Put away the shorts and bring out the brooms — curling is back for another season after a quick retreat during the summer months.
This winter CBC Sports is expanding its curling programming to include more international and domestic events, giving fans of the sport hours of coverage.
It begins this weekend as CBC Sports is live-streaming the World Curling Tour Baden Masters event in Switzerland to kick off the competitive international season. There are no Canadian teams competing in the event, but recognizable names are all over the scoreboards.
The biggest name at the Baden event is Nik Edin. The Swedish skip is coming off one of his best years to date, capped off by a world championship in Las Vegas this past April. Edin defeated Canada's Brad Gushue in the final in what was a rematch of the title game a year earlier. He also won the silver medal in PyeongChang after dropping the championship game to John Shuster's American squad.
Edin's team will be competing against 19 other foursomes all looking to set the tone for the season. Other noticeable teams competing include the Olympic bronze-medallists from Switzerland, led by skip Peter de Cruz. The upstart and youthful Bruce Mouat squad from Scotland is also competing.
After Canada's men and women failed to win a medal for the first time at the Olympics, many questioned whether or not the rest of the world had caught up to or even surpassed Canada in curling power. This despite Canada's gold medal in mixed doubles' debut at the Olympics by Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris.
But that conversation was muted in March after Jennifer Jones won the women's world championship in Thunder Bay and Gushue made it to the men's championship game in April.
Canada's depth of curling and level of competition prepares teams for the international tests, but the rest of the world's curling teams are spending more time at the big bonspiels and becoming more battled tested.
World Curling Tour events as well as the Grand Slam of Curling events are now ladened with international talent. Those teams are spending more time in North American playing meaningful curling games against Canada's top talent.
At the end of last year's curling season the athletes were certainly fatigued, compounded by the fact that it was an Olympic season. But that shouldn't take away from the fact that curling is as professional as it gets, minus the big payouts seen in other pro sports.
Curling is now played nine months out the year — many of the curlers also work jobs on the side. Securing sponsorship and winning events are the team's lifelines to being able to live on the road and play the sport.
And so let the roaring game begin in August when most people are still thinking about sitting on a beach rather than sitting in a cold arena watching rocks slide up and down the pebbled sheets.
The curlers are ready, hitting the hacks and back in the house.