It will be 12 months later than expected, but it will be worth the wait as Thunder Bay, Ont., will play host to the 2022 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, it was announced today by Curling Canada.

Thunder Bay was initially picked to host the 2021 Canadian women’s curling championship, but that event instead will be moved to Curling Canada’s hub city in Calgary due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Thunder Bay’s vibrant curling community made it clear that it’s ready to step up and host in 2022 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, which will be played Jan. 28-Feb. 6 at the Fort William Gardens.

“These are unprecedented times, as we all know, and while we had to make some tough decisions for this season’s events, it was gratifying to see the understanding and support from the scheduled host communities,” said Mitch Minken, Chair of Curling Canada’s Board of Governors. “It’s wonderful to see that Thunder Bay will get its chance to host the country’s most prestigious women’s curling championship and see Canada’s best curlers compete in the world-renowned Scotties Tournament of Hearts.”

The buzz in Thunder Bay following the announcement of the 2021 Scotties was incredible, and it resulted in ticket sales that promised sold-out crowds for many draws.

Fans who purchased tickets for the 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts will be provided two options. Due to the high demand demonstrated for the 2021 Scotties, customers who want to ensure they get seats for the 2022 Scotties will be provided the option to transfer their confirmed seats to the 2022 event for no additional charge. Those not wishing to transfer their seats will be provided the option for a full refund. In the coming days customers will be contacted by ticketing staff about next steps.

“Thunder Bay was eager to host this prestigious national championship in February and while disappointed to not have that opportunity, we fully understand the impacts caused by the pandemic,” said Bill Mauro, Mayor of Thunder Bay. “Curling Canada has shown confidence in Thunder Bay to host this major national championship by deferring to 2022 when our city will deliver a successful event with fans at the historic Fort William Gardens.”

It will be the fifth time the Canadian women’s curling championship has been hosted by the Northern Ontario Curling Association.

In addition to the 1969 and 1996 championships in Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie was the location of the 1978 Canadian women’s championship (won by Manitoba’s Cathy Pidzarko) and the 2010 Scotties (won by Team Canada’s Jennifer Jones).

Heather Houston’s Thunder Bay team won back-to-back Scotties titles in 1988 and 1989 — to date, the only time a team representing the Northern Ontario Curling Association has won the Canadian women’s championship.

The 2022 event will be the 41st edition of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts — the longest-standing sponsorship of women’s sports in Canada.

“Kruger Products is very pleased that the 2022 Scotties Tournament of Hearts will be staged in Thunder Bay,” said Susan Irving, Chief Marketing Officer at Kruger Products. “Although the event will arrive in Northern Ontario a year later than expected, we are excited that the world’s largest women’s curling championship will give Canada’s top athletes an amazing showcase. As a Canadian company, with leading brands including Cashmere, Purex, SpongeTowels and Scotties, we are thrilled to continue our sponsorship of this event along with the provincial and territorial championships for the 41st year. We look forward to cheering on the country’s top curlers as they compete for the title of Team Canada.”

The winner of the 2022 Scotties will represent Canada at the 2022 World Women’s Curling Championship, which will be hosted by Canada (host city, dates, to be announced at a later date).

As well, the 2022 Scotties winner will return to the 2023 Scotties as the defending champion Team Canada.

“The opportunity to host this national championship with an arena full of fans will bring a significant economic boost to our community to recover from the pandemic,” said Eric Zakrewski, the CEO of the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission, noting the board of directors of CEDC unanimously approved deferring the $400,000 hosting fee to secure the national championship. “The 12,000-plus room nights expected from over 5,000 visitors to our city by curlers, officials, broadcast crew and spectators will have an projected impact of over $7 million, which will make our return on investment from the municipal accommodation tax fund at $17 for each dollar spent.”

The Fort William Gardens is a classic building that seats just over 3,300. Opened in 1951, the building’s main tenant is the Lakehead University Thunderwolves.

It will be the second time the Scotties has been played at the Fort William Gardens; in 1996, Ontario’s Marilyn Bodogh captured the Canadian championship. As well, the 1960 Brier (won by Saskatchewan’s Ernie Richardson), the 1976 Canadian Junior Women’s Championship (won by Saskatchewan’s Colleen Rud), and the 1991 Canadian Mixed Championship (won by Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton) were played at the Gardens.

Thunder Bay also played host to the 1956 and 1968 Canadian Junior Men’s Championships (won by Saskatchewan’s Bob Hawkins and Ontario’s Bill Hope respectively), the 1969 Canadian Women’s Championship (won by Saskatchewan’s Joyce McKee), the 1998 World Junior Men’s and Women’s Championships (swept by Canada’s John Morris and Melissa McClure), and the 2006 Canadian Junior Men’s and Women’s Championships (won by Alberta’s Charley Thomas and Saskatchewan’s Mandy Selzer).

“We couldn’t be more grateful for this show of faith from Curling Canada, and I know that the 2022 Scotties Tournament of Hearts will be worth the wait,” said Thunder Bay Host Committee Vice-Chair Rick Lang. “The fans and volunteers here in Thunder Bay will deliver a show that will stand out for years to come, and we’ll be ready to welcome Canada to the Fort William Gardens in 2022.”