There is perhaps no group at the national level of curling that has suffered the brunt of cancellations and postponements more than the U18 category.
For the third year running, Curling Canada announced that the Canadian U18 Curling Championships won’t be happening as originally scheduled. This year’s event was scheduled to take place in Timmins, Ont., from Feb. 6 to 11 but the plug was pulled last week.
In making the decision, Curling Canada stated that “… ongoing uncertainty related to the Covid-19 pandemic …” led to the national body trying to find alternate dates and a new host city as there are no more available dates in Timmins in which to host it this year. Timmins will be the host city for the 2023 edition, which is scheduled to take place on the same dates as this year’s championships.
Curling Canada also stated that it’s continuing to consult with local, regional and national health authorities in preparation for the remainder of its 2021-22 championship events.
News of the postponement did not surprise Tara Naugler, who was set to coach the NWT’s boys entry of Adam Naugler, Jullian Bowling, David Dragon and Tasir Bhuiyan from the Yellowknife Curling Centre.
“I was anticipating that there would be an announcement about it so it’s not a total shock to me or the parents,” Tara said. “It’s disappointing that it’s happened for the third time but it’s happening around the world.”
The key word to remember is that it’s a postponement and not a cancellation, she added.
“It’s better than hearing that it’s cancelled, but we’re just going with the flow,” she said. “There’s nothing we can do to control it so we’re just taking things day by day.”
Three-quarters of the boys outfit was in Saskatoon for the Curling Canada World Junior Qualifier this past November, which was held in lieu of no national junior championship in 2021. That was to satisfy the criteria of Canada naming male and female teams for the World Junior Curling Championships later this year.
Tara said that was a short excursion but it was something, at least.
“We were fortunate to play in the qualifier in Saskatoon so we did get the chance to go out and play this season,” she said. “We didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for that but we felt we would be better prepared for the U18s.”
Adam Naugler, who didn’t play in Saskatoon, returned from school over the holidays to practice with the team and prepare for Timmins, she added, but that preparation has taken a turn.
“We’re going back to our off-ice activities again,” Tara said. “They’ll have some strategy sessions and I know they were planning on watching some of the provincial playdowns on TV. They’ll do their best to exercise at home and stay focused until we can get back out on the ice.”
The soonest they’ll be able to get back out on the ice is Jan. 22, which is when the current city order on the closure of facilities is set to expire, though that could be extended, depending on the Covid situation.
If the U18 nationals don’t work out, Tara said there’s one other option.
“I’ve had a talk with the boys and we may go to a bonspiel in northern Alberta we’ve had our eye on,” she said. “That’s if things don’t align and nationals don’t happen.”