Assiniboia will open the Viterra Scotties Wednesday, the third year the community has hosted this annual event.
But in 2022, things look drastically different from the last time the town of around 2,400 welcomed the best in Saskatchewan women’s curling. That was 2015
Instead of handshakes, autograph sessions and the normal event seen in the past, a bubble environment will be used to crown Saskatchewan’s representative at the 2022 Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
That’s according to Steve Turner, CurlSask’s event manager.
“It has been a challenge, absolutely,” he said Wednesday.
“We came into this (and) we’re all aware what’s going on in our back yard and the world around us (with COVID-19) … We knew we were going to have to do things differently to make sure that we can proceed with this (tournament).”
Turner said the plan received the “stamp of approval” from local health experts. It will be available to fans in the lounge area along with the sheets and in a separate viewing zone.
When it comes to protecting the athletes, Turner described the plan as “multi-layered.”
“We’ve been able to create a bubble environment for all of our coaches and athletes,” he explained.
Turner continued to explain that coaches and curlers are allowed to enter the rink in a separate area. This is separate from any fan interaction.
Turner explained that the opening ceremonies and luncheons will be moved to a virtual delivery because fan interaction is an important part of curling.
To reduce contact points, virtual meetings are also used for team meetings.
All athletes, coaches, and staff have been asked to take daily rapid tests and answer screening questions.
Turner says that athletes who test positive would need to retest.
“If they are unable to continue, then the team would move forward with a spare (while) the other player isolated,” he said.
“Our hope is that if we end up with a positive test on one of our teams that it would be isolated, and that we could keep playing the games.”
Turner stipulates that Curling Canada rules require that each team ice at least two of its rostered player to be allowed to participate in a sanctioned match.
Turner is happy to see the action unfold, regardless of the obstacles CurlSask has had to jump through to organize and continue it.
“The joy this brings … to see our athletes here, our goal is that we want to declare our champions and we want it done by playing a game on the ice,” he said.
“We feel like we’ve gone above and beyond so that we can do anything in our power to make sure that that happens (in Assiniboia).”
The action begins Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Assiniboia Curling Club. There are four games. The top four Saskatchewan rinks were given a bye Wednesday and their matchups will begin Thursday at 9 a.m.