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Sunday, October 4, 2020

Curling (or not curling) in the Red Zone


A Curling Blog from the Red Zone

 Welcome to “La Zone Rouge”, which I used to think was the name of the strip bar in Val d’Or. It is now the name associated with the parts of Quebec most impacted by the Coronavirus. With over 1000 new cases of Covid-19 per day, Montreal, Quebec City and a few other parts of the province have gone into full Code Red lockdown, meaning more restrictions and likely no curling in much of the province.

My home club, Glenmore, spent the month of September installing and preparing the ice, hoping that the season could start next week. However, new restrictions expected in the next few days would more than likely put the brakes on that. Curling Clubs in higher risk areas of the country are now faced with the tough choice between operating in a revenue-reduced, uncertain environment and just shutting the doors until next season. I am hearing many Toronto-area clubs have thrown in the towel and shut down until at least January. I suspect many Quebec clubs will end up doing the same, but I guess it will depend on the next few weeks. The reality of the virus is that it will always be worse in areas of the country that are densely populated and that rely more heavily on public transportation. This actually bodes well for curling in general, as it is a sport that thrives in the more rural parts of the country. But big cities like Toronto and Montreal will face a tough year, and might not see curling at all.


Competitive curling is a different story. I can’t begin to tell you how frustrating it is as a competitive curler to be sitting in my living room watching live streams of curling tournaments from other parts of the world less impacted by the virus. We have now been off the ice since early March, and the earliest we could possibly play would be November. I have not thrown a rock in 6 months. We were signed up to play in Ottawa in September, which was canceled as well as a few Quebec based events in October that have also been axed. We had signed up for one of the events being held in Kitchener-Waterloo, but our government has put a “do not travel” advisory in place, and in theory we are not supposed to travel out of our Red Zone. So we are out of luck, and likely not playing until November at best.

At this point I'm not sure what the competitive season will look like. Will there even be a Brier or Scotties this year? Curling Canada is likely reviewing its options and trying to find a way to hold a TV-only event in bubble.  This would surely be good for curling-starved fans who have had nothing but a few streamed events to satiate their desire to see quality curling. But how do you run a Brier with conditions as they are? Do curlers need to show up 2 weeks before to test/isolate? Would they allow a team from a “Hot Zone” to enter? Clearly, the logistics are not simple in this, and even the best-laid plan would be ravaged by a single positive test. The NHL and NBA have been able to maintain their bubbles and run playoffs, but obviously, they do not operate under the same financial realities as curling. I expect announcements to come in the next few weeks.

The Slams are canceled until 2021, and the accumulation of points for World rankings or Olympic Qualifying has been put on hold. Some events have started with tournaments across the country, but teams are playing just to stay sharp and to be ready for when the music starts up again.

All in all, this sucks.  

I guess at times like these, a bit of perspective is required. Curling is just a game. It is not life or death. People are dying from this disease. A winter without curling is not the end of the world, especially in if it is in the name of saving lives, or keeping our hospitals from overflowing. But as this isolation continues, and after 6 months of dealing with this shit, this void is laying bare to me the role that curling has played in my life. Maybe some time away from the game will help me come back to it with increased perspective and appreciation.  

In the meantime, I will golf until it snows. I will play soccer in the park. I will work. I will try to keep my wife and kids safe and sane. And I will miss curling.

Some non-curling content:

I am still on Facebook, mostly to get curling news and post family pics. But man, some of the shit I am seeing from people I know is troubling. I know we are nowhere near the US level of polarization and stupidity, but I see stuff that I finding tough to ignore.

First, there is the garden variety stupid: anti-mask, government conspiracy, Coronavirus is a hoax bullshit. Thankfully this gets a low-level of traction here. I have not personally seen anyone throwing a mask tantrum in a store or restaurant. I am sure it happens, but it does not seem widespread.

Then there is the “This makes no sense – the government is wrong”. I am in no way saying the government is never wrong and should never be questioned, but to say you know better because you are now an expert because of the hours you have spent watching Youtube is misguided. The fact is, we do not know better.

There is the danger of falling into the fallacy of common sense. Thinking that there is a simple solution to get us out of this, and if the government just implemented this then we would be fine.

There is no easy way out. The next year or so will be many policy decisions that feel like we are pressing on the gas and the brakes at the same time. There will be one step forward sometimes followed by two steps back. In Quebec, our government has asked us to stop socializing, but has kept schools open. Restaurants and bars are closed, but hair and nail salons are open. There will always be some restriction that is inconsistent as the government struggles to draw lines in the sand amidst changing conditions.

All we can do is try to follow the rules as best we can, and understand that the only way to keep this thing in check short of a vaccine is collective action. So wash your damn hands and wear a mask. Oh, and stop socializing, especially indoors.