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Curling Canada adds teams to Scotties field after Ontario representative controversy

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Curling Canada has made a format change to alleviate a sticky situation regarding qualifying teams for the upcoming Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

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Curling Canada is still working with Ontario Health on a plan to even host the Canadian Women’s Curling Championship – by no means a guarantee at this point – amid the COVID-19 omicron crisis, in Thunder Bay on January 28. to February. 6, but should the event continue, the format change will allow more teams than usual to enter the pitch.

An announcement was made Thursday night that the Scotties and Tim Hortons Brier (in Lethbridge, Alta., In early March) will feature 18 teams instead of the usual 16.

“We are looking at format options, just because of the concerns and implications of COVID,” Curling Canada high performance director Gerry Peckham said ahead of the announcement.

“Teams have reached out to us and suggestions have been made to us to do something similar to what we did in the bubble in Calgary in 2021, so it’s on the table.”

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The plan includes increasing the number of wild card teams from two to three (as was done in the bubble last year) and eliminating play-in play.

The women’s wild card teams, based on the ranking of the Canadian team ranking system, are Tracy Fleury from Manitoba, Chelsea Carey from Saskatchewan and Team Rachel Homan from Ontario.

While some provinces, such as Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, have been able to hold their women’s curling playoffs despite strict health orders, places like Northern Ontario, Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces were not. Instead, these provincial associations nominated teams to compete in the Scotties.

The Ontario Curling Association’s decision was particularly controversial. The association chose Homan’s Ottawa team to represent Ontario, but also said that if Homan was selected to compete in the Mixed Doubles Olympics (along with John Morris) it would send the Toronto team from Hollie Duncan at the Scotties instead.

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Homan was named to the Olympic squad on Thursday, which means Duncan’s squad must now wear Ontario colors for the Scotties. There was anger in the curling world that the rest of Homan’s squad – Emma Miskew, Sarah Wilkes and Joanne Courtney – might not be allowed to take a replacement and compete for the Scotties, a luxury that is normally awarded to teams at national championships.

That has changed now, as both the Duncan and Homan teams will be participating.

“It was disappointing to hear that we might not be able to compete, my team, if I were to be chosen,” Homan said Thursday, before the announcement was released.

“There are a lot of things that can happen with national championships and we’re not sure where it’s going. We hope my team can play and if not, we will cheer for the Duncan team 100%.

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In a typical year, the Canadian Men’s and Women’s Championships are played with 16-team pitches. The pitches include teams from 14 member associations, the defending champion and a wild-card team (winner of the play-in match).

Last year, because there had been no provincial playdowns amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an 18-team field.

If there had been only two wild card teams (based on the CTRS rankings) this would have been contested because some teams (like Carey’s) gained points by playing in their provincial championship, while others (like Homan) didn’t because the playoffs were called off. Carey overtook Homan in the standings with the points his team earned to advance to the Saskatchewan final.

Homan herself will not be playing in Thunder Bay, as she will be at the Beijing Olympics, but her team can replace her.

Right now, everyone is just hoping that the event can be played.

“We really don’t know all the details behind what could happen,” Homan said.

“We just hope the event will happen even at this point. Everyone deserves a chance to compete in the national championship, so we’ll see what comes out of it.

“We really don’t know at this time what the Ontario government is going to allow Curling Canada to host the event. I know they are doing their best to make a difference for the athletes and we really appreciate that.

Twyman@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Ted_Wyman

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