There’s an awful lot on the line at this week’s Players’ Championship, which started Tuesday night on Prince Edward Island.
First are the second men’s and women’s direct berths into the 2013 Canadian Olympic trials. Edmonton’s Kevin Martin and Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones grabbed the first spots with their December victories at the Capital One Canada Cup, and the Slam in Summerside will decide the second spots by finalizing the Canadian Team Ranking System’s 2012 season.
As mentioned last week, Edmonton’s Heather Nedohin needs to win just one of her seven matches to earn the women’s CTRS spot, and that could come on Tuesday night’s opening draw against Switzerland’s Silvana Tirinzoni.
On the men’s side, world champion Glenn Howard of Coldwater, Ont. has the CTRS title in his grasp. The only team that can stop him is skipped by Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen, who would need to win the Players’ title and hope that Howard fails to make the playoffs, ie. semifinals.
Ranking second is the cashola, and there’s lots of it. In addition to the event prize purse of $100,000 per gender (the winning teams take home $18,000 each) there’s the Capital One Cup, which awards a further $80,000 per gender for excellence in the four-event Capital One Grand Slam of Curling series.
Current Cup women’s standings see Winnipeg’s Cathy Overton-Clapham in first place, but with a whopping 24 points available to the Players’ Champions (plus $50,000 in cash winnings) virtually every Canadian team is in the running.
The men’s Cup race is also fairly wide open. Howard leads with 31 points, with Martin 10 points behind, followed by McEwen, Jeff Stoughton of Winnipeg and Sweden’s Niklas Edin (19 points each), Newfoundland’s Brad Gushue (14 points),Edmonton’s Kevin Koe (13 points) and Toronto’s John Epping (10 points).
Third is the future of the Slam circuit. Hopes are high for new Players’ sponsor Sun Life Financial to like what they see, and jump in for the 2012-13 season starting this fall. Ditto for Global Television, the new Tier 1 broadcast partner that will showcase the women’s final on Saturday and men’s final on Sunday (both at noon ET). The future of the series might not depend on these two entities, but a fast start to a summer of negotiations would be plenty helpful.
Fourth is the Capital One Million Dollar Button and Junior Draw to the Button sidebars — contests that are both regional (Junior) and national (Million) in scope and which give lucky folks a chance to throw a stone to the button for glory... and big bucks. They’re fun to watch.
Last but not least are bragging rights, plain and simple. Martin and Jones won last year’s Players’ titles in Grand Prairie, Alta., and their rivals would like nothing better than to knock them off their perch as
the golf course beckons. In the case of the eight men’s squads, a win in Summerside will clinch the Carrot Cup, a bizarre trophy that jumps from team to team, week to week on the World Curling Tour. It’s believed to be in Team Howard’s broom bag at present, and inquiries regarding the odd name of the bauble should be directed to the firm of Morris, Kennedy and Hebert, Inc.
HEAD TO HEAD
Pitting the top eight men’s and women’s teams against each other makes for a cornucopia of season-long curling stories, as indicated by this quick list of highlight matches leading up to the playoffs:
WED 7:30am ET: Jones vs Chelsea Carey — grudge match from the last two
Manitoba women’s finals, both won by Jones
WED 11:00am ET: Jones vs Nedohin — just millimeters apart in the STOH
WED 3:00pm ET: Martin vs Koe — battling for Alberta supremacy since 2010
WED 6:30pm ET: McEwen vs Howard — the CTRS horse race
FRI 11:00am ET: Jones vs Overton-Clapham — for those who still love the
FRI 2:30pm ET: Stoughton vs Gushue — Stoughton has ex-Gushue third Mark
Nichols going up against his old skipper
FRI 6:30pm ET: Howard vs Koe — the Brier final redux
Curtis Saville has been tapped by Edmonton’s Aquila Productions to produce the Global shows from Summerside.
“I was certainly happy to get the call, it’s been a long time since I worked on the Slams,” said Saville. “Not since I was producing the Slams on Sportsnet between 2001 and 2006.”
Saville has vast experience from recent years with World Curling Television and also with the Olympic host broadcaster for curling in 2006 and 2010 — the latter as Executive Producer.
“To me, the Players’ Championship has always been the pre-eminent Grand Slam event,” said Saville. “It pre-dates the Slams themselves, it’s the best of the best, and it’s at the end of the curling season — all those things combine to make this the one I’m most excited to be working on.”
The 2012 World Seniors are underway in Taarnby, Denmark and Canada is represented by Kelly Robertson of Brandon, Man., and Heidi Hanlon of Saint John, N.B.
Robertson beat Italy 7-2 and Hungary 9-2, then swept past Scotland by a 9-4 count before thumping the Netherlands 12-2. New Zealand are tied with the Canadians at 4-0, while four other nations are at 3-0.
Meanwhile, Hanlon has earned three easy wins by scoring a combined 34 points over the United States, Finland and Ireland. Swedish seniors legend Ingrid Meldahl sits at 4-0, while the Swiss are tied with Canada at 3-0.
Selected games are being webstreamed, guerrilla-style, at