Playoffs at the world men’s curling championship in Calgary have been suspended because of positive tests for the COVID-19 virus.
Those who tested positive are asymptomatic and don’t involve playoff teams, according to Curling Canada.
Watch and engage with CBC Sports’ That Curling Show live Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET; Sunday 5 p.m. ET) featuring the men’s curling championship on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
But games are halted until athletes and staff on playoff teams are tested Saturday and receive their results.
“All teams that made the playoffs will undergo testing on Saturday morning, and until the results are clear and it’s known that the players and event staff are safe, no further games will be played,” Curling Canada said in a statement.
Those who have tested positive for the virus are in quarantine and contact tracing is underway, the organization added.
Canada’s Brendan Bottcher was eliminated from gold-medal contention Friday evening in a 5-3 loss to Scotland.
Saturday’s playoff game involving the United States and Switzerland, and semifinals involving Russia and Sweden are on hold. The medal games are scheduled for Sunday.
Fourteen teams, including 13 who travelled to Calgary from outside the country, competed in the men’s world championship.
The field was whittled down to six teams by Friday afternoon. The eliminated teams were preparing to travel home.
WATCH | Scotland upends Canada in qualification game:
Canada’s Brendan Bottcher loses to Scotland’s Bruce Mouat 5-3 in the qualification game at the men’s world curling championship. 1:04
The Canadian men’s, women’s and mixed doubles championships held at WinSport’s Markin MacPhail Centre before the world championship were completed without any positive tests for the coronavirus.
Athletes and team personnel quarantine and are tested upon arrival in Calgary before competing. They’re confined to the arena and the their hotel across the highway.
Positive COVID cases in Calgary curling bubble. <br><br>A thread:<br><br>- positive cases discovered upon doing “exit” tests for a team eliminated and preparing to return home.<br>- teams arrived in Calgary at least one week prior to event<br>- needed negative test prior to leaving <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/cbccurl?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#cbccurl</a>
Canada’s Brendan Bottcher downed Norway’s Steffan Walstad 6-4 in the men’s world curling championship Thursday — an important win for the host country.
The victory ensured the Canadian rink a spot in the playoffs, thus qualifying the country for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The World Curling Federation confirmed to CBC Sports that Canada clinched following the match.
Watch and engage with CBC Sports’ That Curling Show live (Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET; Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET; Sunday 5 p.m. ET) featuring the men’s curling championship on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
The top six teams at the conclusion of the preliminary round Friday remain in contention for the world title while qualifying for the Olympics.
The top two seeds earn byes to Saturday’s semifinals. Sergey Glukhov’s Russian Curling Federation team and Sweden’s Niklas Edin locked down those semifinal berths with 10-2 records Thursday.
John Shuster of the United States earned a playoff spot with a 9-3 record.
Scotland’s Bruce Mouat and Canada are tied at 8-4, and Norway and Switzerland’s Peter de Cruz are both 7-5 . They will battle for the three remaining playoff berths Friday. Canada caps the round-robin against Germany (4-8) on Friday.
Teams third through sixth in the standings will compete in qualification games with winners reaching the final four. The medal games are Sunday.
WATCH | Bottcher clips Walstad for key victory:
Canada clinches playoff spot in the men’s world curling championship and qualifies for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing with Brendan Bottcher’s 6-4 win over Norway’s Steffen Walstad. 0:42
Click on the video player above to watch That Curling Show on CBC Sports.
Live coverage resumes on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. ET and continues each night during the 2021 Brier.
Co-hosts Colleen Jones, six-time national curling champion, and CBC Sports’ Devin Heroux bring you up to speed on everything you need to know as rinks from across Canada battle to be crowned national curling champions.
On Sunday’s edition, Wayne Middaugh – who has been filling in nicely for injured Ontario skip Glenn Howard – joins the show to discuss the Brier so far.
WATCH | Celebrating Brad Gushue’s Olympic gold 15 years later:
Hosts Colleen Jones and Devin Heroux take you behind the scenes in the world of curling. 0:00
The favourites set the tone in championship pool play Friday at the Canadian women’s curling championship.
With a few surprise teams making the eight-team cut, perennial contenders Rachel Homan, Jennifer Jones and Kerri Einarson posted afternoon victories and showed why they’re good bets to reach the playoffs.
Watch and engage with CBC Sports’ That Curling Show live every day of The Scotties at 7:30 p.m. ET on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
“With only three teams advancing, you can’t have very many losses to advance,” Jones said. “So we know that and we know we’re going to have to play every game as though we have to get that W and hopefully we perform well.”
Homan’s Ontario team stole a point in the 10th end for a 7-6 victory over Chelsea Carey’s Team Wild Card One and then came back for an 8-7 win over Quebec’s Laurie St-Georges in an extra end.
That left Homan in top spot at 9-1 with Einarson, the defending champion, who topped Saskatchewan’s Sherry Anderson 10-6 before eliminating Carey from playoff contention with a 9-3 rout.
THAT CURLING SHOW | Previewing weekend play at the Scotties:
The drama is ramping up at the Scotties and Devin Heroux and Colleen Jones have all your predictions and scenarios. 49:50
Jones’s Manitoba team earned a split on the day to sit in a tie for third place at 7-3 with Alberta’s Laura Walker. Jones posted a 12-8 win over Beth Peterson of Team Wild Card Three before dropping a 7-5 decision to Walker.
“I guess mandatory is a good word for it,” Walker said of the win. “We needed it and I’m proud of the way we went out there and got it.”
With Anderson sitting out the nightcap with an injury, alternate Amber Holland threw fourth stones for Saskatchewan. She dropped a 10-9 decision to Peterson in an extra end that left both teams tied with Quebec at 6-4.
Earlier, Walker edged St-Georges 7-6 in an extra end. Saskatchewan and Quebec had an unexpected share of the Pool B lead after the preliminary round.
THAT CURLING SHOW | Laura Walker defeats Jennifer Jones:
Laura Walker beats Jennifer Jones 7-5, Alberta and Manitoba are now tied with 7-3 records. 0:51
Carey (5-5), who’s filling in at skip for Tracy Fleury this week, barely missed a runback double-takeout attempt with her final shot against Homan, who put the pressure on with two protected stones near the button.
“They hung in there with me and we made some good ones in the end,” Homan said of teammates Emma Miskew, Sarah Wilkes and Joanne Courtney.
Jones, who’s aiming for a record seventh Scotties Tournament of Hearts title, stole five points in the 10th for her afternoon victory. Einarson was also tested early in that draw before a late deuce sealed the win.
Two more draws were set for Saturday at the Markin MacPhail Centre. The top three teams in the eight-team pool will reach the playoffs on Sunday.
The second- and third-place teams will meet in an afternoon semifinal for a berth in the evening final against the first-place team.
The Hearts winner will return as Team Canada at the 2022 national playdowns in Thunder Bay, Ont. The champion will also earn a berth in the Olympic Trials in November at Saskatoon.
The men’s national championship — the Tim Hortons Brier — starts March 5 at the same Canada Olympic Park venue. The Hearts is the first of six bonspiels to be held at the arena through late April.
THAT CURLING SHOW | Ben Herbert logs Scotties championship predictions:
The Olympic gold medallist breaks down the competition heading into the weekend in the Calgary bubble. 3:26
Her laugh. That competitive fire. All that winning.
Sandra Schmirler, from Biggar, Sask. was larger than life on the ice. She was kind, caring, humble to a fault. On the pebbed sheets, she was intimidating.
What you saw, is what you got. And she was a champion.
Watch and engage with CBC Sports’ That Curling Show live every day of The Scotties at 7:30 p.m. ET on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube: Sunday’s show will feature Schmirler’s daughter Sara England.
Schmirler and her Saskatchewan foursome are one of the most dominant rinks in curling history — winning three Scotties, three world championships and an Olympic gold medal in the 1990s.
They never lost an international event they competed in for Canada.
But for all the winning Schmirler did, giving birth to her two daughters were her biggest accomplishments and her proudest moments.
Sara England, Schmirler’s first daughter, was born in the midst of her Olympic pursuit. Jenna England, was born after her Olympic stardom.
WATCH | Sandra Schmirler wins Canada’s first Olympic gold in curling:
1998 Olympics 2:40
Then, far too quickly, she was gone.
Schmirler died of cancer in March 2000. Her loss sent a wave of sadness across Canada and beyond.
But in the wake of that unfathomable tragedy, the Sandra Schmirler Foundation came to life.
And on each opening Sunday at the Scotties since 2002, the Sandra Schmirler Telethon raises hundreds of thousands of dollars to help save babies born too soon.
This year, in the midst of a pandemic, the tradition continues — it’s the 20th anniversary.
“It’s hard to put into words that it’s been 20 years of very long-lasting support,” Sara said from her home in Regina.
“My sister and I have been working with the Foundation since 2015. It’s gotten bigger and bigger each year.”
All Sara and Jenna have are the old videos of their mother curling to remember who she was. They’ve been told all the stories about how empathetic she was. How funny she was. How much she loved her daughters.
“We were so young when the Foundation started. We never really fully understood the full capacity of what it was until we saw the Telethon first hand,” Sara said.
Sara, 23, and Jenna, 21, are now ambassadors for the Foundation. They’ve been sent telephones, along with dozens of others across the country, to answer the calls this year.
The first Telethon was held in Brandon, a fitting place considering Schmirler won her first Scotties and the Olympic trials in Brandon.
Since then, Telethons have raised $ 3.9 million and the Sandra Schmirler Foundation has funded $ 4.9 million of life-saving equipment in 61 different hospital neonatal intensive care units across every province and territory.
“Sandra Schmirler Foundation donors are dedicated and generous people who continue to ensure Sandra’s legacy lives on,” said Brenda Gallagher, the foundation’s director of operations.
“Because of them, so many families will bring healthy babies home from NICUs.”
With the Scotties taking place in a curling bubble in Calgary without fans, the city is still marking the day — the City of Calgary has declared Feb. 21, 2021 to be “Champions Start Small Day”.
Sara says she’s going to be part of the foundation and telethon for as long as she can — another way to connect with her mom, celebrate her mom and honour her mom.
“We’re helping other families become parents. That’s what is so special to me. Family was so important to my mom,” she said.
“Every year we go, it blows my mind how much support and how much love everyone has for my mom.”
All these years later, Schmirler’s legacy continues.
Kerri Einarson will miss having her twin daughters ask her when can they go to the hotel pool.
The skip of the reigning Canadian women’s curling champions says those moments are mental breaks from the intensity of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
The 2021 Tournament of Hearts opening Friday starts a run of four spectator-free Curling Canada events in Calgary in a controlled environment to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Einarson’s daughters won’t wait by the rink boards at the home end of the ice to celebrate or commiserate as they did on championship weekend in Moose Jaw, Sask., last year.
“They’re my support team,” Einarson said. “Just seeing that excitement in their eyes after mommy gets off the ice from a win is pretty special.
“Not being able to have them there with me, and my family and friends, it’ll be hard.”
The 18 participating teams will likely find curling the most normal aspect of Calgary’s bubble.
What it takes to run a large-scale, indoor sports event in Canada in a pandemic will greet them as soon as they step off the ice.
Curlers were required to quarantine for 3 days
Curling Canada is adopting many of the practices the NHL used to complete its Edmonton and Toronto playoff bubbles last summer, as well as some of Hockey Canada’s protocols for the world men’s under-21 championship Dec. 25 to Jan. 5 in Edmonton.
The Hearts is also a test event for the Canadian men’s curling championship March 5-14, the national mixed doubles championship March 18-26 and the world men’s curling championship April 2-11 all in Calgary’s Markin MacPhail Centre.
You’ve known and loved CBC’s curling coverage for decades. Now we’re going digital with That Curling Show 🥌<br><br>Co-hosts <a href=”https://twitter.com/Devin_Heroux?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Devin_Heroux</a> and <a href=”https://twitter.com/cbccolleenjones?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@cbccolleenjones</a> are bringing all the rich stories, drama and curling banter you can handle each and every night of the <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/STOH2021?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#STOH2021</a> at 7:30pm ET! <a href=”https://t.co/NJGhkfaqzg”>pic.twitter.com/NJGhkfaqzg</a>
“If we get through the Scotties and everything is absolutely successful, we put everyone on the plane on March 1 to go home and everyone was healthy, then it shows our protocols worked,” said Nolan Thiessen, Curling Canada’s director of broadcast, marketing, innovation and event presentation.
Curlers were required to quarantine for three days and be tested before heading to Calgary.
Upon arrival, they must produce two negative tests before playing their first game. More tests will be conducted next week.
The athletes are required to wear masks outside hotel rooms until they step on the field of play.
If they want to use the hotel’s pool or gym, only one person at a time is allowed to do so for 45 minutes and must book in advance.
Restaurant meals outside their hotel and socializing with other teams are not allowed.
Curlers ‘want to get here and compete’
Curlers can have meals with teammates and be in teammates’ hotel rooms once they’ve produced their pre-tournament negative tests.
The hotel is just across the Trans-Canada Highway from the arena at Canada Olympic Park. The teams will shuttle themselves back and forth in rental cars.
They’ll undergo a wellness check twice a day with temperatures taken at both the hotel and the arena.
“We just want this to be safe and healthy for everybody,” Thiessen said. “In talking to the curlers, they’ve had so much cancelled this year. They’ve had so much negative news. They want to get here and compete.
“We’re at the point where it’s happening. We’re setting up the building, the athletes are arriving, people are testing, tests are coming back negative, so let’s get going and try this and try to deliver for sports fans in Canada.”
All provinces and territories will be represented, although many associations hand-picked their representatives instead of holding playdowns.
Some top teams thus unable to try for a Hearts berth, two more wild-card teams were added for a total of three this year.
That turns the 2021 Hearts into somewhat of an unofficial Manitoba championship.
All 3 wild-card teams hail from Manitoba
All three wild-card teams hail from that province for a total of five alongside Einarson and six-time champion Jennifer Jones.
The top four teams from each pool of nine advance to the championship round, from which the top three advance to playoffs.
The top seed in the championship round earns a bye to the Feb. 28 final to face the winner of the semifinal.
A Canadian title, prize money of $ 100,000 and a return trip to the 2022 Tournament of Hearts in Thunder Bay, Ont., goes to the winner, but not necessarily a chance at a world championship
The World Curling Federation recently called off March’s women’s championship in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, when local Swiss health authorities wouldn’t approve it.
Einarson, Val Sweeting, Shannon Birchard and Briane Meilleur didn’t wear the Maple Leaf last year because the pandemic wiped out the world championship in Prince George, B.C.
A similar fate awaits this year’s winner unless the WCF can find another host city. That wrinkle doesn’t dull Einarson’s motivation to repeat.
“We’re beyond excited to step back on that ice again and treat it like it’s our first bonspiel of the year,” she said. “It’s just a big one.”
Einarson, Jones, Ontario’s Rachel Homan and wild-card entry Tracy Fleury have locked down berths in November’s Olympic trials in Saskatoon.
A Hearts winner other than those four teams will earn a berth in trials.
Canadian Olympians will tell you it’s a privilege to sport the maple leaf.
But with that often comes crushing expectations, especially when you’re a Canadian curler or hockey player and the expectation is gold or bust. Anything else is not good enough.
Now with just one year to go until the 2022 Beijing Olympics, the pressure is ramping up again. With added weight.
For the first time since the 1998 Nagano Olympics, when curling and women’s hockey were added, Team Canada will take to the ice for a Winter Games without being defending champions in any one of the four men’s and women’s curling and hockey events.
This is uncharted territory for a nation that prides itself on being the best hockey and curling nation in the world. But in PyeongChang, that wasn’t the case.
Neither Canada’s men’s nor women’s curling teams won medals, the first time either team missed the podium in five Olympics. It sent a shockwave through Canada’s curling community.
The men, skipped by Kevin Koe, finished fourth, while the women’s team, led by Rachel Homan, missed the playoffs entirely. There was a gold medal won by Kailtyn Lawes and John Morris in the inaugural mixed doubles event, but the shutout in the traditional men’s and women’s tournaments was difficult to process.
2018 called ‘an aberration’
“We are a sport that has produced medal after medal, world champion after world champion. I would characterize this as a bit of an aberration in our system,” Katherine Henderson, Curling Canada CEO, said at the time.
On the hockey side, the women’s team suffered a heartbreaking shootout defeat in the gold medal game to the Americans — the pain and emotion of the loss evident as Canada’s Jocelyne Larocque took her silver medal off during the ceremony.
She later apologized, saying “in the moment, I was disappointed with the outcome of the game, and my emotions got the better of me.”
‘Hurts to think about’
The men’s team, without NHL players, rallied for bronze after being defeated by Germany in the semifinal game, a loss that was devastating for Team Canada GM Sean Burke.
“It hurts sometimes to think about,” Burke said that February. “We played our best hockey in all but one period against the Germans.”
So after sweeping gold in all of those traditional team sports four years earlier in Sochi, there just was just one silver and one bronze in PyeongChang. While the hockey teams mostly dodged the wrath of Canadian fans — they still brought home medals after all — the same couldn’t be said for the curling teams. Team Homan and Team Koe faced unflattering headlines, pundits calling for a curling summit and a barrage of online hate.
“It was only a matter of time before we didn’t win everything in curling,” said Marc Kennedy, Koe’s second in 2018. “For so many years we had great results and hadn’t felt the wrath of people until that moment. For everyone in PyeongChang that was an eyeopener. It felt horrible. It sucked.
“Being such a dominant country in curling and in hockey, that pressure just comes with the territory. So many people are counting on you to perform well. You can’t hide from that pressure. Win or lose it’s really important to block out that noise. That’s what it’s become.”
Kennedy has been on both sides of it.
Eight years prior to PyeongChang he was part of a curling dream team along with Kevin Martin, John Morris and Ben Hebert. In front of a boisterous home crowd in Vancouver, the Canadian foursome didn’t lose a single game on their way to the gold medal.
Put winning gold in perspective
“I knew it couldn’t have gotten any better. Undefeated. At home. Kevin Martin getting his gold. It was a storybook,” Kennedy said. “And I think that’s what PyeongChang did for me. It put the incredible Games in 2010 into perspective. It’s still hard to put it into words”
From the highest of highs, to as low as it gets.
Hebert was also part of both experiences. When he walked off the ice in PyeongChang having just lost the bronze medal game, he said then it was “rock bottom” for Canadian curling.
“I know my quote at that point was rock bottom. But guess what? At the time it was rock bottom. I was living that life. That’s where I was,” Hebert said recently.
He’s not there anymore.
Hebert is still part of Koe’s team, alongside B.J. Neufeld and John Morris. Kennedy has moved on to a team with Brad Jacobs, E.J. and Ryan Harnden, a team that also knows that sweet taste of Olympic gold having captured it in 2014.
Nothing to do with redemption
While both curlers understand people will want to talk about redemption on ice for Canadian curlers and hockey players, they say for them personally it has nothing to do with that.
“I know that’s what the media is going to write. I know what gets action. I don’t think you’re wrong for writing it. I’m telling you my feelings on it,” Hebert said, never shy to speak candidly. “When you talk about the great curling nation, it’s not even close. We have six or seven teams on the men’s side and good depth on the women’s side who could represent Canada and win a medal at the Olympics.
“Could you imagine if Sweden sent their third-ranked team to the Olympics? I don’t think they’d win a game. Our third-ranked team could win gold.”
That pressure, both Hebert and Kennedy conclude, is a privilege — famous words once said by tennis star Billie Jean King. It means you’re the favourite. It means if you play the way you’re supposed to, you’ll be a champion.
“If there’s no pressure it probably means you don’t have a chance to win. Having pressure because you’re the favourite is my favourite kind of pressure,” Hebert said.
Kennedy agrees with Hebert about the storylines around redemption and also doubles down on Canada still being the best on ice in the world.
Could you imagine if Sweden sent their third-ranked team to the Olympics? I don’t think they’d win a game. Our third-ranked team could win gold.– Ben Hebert
“It’ll be played up and it’ll be an important tag line but for the athletes it won’t matter that much because we’re the best country in the world in curling and in hockey,” he said.
As for Canada’s hockey teams, NHL players will once again be back at the Games, which will no doubt garner a lot of attention.
In some ways, Canadian hockey fans were more forgiving and perhaps didn’t care as much when the men’s team won bronze, because they made the argument the best of the best weren’t there.
It was the first time since 1994 NHL players hadn’t attended the Olympics and Canada had won three of the six gold medals up to 2014.
NHL players return to Olympics
Now the pros are back and the pressure will once again be ratcheted to an incomparable level. Storylines will swirl, predictions on who will be on the roster will run rampant and Canada will once again be expected to bring home gold.
Sidney Crosby might be playing in his final Olympics. Connor McDavid will be playing in his first Olympics. Canadian hockey fans will be whipped into a frenzy.
On the women’s side, there will be the same amount of pressure there always is to become Olympic champions.
The Canadian women have been dominant at the Games, having won four out of the six Olympic golds since it was added to the Olympic program in 1998.
After losing that first championship game in Nagano, Team Canada won four straight gold medals.
Marie-Philip Poulin, the team captain, has been a member of the last three teams. In her first Olympics, at home in Vancouver, she quickly rose to fame when she scored both of Canada’s goals in a 2-0 victory over the U.S. to take the gold.
She ascended to greatness four years later in Sochi, scoring both the tying goal in the waning seconds and the golden goal in overtime against the Americans.
But she was also on the ice in PyeongChang, feeling for the first time what it’s like to watch another country’s team flag rise to the rafters.
“Losing. It sucks. You want to win and it’s where you want to be at the Olympics,” she told CBC Sports. “I was able to be on both sides of it. Looking back on 2018 is motivating.”
Poulin, 29, and Team Canada just finished a two-week training camp in Calgary, the first time they’ve been together in nearly a year. The last competitive game Poulin and the team played was a rivalry series game against the U.S. last February. But being back together again in the same space reignited that desire to get back on top.
“I’m the most motivated I’ve ever been,” Poulin said. “Our goal is to bring back a gold medal to Canada in 2022. We learn through adversity. If we want to be back on top we’ll have to go through that.”
Quite simply, Poulin hates losing. And wants that winning feeling back for herself and all of Canada.
“Every time we have the chance to wear that jersey it’s something that’s super special. I know there’s pressure coming with it. But it’s an honour,” she said.
None of the athletes will call it redemption.
But make no mistake, getting back to the Olympics and winning gold is the only thing on their minds one year out.