Another cross-Canada tour of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling is just around the corner with the Tour Challenge kicking things off next week in Regina.
It’ll be the 17th season for the elite-level curling series that brings together the top teams from around the world.
The season premiere of Eight Ends is your primer for what to look forward to during the 2017-18 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season.
1st End: Tour Challenge — Sept. 5-10, Regina
What a way to get things started with the largest event of the season. A total of 60 teams split into two tiers of action take over the Co-operators Centre at Evraz Place.
The Tier 1 division features 15 of the top men’s teams and 15 of the top women’s teams based on the World Curling Tour’s Order of Merit rankings. The Tour Challenge also begins the chase for the GSOC Bonus Cup, awarded to the overall season champions. Coincidentally, both Team Edin and Team Sweeting captured the Tour Challenge titles last season and also went on to win the GSOC Bonus Cup to cash in the $75,000 bonus prize.
Meanwhile, the Tier 2 division provides rising stars and local teams the opportunity to compete on arena ice and a chance to fast-track up the ranks. Tier 2 winners earn direct entry to the following Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event.
Full event passes, weekend passes and single draw tickets are now available. Visit Ticketmaster.ca or call 1-855-985-5000 today.
2nd End: Masters — Oct. 24-29, Lloydminster, Sask.
This year’s Tour Challenge Tier 2 winners join the elite ranks at the Masters located not too far away at the Centennial Civic Centre in Lloydminster.
The Masters is the first of four majors on tour as one of the original Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling events alongside the National, Canadian Open and Players’ Championship tournaments.
Last year’s event provided plenty of upsets and memorable moments with Team Edin and Team Flaxey winning their first career titles. Edin became the first non-Canadian men’s champion in series history while Flaxey stunned the women’s field stealing away victories in the tiebreaker, quarterfinals and semifinals stages before defeating Team Homan in the final.
Full event passes are now available for a special early bird price. Visit Lloydgsoc.goigniter.com or call 306-825-5161 today before it’s too late.
3rd End: Boost National — Nov. 14-19, Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
The Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling makes another trip to the Essar Centre for the Boost National.
The clear crowd favourite at last year’s event was Sault Ste. Marie’s own Team Jacobs and they didn’t disappoint. After wrapping up round-robin play with a 2-2 record, Jacobs turned on the jets winning four consecutive games en route to the title and sending the fans into a frenzy. With Jacobs looking to retain the title, it’ll be another can’t-miss electrifying event.
It was another first-time winner on the women’s side with Team Einarson earning their first elite championship.
Early bird tickets are now on sale. Visit Essarcentre.ca or call 1-866-775-9422 to purchase today.
Brad Jacobs, Ryan Fry, Ryan Harnden and E.J. Harnden celebrate after winning the 2016 Boost National men’s title. (Anil Mungal)
4th End: Meridian Canadian Open — Jan. 16-21, Camrose, Alta.
The Meridian Canadian Open leads off the 2018 portion of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season and hits the Encana Centre in Camrose, Alta. It’s also the final tune-up for teams before the Winter Olympics.
A triple knockout format is used during preliminary play rather than round-robin. Under triple knockout, teams are slotted into brackets and must win three games before they lose three in order to qualify for the playoffs.
Team Gushue defeated Team Edin for the men’s title last season in a preview of the world championship gold-medal match. Skip Brad Gushue, who returned the month prior from a hip/groin issue, threw a perfect 100 percent in the final to earn his seventh career Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title.
Team Scheidegger continued the first-time winners’ streak on the women’s side in the crew’s elite-level series debut no less.
Full tournament packages are now available. Visit Camrosegsoc.goigniter.com or call 1-780-678-2868 today.
5th End: Winter Olympics — Feb. 8-25, Pyeongchang, South Korea
Speaking of the Olympics, we just had to include them here because, well, it’s the Olympics! Who isn’t excited for the biggest curling tournament that comes once every four years?
Between the men’s event, the women’s event and mixed doubles making its Olympic debut, there will be some form of curling on throughout the entire Winter Games even before the opening ceremonies take place. This is what teams have been planning and preparing for and we’re pumped to see who will finish on top of the podium.
6th End: Princess Auto Elite 10 — March 15-18, Winnipeg
The Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season resumes with the Princess Auto Elite 10. The 10 best men’s teams of the season face off under unique match play rules where they compete to win the most ends per game.
The Princess Auto Elite 10 features some spectacular shot-making as teams attempt to score either two or more points (with hammer) or steal at least one point (without hammer). If the game is tied after eight ends, a draw-to-the-button shootout will decide the winner. While match play is similar to skins, there is one major difference here: blanked ends do not carry over points as each end is worth the same value.
Team Morris claimed the title last season after fourth Jim Cotter pulled off a clutch shot in the eighth end of the final to edge Team Jacobs. Cotter clipped just enough of his own stone in the house to angle it in and nudge out a counter to help his crew win the decisive end.
If that description didn’t do the shot justice, just watch the clip:
7th End: Players’ Championship – April 10-15, Toronto
The prestigious Players’ Championship will be held at Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre for the fourth consecutive season and fifth time in six years. Featuring the top 12 men’s teams and top 12 women’s teams of the season, the exclusive event is arguably the toughest to win on tour.
Team Edin continued its stellar 2016-17 campaign to take the men’s title while Team Jones was victorious on the women’s side. For skip Jennifer Jones, it was her record sixth Players’ Championship title.
Jennifer Jones, Kaitlyn Lawes, Jill Officer and Dawn McEwen celebrate with the Players’ Championship trophy in Toronto. (Anil Mungal)
8th End: Humpty’s Champions Cup — April 24-29, Calgary
That brings us to the season finale event, the Humpty’s Champions Cup, returning to WinSport Arena at Canada Olympic Park, a fitting venue to wrap up the Olympic quadrennial cycle.
True to the event’s name, teams must win a high-profile championship in order to receive an invite. Settle for silver? You’ll have to be better than that to get into this one with Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling winners, world champions, Tim Hortons Brier and Scotties Tournament of Hearts winners and more in action.
Team Jacobs and Team Homan capped last season winning the Humpty’s Champions Cup and both will be back for a chance to defend their titles.
Extra End: Breaking the ice
While the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season is still a week away, the World Curling Tour is already in full swing.
Technically it began back in May with the Arctic Cup in Russia — and there was also the Hokkaido Bank Curling Classic in Japan at the start of this month — but there’s no denying it’s curling season now as things started to ramp up last week with the Spider Performance Icebreaker at The Granite in Winnipeg.
Team Einarson took home the women’s title Sunday defeating Team Robertson 9-5 in an all-Winnipeg final while Winnipeg’s Team Calvert doubled up on Team Shuster of the U.S. 8-4 to claim the men’s title.
This upcoming weekend sees a few big tour events with the Baden Masters in Switzerland and the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard in Oakville, Ont., plus the Canad Inns Mixed Doubles Championship in Winnipeg.