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Curling is back
An unorthodox Scotties Tournament of Hearts opens tonight in Calgary, kicking off a championship stretch unlike any the sport has seen. Here’s what you should know:
This is the first event in the Calgary curling bubble. Next up is the Brier from March 5-14, the Canadian mixed doubles championship March 18-25, the men’s world championship April 2-11, followed by a couple of Grand Slam events. All these are being held in the 3,500-seat arena at Canada Olympic Park. The stands will be empty, save for some cardboard cutouts of “fans.” The curlers are living in a sequestered environment and are prohibited from stepping out. They have to show two negative tests for the coronavirus before playing their first game, and there will be more tests during the tournament. Masks are required outside their hotel rooms, but not while they’re playing. Many players are a bit rusty after the closure of curling clubs across the country left them with few opportunities to play or even practice recently.
The format is a bit different. In lieu of a play-in game to decide the final team in the main tournament, Curling Canada simply named three wild cards based on the Canadian team rankings. That increased the main field from 16 rinks to 18. As usual, they’re divided into two pools for round-robin play, with the top four in each pool advancing (and carrying their records) to the championship pool. But the playoff format is different this year. The four-team Page system is out. Instead, only the top three teams from the championship pool advance to the playoffs. The top seed gets a bye to the final, where it meets the winner of the semifinal between the second and third seeds.
Jennifer Jones can make history. The Manitoba skip is going for her seventh national title, which would break a tie with Colleen Jones for the most ever by a skip. Jones’ last Scotties championship came in 2018, when she went on to win her second world title.
The competition, as always, will be fierce. Kerri Einarson’s Manitoba-based rink is back to defend its title as Team Canada. Three-time Scotties champion Rachel Homan of Ontario could easily be a five-time champ — she lost the past two finals in extra ends. The woman who beat her in 2019, Chelsea Carey, is back as the skip of a wild-card team. She’s filling in for Tracy Fleury, who opted to stay home with her daughter for health reasons.
There’s a good chance a team from Manitoba wins it. In addition to the Einarson and Jones rinks, all three wild cards curl out of the Land of 100,000 Lakes. Those are skipped by Carey, Beth Peterson and reigning world junior champ Mackenzie Zacharias. So Manitoba can lay claim to 28 per cent of the field.
It’s still unclear whether the winner will get to represent Canada at the women’s world championship. Swiss health authorities put the kibosh on holding the tournament there in late March. There’s still a chance it could be rescheduled or moved somewhere else, but for now it looks like the women’s worlds could be cancelled for the second straight year. Read more about the Scotties in this preview by CBC Sports’ ace curling reporter Devin Heroux. You can also join Devin and Colleen Jones for That Curling Show, which goes live every day of the Scotties at 7:30 p.m. ET on the CBC Olympics Twitter, Facebook and YouTube pages.
WATCH | CBC Sports’ That Curling Show is live every day of The Scotties at 7:30 p.m. ET on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube:
Calls to move the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics are “silly,” according to Dick Pound. Several Canadian politicians have said that China should be stripped of the Games, and Conservative leader Erin O’Toole was especially vocal about it this week. But Pound, the Canadian longtime International Olympic Committee member, says that’s an unreasonable demand with the event less than a year away. “If they give this 30 seconds of thought,” he said of the politicians, “they know it’s not possible.” John Furlong, who was head of the Vancouver 2010 organizing committee, agrees it’s too late to move the ’22 Games. “It makes for great headlines and it makes for great debate, but the truth is, it’s far too down the road to contemplate,” he said. Read more about why Pound, Furlong and others are opposed to relocating the Beijing Olympics in this story by Jim Morris.
The Canadian men’s water polo team’s Olympic dream is over. Today’s 17-9 loss to Russia in the quarter-finals of a last-chance qualifying tournament in the Netherlands ended the squad’s hopes of making the Olympics for the first time since 2008. Reaching the semifinals was a must because the three remaining Olympic spots go to the winners of the semis and the third-pace game. The Canadian women’s team will be in Tokyo, though. They’ve already clinched their first Olympic appearance since 2004. You can watch the high-stakes men’s third-place game live Sunday at 8 a.m. ET and the final at 10 a.m. ET here.
Two Canadians won World Cup ski cross medals today. Reece Howden took silver in the men’s race in Austria to widen his lead atop the World Cup standings. This was the 22-year-old’s fifth podium appearance in the last six races, including three victories, putting him in great shape to capture his first season title. Courtney Hoffos took bronze in the women’s race for her first World Cup medal since December 2019. Read more about her and Howden’s performances and watch highlights here.
Canada’s women’s soccer team held its own. The ingredients for a blowout were there last night at the SheBelieves Cup in Orlando. Canada was playing its first match in nearly a year, seven key players were missing from the lineup, and the opponent was the mighty United States — basically the Death Star of women’s soccer. But the Canadians emerged with a respectable result: a 1-0 loss on a 79th-minute goal by Rose Lavelle. Canada’s next game at the four-team mini-tournament is Sunday vs. Argentina. Read more about the Canada-U.S. match here and watch a replay of it Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on the CBC TV network.
This weekend’s NHL outdoor games actually look pretty cool. The concept had gone a bit stale in recent years, with all those open-air games held in baseball and football stadiums starting to feel generic. But the setting for Saturday’s Colorado-Vegas and Sunday’s Boston-Philly games is legitimately fresh. They’re being held at Nevada’s picturesque Lake Tahoe, and the inability to allow fans this year opened up some interesting opportunities. Photos released by the NHL show the rink was built almost right on the water’s edge, with big evergreen trees sitting just beyond the boards. There’s actually a genuine outdoor vibe. Take a look:
Goalie’s eye view. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/NHLOutdoors?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#NHLOutdoors</a> <a href=”https://t.co/G5jnu6OjnC”>pic.twitter.com/G5jnu6OjnC</a>
Things to watch on CBC Sports
Besides the water polo games and the Canada-U.S. women’s soccer match already mentioned, here’s what you can stream and/or watch on TV:
Alpine skiing world championships: Mikaela Shiffrin will try to make history by winning her fifth consecutive slalom world title. No one else has won more than four in their career. The two-run women’s race goes Saturday at 4 a.m. ET and 7:30 a.m. ET. The men’s slalom runs are Sunday at the same times. Stream both events live here.
Road to the Olympic Games: Saturday’s show features the men’s water polo Olympic qualifying tournament, plus the men’s giant slalom and women’s slalom from the alpine worlds. Watch it from 1-4 p.m. ET on the CBC TV network and CBCSports.ca. Sunday’s show features the men’s slalom and the men’s water polo qualifier. Watch it from noon-2 p.m. ET on CBCSports.ca or check local listings for TV times.
A hockey video that’ll make you feel old: Sounds depressing, I know. But CBC Sports’ Rob Pizzo parlayed his grim realization that only three active NHL players are older than him into the discovery of a bunch of fun facts. For example: when Joe Thornton played his first NHL game in October 1997 (!), his current teammate Auston Matthews was three weeks old. Watch Rob’s “9 NHL facts that might make you feel really old… in 90 seconds” video here.