The world’s most famous and prestigious women’s curling national championship is being staged under unfamiliar circumstances, but the stakes and pressure will be very familiar.
The 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts begins Friday inside a strictly enforced, safe, no-fans bubble at the Markin MacPhail Centre at WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park in Calgary.
And while numerous precautions are in place to keep players, officials and the host city safe leading up to, and during, the 2021 Scotties, when play officially gets underway on Friday with the opening draw at 8:30 p.m. (all times Eastern), you can expect the same high-level curling for which the Scotties is famous.
The winning team will qualify for the Tim Hortons Curling Trials, presented by AGI, next November in Saskatoon, where Canada’s four-player men’s and women’s teams for the 2022 Winter Olympics will be decided.
The winning team also will play at the 2022 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Thunder Bay as Team Canada, in addition to pocketing first-place prize money of $100,000.
The 2021 Scotties will mark an amazing 40 years of title sponsorship by Kruger Products.
Skips who won the past 13 editions of the Scotties will all be in the bubble in Calgary, although not all of them will actually be playing, as 2011 champ Amber Holland will be the alternate for Saskatchewan’s Sherry Anderson, while 2012 champ Heather Nedohin will be the coach for reigning Scotties champion Team Canada, skipped by Kerri Einarson (Gimli, Man.).
Other past champions are Chelsea Carey (2016, 2019), who will be skipping Team Wild Card #1 in place of Tracy Fleury (who won’t be participating in order to care for her young daughter, who has health issues), Rachel Homan of Ontario (2013, 2014, 2017) and, of course, Manitoba’s Jennifer Jones.
Jones has a chance to make history at the Scotties; she is currently tied with Colleen Jones and Jill Officer with six Scotties championships (2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2018), and with a win in Calgary would be the lone player ever to have won seven Canadian women’s curling championships.
Einarson’s defending champs (she is backed up by vice-skip Val Sweeting, second Shannon Birchard, lead Briane Meilleur, alternate Krysten Karwacki and Nedohin as the coach) will be on the ice in the opening draw against the reigning Canadian and World junior championship team skipped by MacKenzie Zacharias. The Zacharias team, from Altona, Man., qualified as Team Wild Card #2.
The field was expanded to 18 teams for this year only to accommodate teams that didn’t get an opportunity to compete for their provincial or territorial championship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The three Wild Card teams were based on their standing in the 2019-20 Canadian Team Ranking System (only teams that had three-of-four players remaining in the lineup were eligible).
The teams in Calgary have been separated into two pools of nine, and seeded based on their final standing in the 2019-20 Canadian Team Ranking System.
They will play a full round robin within their respective pools, and then the top four teams in each pool will move on to the Championship Pool, and play four more games against the teams from the other pool. Their preliminary pool records will be carried forward.
From there, the top three teams will make the playoffs; the first-place team after the Championship Pool will go straight to the gold-medal game (Feb. 28, 8:30 p.m.), while the second- and third-place teams will meet in the semifinal (Feb. 28, 2:30 p.m.)
The familiar four-team Page Playoff format couldn’t be used because it takes two extra draws, and with the field expansion, there wasn’t time available in the schedule, and it would have forced teams to play more games in a limited amount of time.
Here’s a look at how the two pools set up:
(teams listed according to seeding, and listed in order of skip, vice-skip, second, lead, alternate, coach/High Performance Consultant)
1. Team Canada, Kerri Einarson (Val Sweeting, Shannon Birchard, Briane Meilleur, Krysten Karwacki, Heather Nedohin; Gimli)
4. Ontario, Rachel Homan (Emma Miskew, Sarah Wilkes, Joanne Courtney, Danielle Inglis, Randy Ferbey; Ottawa)
5. Alberta, Laura Walker (Kate Cameron, Taylor McDonald, Rachel Brown, Dana Ferguson, Shannon Pynn; Edmonton)
8. Wild Card #2, Mackenzie Zacharias (Karlee Burgess, Emily Zacharias, Lauren Lenentine, Rachel Erickson, Sheldon Zacharias; Altona, Man.)
9. Wild Card #3, Beth Peterson (Jenna Loder, Katherine Doerksen, Brittany Tran, Cathy Overton-Clapham; Winnipeg)
12. Northwest Territories, Kerry Galusha (Jo-Ann Rizzo, Margot Flemming, Shona Barbour, Jim Waite; Yellowknife)
13. Nova Scotia, Jill Brothers (Erin Carmody, Jennifer Brine, Emma Logan, Kim Kelly, Daryell Nowlan; Halifax)
16. Northern Ontario, Krysta Burns (Megan Smith, Sara Guy, Amanda Gates, Kira Brunton, Rodney Guy; Sudbury)
17. Yukon, Laura Eby (Lorna Spenner, Tamar Vandenberghe, Laura Williamson, Darlene Gammel, Scott Williamson; Whitehorse)
2. Wild Card #1, Tracy Fleury (NOTE – Tracy Fleury will not be participating; Chelsea Carey to skip; Selena Njegovan, Liz Fyfe, Kristin MacCuish, Clancy Grandy, Sherry Middaugh; East St. Paul, Man.)
3. Manitoba, Jennifer Jones (Kaitlyn Lawes, Jocelyn Peterman, Lisa Weagle, Raunora Westcott, Viktor Kjell; Winnipeg)
6. British Columbia, Corryn Brown (Erin Pincott, Dezaray Hawes, Samantha Fisher, Stephanie Jackson-Baier, Allison MacInnes; Kamloops)
7. Prince Edward Island, Suzanne Birt (Marie Christianson, Meaghan Hughes, Michelle McQuaid, Kathy O’Rourke, Mitch O’Shea; Montague)
10. Saskatchewan, Sherry Anderson (Nancy Martin, Chaelynn Kitz, Breanne Knapp, Amber Holland, Shane Kitz; Saskatoon)
11. Quebec, Laurie St-Georges (Hailey Armstrong, Emily Riley, Cynthia St-Georges, Florence Boivin, Michel St-Georges; Laval)
14. New Brunswick, Melissa Adams (Jaclyn Tingley, Nicole Bishop, Kendra Lister, Monique Massé; Fredericton)
15. Nunavut, Lori Eddy (Sadie Pinksen, Alison Griffin, Kaitlin MacDonald, Donalda Mattie; Iqaluit)
18. Newfoundland/Labrador, Sarah Hill (Beth Hamilton, Lauren Barron, Adrienne Mercer, Brooke Godsland; St. John’s)
CLICK HERE to check the schedule for the 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts.