Competitive curling will return in Saskatchewan this weekend.
The Highland Curling Club will be hosting the Sask Women’s Curling Tour, starting Oct. 9, followed by the Saskatchewan Men’s Super Series beginning Oct. 16.
It’s the first time since the Scotties Tournament of Hearts an organized curling event will take place in the province since the COVID-19 pandemic.
These will be competitive curling competitions, not bonspiels or tournaments.
“In working with the government, we’ve decided that the best way to phrase our events are either competitions or mini leagues,” Ashley Howard, CurlSask’s executive director, said.
Howard, also a competition curler who skips her own team, organized a women’s test even at the Sutherland Curling Club in Saskatoon a few weeks ago, as an ice breaker with the new return to play guidelines.
“The opportunity of the test event to get out and not have the pressure of qualifying for provincials so you didn’t worry about some of the fine details, it was a learning experience for the event organizers as well as players,” Howard said.
For the men, there’s a test event happening this weekend in Saskatoon. Regina’s Team Dunstone won’t be attending, but are looking forward to working the kinks out at the Super Series.
“We haven’t actually figured it out, it’s going to be trial by fire, you know that’s why we’re playing this event,” Braeden Moskowy, who plays third for Matt Dunstone, said
The reigning Tankard Champions spearheaded the creation of the Super Series, which features five Saskatchewan teams, including Colton Flasch, Shawn Meachem, Cody Hartung and Rylan Kleiter. Due to physical distancing, limited fans will be able to witness the action at the Highland.
“All the events have made it mandatory that the lobby is exclusively for curlers and coaches, no spectators, no outside public,” AJ Scott, the General Manager of the curling club, said.
Many precautions, like signs, sanitizing stations and wipes, are placed around the club.
“Everywhere you look there’s hand sanitizer, all the rocks and everything will be cleaned in between draws, no one will be sharing brooms or anything like that,” Moskowy said.
On Sunday, a curling event in Waterloo was cancelled midway through the competition after a player learned, through the COVID Alert app, they had come in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.
CurlSask hasn’t decided whether they’ll implement a mandatory policy of having the app, but said they are taking the issue seriously.
“Definitely something we’re discussing with our return to play committee this year and what do we do in those situations? How do we handle potential outbreaks?” Howard said.
The Highland Curling Club would be forced to take a more extreme approach.
“We would shut down completely effective right then, and take whatever necessary steps we have to after that,” said Scott.
Teams from outside the province won’t be allowed to come to Saskatchewan for competition. On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health for Saskatchewan went a step further.
“We just received word that our teams are not able to travel outside of Saskatchewan this year,” said Howard.
Meaning these local competitions will carry more weight than ever.