Longtime event director weighs in on alternate options for 20-21 curling season

Longtime event director weighs in on alternate options for 20-21 curling season

Longtime event director weighs in on alternate options for 20-21 curling season

With some curling competitions already cancelled and the rest of the 2020-21 season up in the air due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sport is facing significant challenges as it looks ahead to a possible resumption in a few months time.

Empty arenas are the new normal as the sporting world slowly starts to come back, and curling would likely need to follow that lead. The sport’s powerbrokers are continuing to explore various possibilities for competitions, but are hamstrung by uncertainty about potential restrictions.

The days of thousands of fans attending a weeklong bonspiel and jamming the nearby party space are likely over for at least next season, a serious blow to the bottom line for many events.

Warren Hansen, a Curling Canada Hall of Famer who spent over two decades running event operations for the national federation, says alternate plans may need to be made to at least get top competitions on television.

“Find an arena that’s close to the airport, make a deal with some hotels and try and stage the things for at least your television audience,” Hansen said.

With the potential for air travel skittishness or restrictions hampering transport, Hansen thinks holding events in major cities like Winnipeg or Calgary would be a solid alternative.

That way, Hansen said, most of the top curlers could probably drive to the competition, adding fields could be trimmed to the top eight or 10 teams in the country and held in a small rink to keep costs down.

Both Curling Canada, which runs Season of Champions events like the Tim Hortons Brier and Scotties Tournament of Hearts, and Sportsnet, which operates the Grand Slam circuit, have not announced any changes to their plans or schedules for next season.

A few lower-tier curling tour stops have been cancelled but the first top-flight event of the campaign, the Masters in Sarnia-Lambton, Ont., remains a go for Oct. 20-25. The Scotties, meanwhile, is on tap Feb. 20-28 in Thunder Bay, Ont., and the Brier is set for March 6-14 in Kelowna, B.C.

The sports world, including curling, essentially shut down last March when the pandemic hit. Golf, soccer and auto racing have started to come back while other sports are taking steps to return this summer or fall.

“I think you’re going to have a (TV) audience that’s so starved for any sport and starved for curling,” Hansen said in a recent interview from Vancouver. “If you’re one of the fans that exists, the audiences I think will be good regardless of what you do or how you do it.

“And the matter of the whole reaction and how it’s going to work and how it’s going to be, you’re never going to know until you try it.”

A number of significant question marks remain on the curling front.

Many facilities around the country may not reopen at their normal time. Teams may have difficulty with sponsorships given the economic downturn and the sport’s uncertainty. Some players may have to factor in quarantine periods to their schedules.

Other sports have made big adjustments and curling may have to do so as well. The NBA is planning to resume games in late July at the Disney campus near Orlando, Fla., and the NHL is exploring a summer return in two hub cities.

“You’ve got to somehow try to make sure that your key properties are at least operated and televised,” said Hansen, who has done consulting work since leaving his longtime position at Curling Canada in 2015.

“And I think that the televised end of it can keep things rolling. For the most part it can probably satisfy a lot of the sponsor obligations.”

Host cities on the 2020-21 calendar are in a tough spot as the holding pattern continues. Tickets have been sold, promotional work is underway and preparations continue despite the uncertainty.

In addition, big dates are fast approaching. The Olympic Trials are less than a year and a half away and the Beijing Games are set for February 2022.

“I think everybody’s going to have to feel their way along with it,” said Hansen, who hosts the “Inside Curling” podcast with legendary skip Kevin Martin. ”But … the key thing is in the sport of curling anyway, we’ve got to make sure that we do everything we possibly can to keep something forging ahead in some way, shape or form.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 12, 2020.


Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta's chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says Albertans need to keep making safe choices to start bending the curve back down. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
One new COVID-19 death in Red Deer, 257 additional cases province-wide

Red Deer sits at 459 active cases of the virus

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Thursday that the province may consider a regional approach to loosening COVID-19 restrictions if numbers continue to decline. (photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Province further easing health restrictions

Numbers of people hospitalized and in intensive care has dropped dramatically, says premier

Eric Rajah, co-founder of A Better World. (Photo Submitted)
Two Lacombe residents recieve award from Governor General for chairty work

Eric Rajah and Brian Leavitt co-founded A Better World, a charity which started in Lacombe in 1990

File photo
Alberta’s central zone has 670 active cases

301 new cases identified Sunday

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

A health-care worker looks at a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Palais de Congress site as Quebec begins mass vaccinations based on age across the province, Monday, March 1, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Nearly 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses arriving in Canada this week: Anand

Anita Anand says she’s received assurances from the vaccine manufacturer

Samantha Sharpe, 25, was stabbed to death at Sunchild First Nation on Dec. 12, 2018. Chelsey Lagrelle was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for manslaughter in a Red Deer courtroom on Tuesday. Photo contributed
Central Alberta woman sentenced to 4 1/2 years for stabbing friend to death in 2018

Chelsey Lagrelle earlier pleaded guilty to stabbing Samantha Sharpe during argument

Calgary police say they received 80 hate crime complaints between January and November 2020. (Pixabay)
‘Racism is a real problem:’ Muslim women fearful following attacks in Edmonton

So far in 2021, three of seven hate-crime-related investigations have involved Somali-Muslim women

Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro speaks during a news conference in Calgary on May 29, 2020. Shandro says Alberta is considering whether to extend the time between COVID-19 vaccine shots to four months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta may follow B.C.’s lead on faster rollout of first COVID-19 dose

Tyler Shandro says a committee of COVID-19 experts is analyzing emerging data and a decision is coming

A locally-produced video project aims to preserve Canada’s railway history

‘Railways have been an integral part of Canadian history since 1836’

Ryan Jake Applegarth of Ponoka, 28, is scheduled to appear at Ponoka Provincial Court on March 12, 2021. (File photo)
Discussions about justice continue as Ponoka murder victim’s case proceeds

Reaction to comments Ponoka Staff Sgt. Chris Smiley made to town council last month

Dr. Stanley Read
Hometown Bashaw doctor recognized with alumni award for AIDS work

Dr. Stanley Read, born and raised in Bashaw, is considered a global health leader

A copy of the book “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” by Dr. Seuss, rests in a chair, Monday, March 1, 2021, in Walpole, Mass. Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the business that preserves and protects the author and illustrator’s legacy, announced on his birthday, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, that it would cease publication of several children’s titles including “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” and “If I Ran the Zoo,” because of insensitive and racist imagery. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
6 Dr. Seuss books won’t be published for racist images

Books affected include McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super! and The Cat’s Quizzer

AstraZeneca’s vaccine ready for use at the vaccination centre in Apolda, Germany, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Reichel/dpa via AP
National panel advises against using Oxford-AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine on seniors

NACI panel said vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are preferred for seniors ‘due to suggested superior efficacy’

Most Read