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 earlier this month.
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.
The news was tough to take for Inuvik’s Pearl Gillis, who was set to skip the NWT’s girls entry at the event. She said it’s sad that she and her rink won’t be going but she understands why.
“It hurts a bit but it’s good that they’re keeping things safe with all that’s going on,” she said.
Gillis, along with her rink of Adrianna Hendrick, Tamara Bain and Tyra Bain, earned the right to represent the NWT by virtue of winning the NWT U18 Championship in Yellowknife last January. They had put in plenty of work leading up to Timmins, including a road trip that saw them hit both Manitoba and Alberta.
“We went to a training centre in Morris (Man.) and then a bonspiel in Sherwood Park (Alta.),” said Gillis. “We had 10-hour days for training for a whole week.”
Gillis and Hendrick have plenty of national experience under their belt. Hendrick, who plays second for the rink, felt they would have put forth a good showing.
“I think we had a chance to do really well,” she said. “We have new players so it would have been good to play at nationals with them.”
The boys rink would have been out of the Yellowknife Curling Centre, consisting of Adam Naugler, Jullian Bowling, David Dragon and Tasir Bhuiyan.
“I was anticipating that there would be an announcement about it so it’s not a total shock to me or the parents,” said Tara Naugler, the boys’ coach. “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.”
Gillis’ rink is doing the same — waiting to return to the ice. They aren’t able to practice because the Inuvik Curling Centre is closed.
They’ve developed alternative training.
“We’re doing push-ups every day to work on our arm and core strength,” said Hendrick. “We’re also watching past games to work on our off-ice strategy.”
Gillis is hopeful that with East Three Secondary set to open for in-person learning on Jan. 17, the curling centre may follow suit.
“I hope it does,” she said. “We all love curling and we can’t wait to get back out.”