And so begins another season of what we hope will be plenty of curling for the country and the national championships that come with it.
Nunavut’s first foray into the national championship season will kick off on Nov. 7 as the Canadian Mixed Curling Championship gets underway in Canmore, Alta. The territory’s entry will be from the Iqaluit Curling Club made up of skip Peter Van Strien, third Meredith Penner, second Greg Howard and lead Lena Chown. They qualified for nationals after winning the territorial playdown earlier this year.
The expectations for Van Strien are simple: stay positive and keep curling.
“We’re hoping to not let the nerves get the best of us,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll all be nervous at first but we’ll try to stay positive and see what happens.”
Nunavut will be in action in the opening draw as they take on Nova Scotia with a big game the following day against the NWT, who will be skipped by Yellowknife’s Jamie Koe, someone who has scores of national experience at both the Tim Hortons Brier and mixed nationals. He’s a two-time medalist at this event, narrowly losing in the final in 2015 to claim silver and beating Manitoba to win bronze two years ago.
Van Strien said that’s a game Nunavut always looks forward to, no matter the event.
“Jamie has a lot of experience and that’s going to be a tough test for us,” he said. “It’s always good to have a Northern battle.”
The format sees the 14 rinks split into two pools of seven for the round-robin. The top four teams in each pool will move on to the championship round, taking their records with them, to play the four teams from the other pool they haven’t yet played while the bottom three teams will move into the seeding pool to determine final placings. The top four teams from the championship round will move into the playoff round to determine who wins what.
“We know getting a top-four finish will be tough so we’re going to take it game-by-game,” said Van Strien. “If we can win one or two, we’ll start thinking about that next round but whatever happens happens. It’s all about playing every shot but a win or two would be great.”
The foursome does have experience at prior national championships. Van Strien teamed up with Angela Dale to play at the Canadian Mixed Doubles Championship inside the bubble in Calgary back in March while Howard most recently played at the Tim Hortons Brier this past March, also inside the bubble in Calgary, with skip Peter Mackey of Iqaluit.
Back then, the Covid-19 rules were very strict with players only allowed to leave their hotel room to either go practice or play; no sightseeing or dining out of any sort was permitted.
Van Strien said he hasn’t heard of anything like that for Canmore but that doesn’t mean the team won’t still be taking care.
“I haven’t been told of a bar-code tracking system or anything like that but the same rules apply with masking and distancing,” he said. “It looks like we’ll be able to go out and have a meal and maybe see a bit of the town so that’s a big change. It doesn’t sound like it’s too restrictive.”
The rink will be leaving for the event from the capital on Nov. 5.