Just over 24 hours before the first game was to commence in Inuvik, the regional playdowns for the Canadian Women’s Curling Championships, better known as the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, has been cancelled.
The NWT Curling Association made the announcement on its Facebook page shortly after 2 p.m. on Tuesday after the GNWT announced new restrictions for public gatherings and sports.
Under the new rules, which are in place until Jan. 22, activities labelled as “high risk,” such as indoor singing and dancing, hand games, funerals, and indoor contact sports — are not permitted.
Inuvik Curling Club president Nick Saturnino confirmed that athletes from Yellowknife had not yet arrived.
“Disappointed, but out of our control,” he told Inuvik Drum, adding there would be no opportunity to reschedule the tournament this year. “The host next year will be determined in June or July.”
Tournament organizers had already implemented a number of safety precautions to protect athletes and residents, including not allowing spectators in-person for the tournament and instead planning to broadcast the games online. Opening ceremonies were also planned to be showcased digitally.
All activities at the Inuvik Curling Centre have been suspended until at least Jan. 22
Saturnino said the club itself wasn’t out and money, but had put in a great deal of volunteer hours preparing for the national tournament. He added with the Omicron variant spreading across the NWT, the club was working to salvage what it could out of the season.
“We hope to continue curling,” he said, adding he was concerned the current outbreak and rising numbers could prolong public health orders. “I think we are in for a high number of Covid cases in the coming weeks.”
The national tournament is still scheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 6 in Thunder Bay, Ont.
Last year’s representatives of the NWT, Team Galusha out of Yellowknife, will represent the territory at the national tournament. Qualifiers in Nunavut, Northern and Southern Ontario, as well as Prince Edward Island, have also been called off for safety concerns. Qualifiers in Alberta, Yukon and B.C. took place last week, while Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Manitoba have already had their qualifiers.
– With files from James McCarthy