I’ll admit that when I heard there was going to be a Covid-19 briefing, I got a pit in my stomach.
Everything is going to get called off again. We won’t be able to go to people’s houses, kids will be learning from home (which they either love or hate), etc. Another chance to beat back something which will most likely pop up again in the springtime and we’ll be right back where we are now with another set of rules.
Rinse and repeat, essentially.
One of the victims of the new public health orders was the NWT Women’s Curling Championship in Inuvik. I knew that wouldn’t go ahead, even though I had to wait for the confirmation. Team Galusha was the only team travelling to play for the right to advance to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts later this month in Thunder Bay, Ont., and they dodged a bullet, financially-speaking. They wouldn’t have to shell out what would have been close to a couple thousand dollars worth of hotels and food in Inuvik.
It’s the airline tickets they’ll probably have to worry about and if you’ve ever had to deal with any airline right now, you’ll understand me when I say that the response time relating to reservations varies between six hours to six weeks.
For those of you wondering, Galusha and her rink of Jo-Ann Rizzo, Margot Flemming, Sarah Koltun and coach Shona Barbour were given the first right of refusal, if you will, of being the NWT’s representative at the main event in Thunder Bay, Ont., by virtue of being the reigning champions. That’s how NWT Curling decides who goes to a national championship in any given event should there not be a territorial championship held.
I knew the ladies wouldn’t turn it down. Galusha loves representing this territory, and her crew has meshed very well and they’re having fun doing it.
Now, this is not the first time Galusha has received the — and I’m loath to use this term because Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun likes to use it to insult Northern curling — free space on the bingo card of curling. She advanced straight to the national championship in 2017 after no one else entered the territorial championship that year.
When I spoke with Galusha back then, she was happy to go to the nationals but I could tell in her voice that it wasn’t the happiest of times. She told me why: the loss of competitive games.
You see, for most teams coming out of the NWT, any territorial championship represents meaningful competition. Curling is no different. The playdown is a whole different animal than league nights.
Playing against the best competition in the territory is where strategy really comes into play and the games mean more because one slip-up could spell disaster. Every contest is for real.
Thankfully, this won’t be as big a problem for Team Galusha this time around as it was in 2017. They’ve been out on the road several times this season on the World Curling Tour, going on deep runs more than once — with a win thrown in for good measure — and that rather impressive run in the Winter Olympic qualification cycle, which ended up one step short of the big show.
Team Galusha won’t be going in cold this time — they’re going into the 2022 Scotties with plenty of high-calibre games under their belts. The thing they want to do, as Galusha mentioned, is peak at the right time. The Scotties offers a short format with seven round-robin games being guaranteed. You don’t want to lose any more than three, if you can help it, and that’s why a fast start is so important. Winning out of the gate makes things go smoother and besides, winning solves everything, doesn’t it?
The only thing I hope they get is something resembling ice time. They won’t get any between now and Jan. 21, and with Curling Canada looking for the qualified teams to isolate for seven days before heading to the show, it’s a long-shot that they will get any prep at the Yellowknife Curling Centre before flying down later this month.
Will that hurt them? It didn’t when they started the season and reeled off win after win but that was then. No matter what, you want to make sure you’re ready because this is the biggest women’s bonspiel in the country.