The provincial and territorial playdowns for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts and Tim Hortons Brier heat up this week from coast to coast. Here’s what you need to know.
Scotties Playdowns: Jan. 28-Feb. 2 (Cranbrook Curling Club)
Brier Playdowns: Jan. 28-Feb. 2 (Cranbrook Curling Club)
BC hosts its men’s and women’s provincial playdowns during the same week in Cranbrook.
Abbotsford’s Sarah Wark posted a 5-6 record in her first Scotties appearance last year in Sydney, N.S., and will look to defend her provincial title this year with the same exact squad. Youngster Corryn Brown, 24, has won twice on the World Curling Tour in 2019-20 and will likely give Wark a run for her money as well as Karla Thompson
On the men’s side, Jim Cotter, with third Steve Laycock, enters as the defending champion, but will be challenged by junior legend Tyler Tardi in his first year playing with the pros. Tardi, a 21-year-old native of Richmond, was eligible to stay in juniors this season to pursue an incredible fourth straight Canadian junior title, but decided to make the leap to the elite level.
Team Tardi have played a ton this season, holding a 36-18 record and have made six playoff appearances in 10 events played. Is Tardi ready to get to the Canadian championship?
Scotties Playdowns Winner: Laura Walker
Brier Playdowns: Feb. 5-9 (Westlock Curling Club)
A curler by the name of Kevin Koe or Brendan Bottcher has represented Alberta at the Brier for the past six years. In fact, Koe edged Bottcher (playing as Team Wild Card) in last year’s all-Albertan final.
The 28-year-old Bottcher has lost in the last two Canadian championship finals and will likely be hungry to get back. Koe has already qualified as the defending champ, so Bottcher will be the favourite to take this western playdown.
Team Bottcher sit fifth on the CTRS standings, meaning a loss in Alberta may or may not put them out of reach for the Wild Card game depending on how everything shakes down across the country.
Scotties Playdowns Winner: Robyn Silvernagle
Brier Playdown: Jan 29-Feb 2 (Melville Curling Club)
The Saskatchewan men’s playdowns should be fairly wide open once again.
Kirk Muyres defeated Matt Dunstone in last year’s final to advance to his first national championship as a skip. It shouldn’t be a surprise to find those two teams squaring off in the final once again.
Dunstone is the No. 1 ranked team in the province after capturing his first Grand Slam title of his career back at the Masters in October.
Kody Hartung and Shaun Meachem are the dark horses in prairie province.
Scotties Playdowns: Jan. 28-Feb. 2 (Rivers Curling Club)
Brier Playdowns: Feb. 4-9 (Charleswood Curling Club)
Manitoba’s Scotties playdowns will probably be the most competitive in the country. Returning champion Tracy Fleury, six-time Scotties champ Jennifer Jones and 2018 Scotties finalist Kerri Einarson all have a very good shot at standing atop the podium by week’s end. It really is anybody’s game.
Jill Officer, the famous longtime second for Jones, will be coaching Team Fleury at playdowns for an added layer of intrigue.
Since Fleury, Jones and Einarson hold the top three spots in the CTRS, the Wild Card game is guaranteed to feature two rinks from Manitoba going head-to-head for the 16th and final spot in the Scotties main draw.
The massive field on the men’s side features contenders such as Tanner Horgan, Braden Calvert, Jason Gunnlaugson, Sean Grassie and William Lyburn. However, the favourite to take the title will once again be Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen. Team McEwen have played well this season, sitting 20 games above .500 with four finals appearances including a win at the WCT Uiseong International Curling Cup. McEwen is fourth on the CTRS, putting him in a good position for the Wild Card game if he comes up short.
Scotties Playdowns: Jan. 28-Feb. 2 (Horne Granite Curling Club)
Brier Playdowns: Jan. 28-Feb. 2 (Horne Granite Curling Club)
Brad Jacobs added two-time Olympian Marc Kennedy this season to play third and the Sault Ste. Marie squad has been the best team in curling with three straight Grand Slam victories.
If the amazing happens and Team Jacobs somehow does not win Northern Ontario, they will get a second chance to qualify for the Brier with the wild card game as the top-ranked CTRS team.
Thunder Bay’s Krista McCarville, a seven-time Northern Ontario champion, will be the heavy favourite on the women’s side.
Scotties Playdowns: Jan. 27-Feb. 1 (Cornwall Curling Club)
Brier Playdowns: Jan. 28-Feb. 2 (Cornwall Curling Club)
Three-time Scotties Tournament of Hearts winner Rachel Homan is looking to return to the national championship for the seventh time in her young career.
The Ottawa native will be the beating favourite once again, but will still need to outlast formidable foes such as Megan Balsdon, Hollie Duncan, Jacqueline Harrison, Julie Hastings and Danielle Inglis in the Cornwall playdowns. Team Homan ranks fourth on the CTRS behind three Manitoba rinks, meaning a loss at provincials will end Homan’s hopes for a ticket to Moose Jaw.
The 2020 Ontario Tankard will see defending champion Team Scott McDonald return in attempt to qualify for their hometown Brier in Kingston. McDonald and company are just one game above .500 this season with a victory at the Challenge Casino de Charlevoix.
The opposing field is no walk in the park either with the likes of John Epping, who won the Canada Cup in December with new third Ryan Fry, and four-time Brier champ Glenn Howard looking to take the title away. Thanks to a strong season, Team Epping is second on the CTRS and is also guaranteed a Wild Card game in Kingston if they don’t win in Cornwall.
Ontario is wide open on the men’s side.
Scotties Playdowns Winner: Noemie Verreault
Brier Playdowns Winner: Alek Bedard
Scotties Playdowns Winner: Andrea Crawford
Brier Playdowns: Jan. 29-Feb. 2 (Capital Winter Club)
Scotties Playdowns Winner: Mary-Anne Arsenault
Brier Playdowns Winner: Jamie Murphy
Prince Edward Island
Scotties Playdowns Winner: Suzanne Birt
Brier Playdowns Winner: Bryan Cochrane
Newfoundland and Labrador
Scotties Playdowns Winner: Erica Curtis
Brier Playdowns: Jan. 28-Feb. 2 (Re/Max Centre)
St. John’s Brad Gushue hasn’t played provincial playdowns since 2017 after wearing Team Canada colours as the defending champion the past two Briers.
He’s back again and will be the favourite by a country mile.
Scotties Playdowns Winner: Hailey Birnie
Brier Playdowns Winner: Thomas Scoffin
Scotties Playdowns Winner: Kerry Galusha
Brier Playdowns: Jan. 29-Feb. 3 (Hay River Curling Club)
Jamie Koe has represented his territory 13 times, including the past 11. Expect the 42-year-old to return to nationals once again.
Scotties Playdowns Winner: Lori Eddy
Brier Playdowns Winner: Jake Higgs