Curling officials say they will try to create a pandemic-free “bubble” environment in Canada that will allow the sport to proceed with many of its biggest tournaments in 2021.
The men’s world championships, the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the Tim Hortons Brier and the Canadian mixed doubles championships will all take place in a controlled access environment at Calgary's Markin MacPhail Centre. The world championships, which will determine six of the 10 countries in the 2022 Olympics, will be April 3-11; dates for the other events have not been decided.
“No one can deny that these are challenging times, and not just for curling, obviously,” Curling Canada CEO Katherine Henderson said. “But we also know how important these events are to the athletes, to our partners and, of course, to our fans.”
Organizers say they will use lessons learned from the NBA and NHL to stay safe. Rather than playing their seasons in empty home arenas, like the NFL and Major League Baseball, the pro basketball and hockey leagues brought all of their games to a closed environment in one (NBA) or two (NHL) cities.
“We’re looking forward to playing events — if there’s a safe way to play them, let’s get them played," said Canadian skip Brad Gushue, a two-time world champion and 2006 Olympian. "Other sports are playing, and the NHL and NBA have shown that it can be done safely, so I believe we can do the same in curling.”
The curling season usually runs in the winter through May. Like other sports, curling shut down in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic, canceling the men's, women's, mixed doubles and senior world championships, among other events.
“It’s been a difficult few months, obviously,” said Kerri Einarson, leader of the 2020 Scotties champions. “We understand these are strange times with some accompanying challenges that go beyond sport, but as athletes we embrace challenges and will do our best to thrive under whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.”