With no NWT Women’s Curling Championship to determine who will represent the territory at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Thunder Bay, Ont., how is it determined who goes?
That question was answered Tuesday as NWT Curling announced that Team Galusha, consisting of Kerry Galusha, Jo-Ann Rizzo, Margot Flemming, Sarah Koltun and coach Shona Barbour, has been nominated as the territory’s representatives for the Canadian women’s curling championship.
And they’ve accepted it, which Galusha confirmed on Wednesday afternoon.
“Everyone was on board,” she said. “We’re excited to represent the NWT again.”
When it comes to the cancellation, Nick Saturnino, NWT Curling’s president, said on Tuesday afternoon that the organization’s policy states if a competition to determine the NWT representatives for national events can’t be held, the previous year’s champions will first be offered the spot.
“We do not have enough time to reschedule the event, so Team Galusha has been offered the spot,” Saturnino said.
The NWT qualifier was set to be held in Inuvik with Galusha taking part in the opening game on Wednesday evening. NWT Curling announced on Monday afternoon that there would be no qualifier due to the new Covid-19 regulations issued by the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer earlier that day.
Tournament organizers had already implemented a number of safety precautions to protect athletes and residents, including not allowing spectators in-person for the event and instead planning to broadcast the games online. Opening ceremonies were also planned to be showcased digitally.
“It’s unfortunate because we would have liked to win our way to the Scotties,” said Galusha. “But with the (Covid) outbreak, we weren’t feeling comfortable being the only team travelling to play and we could have been exposed (to the virus).”
The cancellation follows those out of Ontario, where both the northern and southern qualifiers were cancelled within days of each other. Prince Edward Island also called off its qualifier. The qualifiers for Yukon, Alberta and B.C. are taking place this week while Manitoba and Nova Scotia have already held theirs. Nunavut’s rink was named last month while Newfoundland and Labrador named its rink on Jan. 3. The province didn’t host a qualifier because of concerns around Covid-19.
As for the main event itself in Thunder Bay, Ont. later this month, that’s still on schedule, according to Kyle Jahns, Curling Canada’s manager of communications and media relations.
“At the moment, we’re continuing to consult with local, regional and national health authorities and are discussing numerous options to find a way to have the Scotties in Thunder Bay in a safe and secure environment,” he stated on Wednesday.
With the NWT spot confirmed in the national championship, the concern now turns to how to prepare. Like every other user group in the city, there’s no ice time available to practice at the Yellowknife Curling Centre as the city ordered some facilities shut until at least Jan. 21.
Galusha said the ladies were able to get in a couple of hours on the ice on Monday before the shutdown took effect but there’s no guarantees once the order is lifted.
“It could be extended,” she said. “We’re just doing our best to stay healthy and prepare as best as we can. All of the other teams are in the same boat we are — they’re doing whatever they can.”
To help with the preparation, Barbour has put together a three-week plan with on-ice and off-ice scenarios with Covid-19 protocols built in.
“The off-ice plan is to go to the Fieldhouse or to a gym to get in some low-impact workouts,” she said. “We’re also making some sacrifices, such as not going out to dinner with friends if we’re invited. We’re avoiding situations like that.”
In the final week leading up to the Tournament of Hearts, Barbour said Curling Canada is asking teams to self-isolate before heading out.
“Four days of soft isolation and three days of hard isolation,” she said. “The last three days before we leave is the hard portion.”
The goal for the team this year? The championship round — same as it’s been for a while.
“The difference last year was we didn’t play any spiels,” said Galusha. “We’ve put in a lot of work this year and we’re prepared. We have a new line-up (player order) and we want to peak again at the Scotties.”
-with files from Eric Bowling