Team Fournier (aka Team Horses) held a rather depressing meeting last week (via Zoom of course) to discuss the upcoming curling season.
We had such a fun season planned. We have a new player, we have great sponsors, we have a keen coach, we have new sexy uniforms. All the pieces are in place.
Except we also have a virus. Covid-19 is already wreaking havoc on the competitive curling world. The Slams have been cancelled; the points systems that drive World rankings and Olympic qualifications have been suspended until November (at least) and most big events that involve crowds (like the Brier) are surely questioning whether they can even happen this year.
If you look at our planned schedule for the season, we had planned to go to Halifax, Alberta, Toronto, New Brunswick. I now question whether these places will even accept us as visitors, given that I happen to live on the island that has been the Covid hotspot in the country.
A lot people are suggesting that curling is a great social distancing sport, like golf. In theory, the other team does not need to be anywhere near the ice when the other team is throwing. However, as anyone who has ever curled with or against Dale Ness or Eve Bélisle knows, the air in a curling rink does not circulate quickly. And you are basically sharing the same damp air with everyone else on the ice for a few hours. I am not sure if masks would keep you from spreading the virus.
Beyond the safety issues, there is also the question of money. Curling, despite its TV popularity, is not baseball, or hockey. There is no way to do curling the way other major sports have undertaken it. There will be no curlers living in a resort bubble, mainly because apart from a handful of teams, we all have day jobs. Major sports have resumed with the help of expensive testing and re-testing, and travel can happen via private jets, which is of course beyond the budget for all but a couple of teams.
So where does that leave our team? We will play closer to home for the first part of the season, and then see where we are in November. I hope that the threat of the virus will be diminished, and we will venture out further (likely with our masks on) to try to play and get better and prepare for Provincials in January. If travel restrictions and rules against gatherings are lifted, then the season can start to look something like a normal curling season.
So in the meantime, wear your mask and keep your distance!
What about club curling?
I have no idea.
Glenmore (my home club) will likely open. I do not know what curling will look like. I think most of the membership will be eager to get back on the ice. Unfortunately, it would just take one case to close us down. A big part of my enjoyment from curling unfortunately comes from post-game socializing, which will probably be limited at best, non-existent at worse. But at this point, a little curling would be infinitely better than no curling, so I will venture out into whatever the season brings.
If you are a fan of curling, you need to be listening to the Kevin Martin / Warren Hansen podcast. Having Kevin and Warren do a podcast together is like having Karl Marx debating Ayn Rand; its like GSP debating Connor McGregor. They both have such a deep and passionate love for the game and its history, but Kevin and Warren have always been on opposite sides when it comes to discussing the game’s future. (It is called “Inside Curling” and is available wherever you find podcasts!)
Warren has been the leader of developing the Curling Canada events – such as the Brier, the Scotties and the Olympic Trials. Kevin has been the main force behind the creation of the “Pro” tour, i.e. the Grand Slams and the World Curling Tour. Putting the two together is fascinating.
Amazingly, the passage of time has brought them much closer together, and they now both see the inevitability of splitting up the “pros” from the “joes”. They have some interesting perspectives on where the game is going, on how the US and Asia will be driving the evolution of the sport. I often find myself in violent disagreement with both of them, but I have to say the blog has made me respect these guys even more than I did before. Moreover, they share many great stories from the wilder days of curling that I remember fondly. I think this podcast is one good thing that has emerged from this stupid pandemic.
I am not sure for how long they can keep it up; I am amazed they have gotten 16 episodes done so far without being too repetitive. So it is definitely worth a listen. Way better than Tiger King!