side, Northwest Territories first plays Yukon, with the winner facing Quebec. The winner of this game qualifies for the Canadian championship. The loser meets the loser of the NT/YT game to determine the other qualifier.

This year’s women’s line-up boasts Nova Scotia’s Colleen Jones of Halifax, a record six-time Scotties (1982, 1999, 2001-2004) and two-time (2001, 2004) world champion and her third Nancy Delahunt, a five-time Scotties and two-time world champion, who played lead for Jones on those championship teams.

Veteran Scotties Tournament of Hearts skip Heidi Hanlon of Saint, John, New Brunswick has also returned, after winning her province’s first Canadian Senior women’s title last year in Digby, Nova Scotia. Alberta will be skipped by Edmonton’s Cathy King, a two-time Canadian Junior champion and 1998 Scotties Tournament of Hearts winner. Her third is Carolyn Morris, who skipped Scotland to a gold medal at the 2005 World Seniors.

British Columbia skip Penny Shantz and third Debbie Jones-Walker won gold medals at the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary, when playing lead and second, respectively, for Canada’s Linda Moore, when curling was a demonstration sport.

Newfoundland/Labrador’s Cathy Cunningham of St. John’s, a veteran of many Scotties, including a runner-up finish to Colleen Jones in 2003, will also compete.

On the men’s side, Saskatchewan skip Eugene Hritzuk of Saskatoon, the 1988 Brier runner-up, won the 2008 Canadian Seniors in Prince Albert and the 2009 World Seniors in Dunedin, New Zealand. Also returning is the defending Canadian Seniors champion, Manitoba’s Kelly Robertson of Neepawa.

Other skips include former Brier competitors, Quebec’s Pierre Charette of Thurso and Newfoundland/Labrador’s Geoff Cunningham of St. John’s.

Last year’s Canadian Seniors champions, Kelly Robertson and Heidi Hanlon, will also represent Canada at the 2012 World Seniors, April 14-21 in Kastrup, Denmark.

British Columbia has previously hosted the Canadian Senior Men’s six times and the Canadian Senior Women’s five times – the last time for both in Vernon in 2004. The championships were conducted separately prior to being combined, beginning in 1985 in Yorkton, Saskatchewan.

Manitoba has won a leading 11 Canadian Senior Men’s titles since the championship began in 1965 in Thunder Bay (Port Arthur), while British Columbia has won just three, the last by Ken Watson in 1999.

Ontario has won a leading 10 Canadian Senior Women’s crowns since the inaugural championship in 1973 in Ottawa, while British Columbia has eight triumphs – the latest by skip Christine Jurgenson in 2010.

Draw results for the 2012 Canadian Seniors will be instantly available at