History will be made when the 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup, presented by Boyd Gaming, kicks off on Thursday at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
Before the first rock is thrown Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m. (all times Pacific), the existing cumulative attendance records for both the World Financial Group Continental Cup, as well as any curling event ever staged in the United States, will have been broken.
As well, the 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup will be the first time that the planet’s best curlers go head to head with new mixed doubles rules, introduced this past off-season, in advance of the mixed doubles discipline’s Olympic medal debut in 2018 in South Korea.
And it will indeed be a world-class field in Las Vegas, as Team North America takes on Team World in a four-day competition featuring three unique styles of curling competition (traditional team, skins, mixed doubles). Each segment awards points for wins (or ties). A total of 60 points are available, meaning the side that earns more than 30 points will be declared the champion.
Team North America will feature four teams from Canada and two from the United States, led by coach Rick Lang (Thunder Bay, Ont.) and captain Ann Swisshelm (Chicago).
2014 Olympic women’s gold-medallist Jennifer Jones will be playing in her seventh World Financial Group Continental Cup and pursuing her sixth title (including last year in Calgary).
She’ll be joined on Team North America by teams skipped by Pat Simmons of Calgary (2015 Tim Hortons Brier champion), Kevin Koe of Calgary (2015 Home Hardware Canada Cup men’s champion), Rachel Homan of Ottawa (2015 Home Hardware Canada Cup women’s champion), John Shuster (Superior, Wisc.) and Erika Brown (an American living in Oakville, Ont.). The Shuster and Brown foursomes qualified by virtue of their fall 2015 results on the World Curling Tour.
Team World, coached by 2002 Olympic gold-medallist Pål Trulsen of Norway and captained by Andy Kapp of Germany, will be looking to snap a three-year slump, dating back to its most recent victory, in 2012 in Langley, B.C.
But based on the lineup, this will be a strong contender to end that losing streak, with reigning world champions Niklas Edin of Sweden and Alina Pätz of Switzerland leading the way.
Also headed to Vegas are 2014 world men’s champion Thomas Ulsrud of Norway, 2013 world women’s champion Eve Muirhead of Scotland, Ayumi Ogasawara of Japan and Zang jialiang of China.
It will be the 12th edition of curling’s version of the Ryder Cup, and the second time it has been staged in Las Vegas. In 2014, the first time the World Financial Group Continental Cup had been staged outside of Canada, an attendance record of 51,216 was established, shattering the previous record and falling just short of the U.S. attendance record of 51,731, set in 2008 at the Ford World Men’s Championship in Grand Forks, N.D. — a nine-day event compared to the four-day span of the World Financial Group Continental Cup.
Total attendance for the 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup is already in excess of 62,000, with tickets still available. Single-draw tickets are available for $20 US; the weekender package (same seat for Saturday and Sunday) is $149 US while the full-event Old Classic package is $238 US.
The opening ceremonies are scheduled for 8 p.m. on Wednesday at the Orleans Arena.
For the first six mixed doubles matches, one point will be awarded for each victory, one-half point if tied; those figures will double for the final three mixed doubles matches. There will be 18 team games (nine men’s and nine women’s) played, each worth one point for a win and a half-point for a tie. All games are eight ends and there are no extra ends. There will also be six skins games, with each game worth a total of five points to the winner.
The winning side receives $52,000 Cdn ($2,000 per member, including captain and coach), while the losing side gets $26,000 ($1,000 per member, including captain and coach). As well, the side that generates the highest points total from the six Skins games will receive an additional $13,000 ($500 per player, plus captain and coach).
Both teams will practise on Wednesday at the Orleans Arena. Team North America will practise from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., while Team World will practise from 2-3:30 p.m. All team members will be available for interviews following their respective practices.
TSN (RDS2 in French), the exclusive television network for Curling Canada’s Season of Champions, will provide complete coverage of the World Financial Group Continental Cup. As well, live-streaming for curling fans in the U.S. will be available on ESPN3.
Team North America Lineups
Pat Simmons (Calgary)
Kevin Koe (Calgary)
John Shuster (Superior, Wisc.)
Jennifer Jones (Winnipeg)
Rachel Homan (Ottawa)
Erika Brown (Oakville, Ont.)
Captain: Ann Swisshelm
Coach: Rick Lang
Team World Lineups
Niklas Edin (Sweden)
Thomas Ulsrud (Norway)
Håvard Vad Petersson
Zang Jialiang (China)
Eve Muirhead (Scotland)
Alina Pätz (Switzerland)
Ayumi Ogasawara (Japan)
Captain: Andy Kapp (Germany)
Coach: Pål Trulsen (Norway)