(ISN) – The race to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, begins for Canada’s top curling teams when the 2014 Home Hardware Canada Cup of Curling, presented by Meridian Manufacturing, gets underway Wednesday at the Encana Arena in Camrose, Alta.
The 11th renewal of the Cup, which runs Wednesday through Sunday, will feature the top seven men’s and seven women’s teams in the country, playing not only for a chunk of the $140,000 purse, but also to take the first significant steps to qualifying for the 2017 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings — the event that will determine Canada’s curling teams for the 2018 Winter Olympics.
The winning men’s and women’s teams in Camrose will be assured of berths in the Road to the Roar Pre-Trials, meaning they’ll be among the final 18 in contention for an Olympic berth.
Additionally, the men’s and women’s champions will be added to Team Canada for the2015 World Financial Group Continental Cup, presented by SecurTek Monitoring Solutions, Jan. 8-11 at the Markin MacPhail Centre at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary.
Both reigning Olympic champions will be in the field, which was determined by ranking on the Order of Merit at the conclusion of the 2013-14 season. On the women’s side, Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones (a two-time Canada Cup winner) will be challenged by two-time defending Scotties Tournament of Hearts champion Rachel Homan of Ottawa, along with Sherry Anderson of Saskatoon (skipping the three-time Cup champion Stefanie Lawton team while Lawton takes care of her newborn son), 2013 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings runner-up and 2003 Cup winner Sherry Middaugh of Coldwater, Ont., 2012 Scotties champ Heather Nedohin of Sherwood Park, Alta., 2014 Scotties runner-up Val Sweeting of Edmonton, and 2014 Ontario champion Alli Flaxey of Listowel.
The men’s Olympic gold-medallists, Team Brad Jacobs from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., will also face a stiff test against the likes of two-time Tim Hortons Brier champ Kevin Koe and his new-look team from Calgary, two-time Brier winner and 2010 Olympic gold-medallist John Morris of Calgary (with the first edition of a men’s Team Canada for the 2015 Tim Hortons Brier), four-time Brier and world champion Glenn Howard (the 2010 Cup champion) of Penetanguishene, Ont., 2006 Olympic gold-medallist Brad Gushue of St. John’s, red-hot Mike McEwen of Winnipeg and Jim Cotter of Vernon B.C., who (with Morris skipping) lost the final of the 2014 Tim Hortons Brier to Koe and the 2013 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings final to Jacobs,
TSN/TSN2 and RDS2 will provide complete coverage of the Hardware Canada Cup, from the opening draw on Wednesday (8:30 a.m. MT, 10:30 a.m. ET) through to and including the women’s (10 a.m. MT, noon ET) and men’s (5 p.m. MT, 7 p.m. ET) finals on Sunday. Click here for the broadcast schedule.
The Home Hardware Canada Cup format calls for the men’s and women’s teams to play a three-day round robin, with the first-place teams advancing to their respective finals on Sunday, while the second- and third-place teams meet in semifinals on Saturday, after any required tiebreakers, to determine the other finalists. Click here for the full draw.
The total prize money is $70,000 each for men and women, with the winning teams receiving $14,000. The runners-up get $9,000 while the third-place finishers earn $5,000. Teams also receive $2,000 for each round-robin win.
Since its inception in 2003, the Canada Cup has been won by some of the country’s most successful curling teams. On the men’s side, Edmonton’s Kevin Martin is the only four-time winner (2005, 2006, 2009, 2011), while Edmonton’s Randy Ferbey (2003, 2004, 2007) is a three-time champion. Koe (2008), Howard (2010) and Winnipeg’s Jeff Stoughton (2012) have also emerged victorious.
On the women’s side, Lawton is a three-time winner (2008, 2010, 2012), while Jones (2007, 2011) and Shannon Kleibrink of Calgary (2005, 2009) are all two-time Cup winners. The other winners were Middaugh (2003), Colleen Jones of Halifax (2004) and Cathy King of Edmonton (2006). The event wasn’t held last season during the Olympic year.
The Canada Cup was staged in Kamloops, B.C., from its inception in 2003 through 2008. In 2009, it was played in Yorkton, Sask., while Medicine Hat, Alta., staged the 2010 renewal, followed by trips to Cranbrook, B.C., in 2011 and Moose Jaw, Sask., in 2012.