Calgary is about to become a curling mecca.
Weeks after CBC Sports first reported the Alberta city had been selected to host a number of important bonspiels, Curling Canada made it official on Tuesday that the Scotties, the Brier, the men’s world championship and mixed doubles national championship will all be hosted at Canada Olympic Park.
There is no timeline at this point for when the events will take place.
There are also two Grand Slam of Curling events being planned for the Calgary curling bubble as well.
Curling Canada officials said they continue to have dialogue with all levels of government and health officials to come up with the safest protocol, using many of the lessons learned from the NHL and NBA bubbles.
WATCH | CBC Sports’ Devin Heroux, Colleen Jones discuss Calgary curling hub:
Six-time Scotties winner Colleen Jones says with COVID-19 cases in Calgary rising, there are still concerns about how the event will happen.
“For a lot of people this is great news,” Jones said. “The other side of the coin, though, is with COVID cases rising across the country there’s a lot of trepidation about how the provincial championships will go.
“Provincial associations are all meeting right now as we speak. There’s surveys going out asking curlers how this should look.”
In an email to CBC Sports, the Department of Canadian Heritage said it has received a request from Curling Canada to hold an international event in Canada — that would be the men’s world curling championship.
“An authorization will only be granted if plans offer robust protocols to mitigate the risk of importation and spread of COVID-19 in Canada,” the email said.
“An authorization would be conditional on ongoing support from provincial and local public health authorities and the provincial government, as well as a risk mitigation measures plan, developed and implemented by Curling Canada and assessed by the Public Health Agency of Canada.”
The curling extravaganza will most likely begin with the crown jewel of women’s curling, the Scotties. All of the events will be played without fans at The Markin MacPhail Centre at WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park.
While there are still many details to work through regarding player and coach safety, Alberta’s Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women, Leela Sharon Aheer, said it’s a positive thing for the province.
“This series of championship curling events is a fantastic opportunity for Alberta to once again show the world that our ability to host major hub city sporting events is second to none,” she said.
“We look forward to delivering an exciting and memorable curling experience for all players, participants and fans.”
The Scotties was originally going to be held in Thunder Bay, Ont., but the pandemic quashed those plans. Pre-event tickets had been sold out. However, Thunder Bay has been awarded the 2022 Scotties.
The Brier was going to be played in Kelowna but is now also set to take place in the Calgary bubble. It marks the first time the Scotties and the Brier are being played in the same city in the same season.
‘I trust Curling Canada’
Defending Brier champion Brad Gushue is thrilled Curling Canada found a way to safely get curlers back to the pebbled ice.
“Every player I’ve talked to has wanted this to happen and [is] excited it’s going to happen,” Gushue said. “I’ve heard some players are a little hesitant but they are few and far between.
“I trust Curling Canada enough to do this in a safe manner. Our team is on board.”
Gushue says his team has had a number of conversations about what life in the Calgary bubble might look like, including potentially being away from family for nearly two months.
“That’s a hard one to swallow. To be honest though, it’s something we’ve discussed at length with our families,” Gushue said.
“There might be some teams that don’t do it. It’s hard not to do when you love the sport and you want to compete.”
Gushue is hoping to defend his Brier title and earn a spot back to the men’s world championship, having not been able to wear the maple leaf at last year’s championship in Scotland because of the pandemic.
WATCH | Gushue disappointed by cancellation of curling world championship:
“Missing a world championship is not the end of the world but when you’re a competitive curler it tears at you a little bit,” he said.
“It weighed on me. There were moments throughout the summer when people would bring up the worlds and I thought this just sucks that I’m not going to get there.”
Gushue is also planning on playing in the mixed doubles national championship and two Grand Slam events that will also be housed in the Calgary bubble.
Preparing for lack of fans
The grind of six to seven consecutive weeks of curling is something Gushue is already preparing for, including not having any fans inside the arena to motivate him.
“I feed off the crowd,” he said. “To not have them around is going to be a challenge for me. I’m working with our sports psychologist on how to handle that. I don’t know how it’s going to affect me.”
Gushue says his Newfoundland and Labrador team have only played in two competitions this season — by far the least amount of time they’ve been on the ice during a season in their careers.
And they haven’t even been a complete team.
Geoff Walker is in Alberta with his wife, Laura, and their newborn baby. Walker opted to stay in the province as he didn’t want to leave and quarantine for two weeks before being able to play with Team Gushue.
“I still haven’t seen Geoff in person since the night we won the Brier,” Gushue said. “How do we get together to practise and play?”
Provincial restrictions make playdowns a puzzle
That’s a common question many of the top curling teams in the country are asking these days as most of the foursomes have at least one player living out of the province — restrictions in each jurisdiction of the country differ, making it increasingly challenging for curlers to get together on the ice.
That brings up the issue of provincial playdowns.
With many provinces imposing strict rules around gatherings, curling associations are trying to formulate plans that would allow them to safely and fairly select provincial and territorial representatives to attend both national championships.
The announcement of this Calgary curling bubble comes a year out from the Roar of the Rings Olympic qualifiers scheduled for Saskatoon next November into December.
This is a crucial quadrennial for Canadian curling after both the men’s and women’s teams failed to reach the podium for the first time at the 2018 Olympics.
Vendée Globe Skipper Who Had Close Call with Bulk Carrier Collides With Fishing Boat – gCaptain – gcaptain.com
A Vendée Globe skipper who just days ago had a close call with a bulk carrier off the Azores has now been involved in a collision with a fishing boat, his team has informed.
“At 19:50h UTC this evening, while racing in third place, some 90 miles from the Vendée Globe finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne, German skipper Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) was in collision.
He reports damage to his starboard foil and some other damage, but he is unharmed, has secured the boat and is proceeding towards the finish line at reduced speed,” according to an emailed statement from his team.
An update on the Vendée Globe website said the collision was with a fishing boat.
Herrmann addressed the collision in a video during which he said he was asleep before the collision. He also questioned why his alarms did not alert him to the other vessel, raising the question that perhaps the fishing vessel was not broadcasting AIS.
“I have never experienced anything like this at sea before,” Herrmann said, “but the most important thing is that no one was hurt.”
The incident comes just a few days after Herrmann reported that he had to convince the captain of a bulk carrier to give-way as the two were seemingly on a collision course. The bulker did eventually turn to starboard, giving way to Herrmann’s sailboat.
In the previous incident, Herrmann said he was in communication with the ship but that the captain needed some convincing to give-way. “As if we didn’t have enough stress, this adds to the stress. Half an hour of checking, convincing him. ‘Get out of my way, I’m a sailboat. I have right of way!’ Ha!,” he said, recalling the event.
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George Springer perfect fit for Toronto Blue Jays' long-term plan starting to take shape – TSN
TORONTO — Picture this: An organization that has a reputation as a developmental machine and can regularly churn out big league players, but one that also has the money and resources to keep those homegrown stars around with lucrative, long-term contracts, as well as supplement the roster each and every off-season.
A drafting-and-developing track record and deep pockets is the most powerful combination in sports, and it’s one that the Toronto Blue Jays are suddenly flexing to the surprise of some.
This was always the plan.
Take a handful of years to put the developmental processes in place, build a base of young talent, tear down and discard high-priced veterans, then build it back up, being careful to also time it all up perfectly.
The building started last year with an $80-million investment in Hyun-Jin Ryu.
It was fully expected to continue this winter, and the Jays were fortunate that their top target all along, George Springer, had mutual interest.
With the payroll now approaching $140 million for 2021, it won’t end with Springer, either, but the latest big step in Jays president/CEO Mark Shapiro’s plan was finally wearing Blue Jays colours Wednesday during his introductory presser.
There’s no secret what lured Springer from Houston to Toronto, even with the Connecticut native’s hometown New York Mets making a pitch: Money and the opportunity to win.
“When you have a young, talented group that’s already in place, it’s obviously very, very attractive because you know what they could potentially do,” Springer said.
Expectations are now sky-high for the Jays and it’ll be that way for the foreseeable future.
The Toronto Blue Jays are no longer a little brother in the American League East and they’re no longer a rebuilding team just happy to have an intriguing core of kids, either.
Year in, year out from this point forward, the expectation and goal for this ballclub every spring is World Series or bust.
There are no “good stepping stones” or silver medals coming off an above .500 season, albeit a shortened one, and then proceeding to hand out the largest contract in franchise history to push that forward.
While far from the last piece to the puzzle, Springer could be the final core lineup building block if things go smoothly, and the fit has been obvious for a long, long time.
“Our attraction to George Springer was several years ago where it began,” GM Ross Atkins explained. “I think any executive in baseball that has watched George play for some time would love to talk about how he’d fit onto your team. And when you start to think about the middle of the diamond and centre field, that being the best player on your team, that’s really exciting to think about. It is a very good fit. George’s impact on both sides of the ball, the defender he’s been, the offensive player he’s been, the base-running capability.”
A perfect fit on the field and in the clubhouse, it was clear from the start of free agency who the target was.
The big question was whether they could convince Springer they were the right partner and get a deal done.
Despite the obvious need in centre field and the exciting power/speed combo, there are intangibles Springer brings that this Blue Jays clubhouse simply did not have before.
“Dependability, reliability, consistency, and then fit,” Shapiro said. “Ross has talked a lot about we had certain attributes and characteristics and skillsets that we were looking for and George was the guy that was clearly a good fit for this team, for this city, for this country, and for [where] we are right now. His experience will add a certain level of wisdom to our players. He’s been places where our guys haven’t been yet and he knows how to handle those environments.”
Objectively, Springer has been named to three all-star games, garnered MVP votes in three separate seasons and has been a well above average hitter statistically in each of his seven big-league seasons.
The track record of health and consistency is one you’re willing to commit to.
Digging even deeper, the 31-year-old has a career .883 OPS on the road compared to .819 at home — goodbye trash-can narrative — and the right-handed hitter handles righties (.834 OPS) just as well as lefties (.899 OPS).
He’s also crushed to the tune of a .358/.453/.604 slash line in 15 career games inside hitter-friendly Rogers Centre.
There really isn’t a red flag in the profile at this point.
So where does the plan go from here?
In the short term, over the next handful of weeks leading into spring training, the goal is to add to the starting rotation, the clear roster need at this point.
Trevor Bauer has finally been crossed off the board as the budget gets tighter, but there’s still room to improve, according to Shapiro.
“We’ve got some flexibility, but the bulk of our heavy lifting is done,” Shapiro said. “There’s still opportunities for Ross and our baseball operations group to be creative in what they do.”
A trade is the most likely route to finding a top-of-the-rotation starter, but there still seems to be ways to add a James Paxton, Jake Odorizzi or Taijuan Walker, especially if they’re open to one-year deals once the calendar flips to February.
The more intriguing question, perhaps, is what’s the next step of this long-term plan?
There are more planned budget increases coming and the expectation is a franchise record payroll is on the horizon, which will exceed the $165 million or so spent a few years ago.
“That plan is that we’ll continue to win and as we win the revenues will increase and where those dollars go, I think, there’s no limit to what this market can be — it’s a behemoth,” Shapiro said.
With a cornerstone player added to the outfield and a deep group of homegrown kids either already patrolling the infield or on their way, the next building block is likely to be that elusive ace that each and every eventual World Series winner has to go out and find.
The significant amount of money coming off the books after the season combined with another payroll bump will have Atkins fishing in the big boy pond once again.
One name to consider next winter is Noah Syndergaard, an arm we already highlighted here as a target.
Another scenario to consider is giving an already much-improved Jays team the first half of the 2021 schedule to show they’re ready and then go out in July and use that prospect pipeline to acquire whatever ace happens to hit the trade market.
Since it’s already been a winning off-season for the Jays’ front office, there’s no reason to deviate from the plan now.
It’s one that seems to be coming together at the right pace.
Canucks’ Elias Pettersson appears to rediscover confidence after slow start – Sportsnet.ca
VANCOUVER – Since eight games weren’t enough to judge and write off Elias Pettersson’s season, one game is a preposterously small sample in which to conclude that the worst is over and the Vancouver Canucks’ best forward is back.
But Wednesday, for the first time in 2021, Pettersson looked like the confident, driven offensive star who burst upon the National Hockey League two-and-a-half years ago.
It wasn’t just that the 22-year-old had a goal and assist, matching his output from the previous eight games, in the Canucks’ 5-1 win against the Ottawa Senators. It was that Pettersson had nine shot attempts, hitting a post and a crossbar as well as scoring. It was that he made one goal possible with a strong defensive play in the neutral zone, and on another play bowled over Evgenii Dadonov when the Senators winger came to deliver a hit.
It was this 200-foot game, this so-what-are-you-going-to-do-about-it swagger, that Pettersson was missing as well as the points during the Canucks’ false start to the 56-game season.
“I think when Petey is on top of his game, you actually see a high compete level,” Canucks coach Travis Green said after his team inched back towards .500 — a minimal threshold it can attain if it completes a three-game sweep against last-place Ottawa on Thursday at Rogers Arena. “We didn’t have exhibition (games); sometimes it takes a little time to get your engine running as hot as it needs to.
“I think we saw glimpses of it tonight out of that line. But you’re right, when he’s engaged and on top of his game, you do see good things come out of other areas of his game that maybe don’t have anything to do with offence. And really, that’s part of winning hockey. All your players have to have that in them if you’re going to win.”
Pettersson and linemates J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser generated three second-period goals after the Canucks barely survived the first when they needed 22 saves from goalie Thatcher Demko to maintain an early 1-1 tie.
The only forward who has struggled as much to meet expectations as Pettersson, Miller scored his first two goals of the season six minutes apart in the middle period as the Canucks blew the game open.
Miller said he thought the third period was his line’s best this season although remarkable grinder, Tyler Motte, scored the only Vancouver goal — his fifth in nine games.
“We’re relied upon to put points up and produce for our team,” Miller said. “We’re relied on to work hard and create momentum for our team. Typically, when we work hard, the ice opens up like it did in the third period. We need to be better at the start of the game. I mean, I guess it’s nice to produce a little bit but at the same time, our standards are higher than a couple of open nets (goals).”
Miller has said it took him years in the NHL to figure how to be the player he has become. Pettersson is starting only his third season.
What wisdom would Miller offer his linemate?
“Just worry about his game,” he said. “There’s a lot of outside noise comes in here all the time and he has to answer about how he’s not good enough or whatever it is. He is our best player. I’m not worried about him at all. We know what makes him a good player and we have complete faith that he’s going to play well for us coming up.”
Miller’s definition of “all the time” probably differs from reporters’ as Pettersson is available to the media only for a few minutes on Zoom two or three times a week.
He didn’t go more than two games without a point of all last season, but has already endured a five-game scoring famine this season. He looked tentative in some games, hesitant to shoot. At times, he looked at war with the puck, struggling to control it. And he wasn’t engaged physically and defensively like he was Wednesday.
“I think frustration comes when we’re not winning games,” Pettersson said. “I think everybody in the locker room wants to win, win badly. Our confidence is good, both for me, and the team. (We) are believing each other, so just build on these two games.
“There’s always pressure. And I’m the guy to put the most pressure on me. I always want to play good. I’ll be honest, my first couple of games haven’t been the way I wanted to play. I think today was definitely a step in the right direction, but me and our line definitely have a lot more to give.”
The Canucks top players will have to give more because the team can’t ask for any more than what its bottom-six forwards have given. And through two wins against the Senators, by an aggregate score of 12-2, they can’t ask anything more of Demko.
His 42-save performance Wednesday was even more impressive than Monday’s 7-1 romp, not only because the Canucks were so poor in front of him in the first period, but because he backed up one excellent performance with a great one.
Two games are not a fluke. Demko has elevated his play and looks suddenly like the goalie whose spectacular playoff cameo last summer made starter Jacob Markstrom a little more expendable.
“The way things are kind of going, one game at a time isn’t going to be good enough,” Demko said. “We’ve got to start stringing something together.”
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