File Photo

Sylvan Lake to host Alberta Scotties Tournament of Hearts

The NexSource Centre will host a combined Boston Pizza Cup-Alberta Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

For the first time ever, the Alberta Scotties Tournament of Hearts is coming to Sylvan Lake.

From Jan. 25-31, 2021, curlers from across the province will be taking over Sylvan Lake during the men’s and women’s provincial championships, known as the Sentinel Storage Alberta Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

That week will also Sylvan Lake will also host the Boston Pizza Cup Presented by Best Western, combined the Alberta Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

This is the first time in Alberta curling history the two events will be combined as one, with the NexSource Centre in Sylvan Lake as the battle grounds.

Curling Alberta says the idea behind combining the two events was to make the championship a “bigger, flashier event.”

However, much has changed in the world since the combined event concept began to take off, namely the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jill Richard, executive director for Curling Alberta, said the organization had to think creatively to bring the combined event to fruition in both a safe and financially viable way.

“Bringing the event to a smaller community, especially one with experience hosting successful championships as they did in 2014 for the Alberta Scotties Tournament of Hearts, and a new and spacious facility that lends well to physical distancing, is a logical choice for us,” Richard said.

Sylvan Lake Mayor, Sean McIntyre, says the community of Sylvan Lake will be celebrating the championship in whatever way they can.

“Sylvan Lake has a long-standing history of welcoming and celebrating the curling culture, as well as hosting large-scale sporting events like the 2021 Provincial Curling Championships. While events may look different this year – likely without the presence of fans, I know that the curling community and Sylvan Lakers, myself included, will be there in spirit, celebrating,” McIntyre said.

Richard says the curling facility at the NexSource Centre is “top-notch” and curlers can look forward to excellent ice conditions.

The format of the championship will see the women compete in an eight-team round-robin. The playoff format will be changed slightly, reducing the playoff field from four teams to three.

The men’s champions will see a 12-team triple knockout with a page playoff.

“We considered many format alternatives for a combined event, and there were many elements that weighed into the decision to revert to the triple knockout for the men. In the end, the two formats simply complement each other well given our time frame for the event,” said Richard.

The “bubble” concept, as was utilized by the NHL, will not be employed at this event. Curling Alberta says that is because teams will not be in contact with the opposition, meaning the non-delivering team will relinquish the sheet completely.

Creating a true “bubble environment” is a costly endeavour that is “realistically within reach for only much larger or professional sport organizations.”

Though there have been many challenges this year, with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has also given Curling Alberta to bring fans together virtually.

Curling Alberta will be live streaming throughout the event and to connect curlers and their fans. Sportsnet will also return to broadcast the semi-finals and finals on their four regional channels

Richard says there is still a lot to celebrate and be thankful for during this difficult time.

“Our curlers have been very understanding of the changing realities. Both our organization and our curlers are poised to adapt as needed if it means we can keep people healthy and continue to play,” Richard said.

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