After the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled two attempts to bring Curling Canada's under-18 national championship to northern Ontario, the curling federation announced that Timmins is signed on to host the event in February 2022.

Girls and boys teams will compete in the week-long event at the McIntyre Community Centre — and McIntyre Curling Club president Steve Meunier said he's thrilled to eventually welcome the country's top young curlers.

"We're just looking forward to hosting the nation here and showing them some northern Ontario hospitality," said Meunier.

"To be able to get these young folks back out on the ice for themselves, I know they're rearing to go."

 

Returning in a big way

Though the details haven't yet been finalized, the event will feature more girls and boys teams than its usual 14 each, to make up for cancelled championships planned for Sudbury in 2020 and Timmins in 2021.

Officials at Curling Canada said it will be a major opportunity for the budding pro curlers to showcase their skills on a national level.

"For so many of them, it's the first time they've worn their provincial or their territorial jacket with the crest, so it's a pretty exciting opportunity," said Helen Radford, the federation's manager of youth curling.

Radford said the federation will be watching how things progress with the pandemic over the next year and that the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines offers hope that players will be able to hit the ice the week of February 14.

With the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the Tim Hortons Brier, and the world men's and mixed doubles championships set in Alberta throughout 2021, Radford said the federation will look at how those events turn out as a potential model for the youth tournament.

"We're running bubble events this year in Calgary, so any learnings that we take from that, if we need to use them going forward, we will," Radford said.

 

The next generation of elite curlers

Northern Ontario took away gold medals at the first-ever under-18 championship in 2017 and the Northern Ontario Curling Association's executive director Bobby Ray said the region will be well-represented next year.

With the caliber players competing, especially from the north, Ray said it will be exciting for people to get a glimpse at Canada's future curling elite.

"It's really a great opportunity to see someone who's young and rising, who no doubt we're going to see on TV for the next decade," Ray said.

"That's a special opportunity that Timmins is going to have."

In the meantime, Meunier said teams will be looking for opportunities to keep their skills sharp over the next year, though Curling Canada's is urging players to do that through COVID-safe training than competitions.

Fingers are crossed that restrictions will be loose enough to give players and spectators a great week of curling, though Radford said right now it's about having an event to look forward to and keeping the passion for the sport alive.

"We're going to a great facility, a great area, a great committee, Radford said.

"Even though it's delayed a year, we're really excited to go to Timmins."