Eight Ends: What you need to know about the GSOC's Boost National

Rachel Homan sweeps a stone during the 2021 Masters in Oakville, Ont. (Anil Mungal)

NORTH BAY, Ont. — The Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling returns for what’s sure to be another exciting season, and the series kicks things off with the 2022 Boost National taking place Oct. 4-9 at North Bay Memorial Gardens.

Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know from things like what’s at stake, the top storylines, the broadcast schedule and more all in eight ends.

First End: What’s the format?

The Boost National features 16 of the top men’s teams and 16 of the top women’s teams from around the world with nine different nations represented.

Teams play four round-robin games each with the top eight overall advancing to the quarterfinals. If necessary, a tiebreaker draw will be played to determine the final playoff spots.

Team Gushue won the men's title last year in Chestermere, Alta., while Team Hasselborg is the double defending women's champion having also captured the crown during the 2019-20 season in Conception Bay South, N.L.

Second End: What’s at stake?

A combined $300,000 purse, split equally between the men’s and women’s divisions, is up for grabs at the 2022 Boost National. The men’s and women’s champions receive the lion’s share taking home $35,000 per winning team.

The winning teams also receive invitations to the Kioti Tractor Champions Cup to be held May 2-7, 2023, in Regina. Yes, the season has just started and we’re already talking about the season-ending event. However, the Kioti Tractor Champions Cup requires teams to win to get in, so you can be sure they will want to secure their spots as soon as possible.

Points for the Pinty’s Cup, awarded to the season champions, are also available at the Boost National. The winning teams of the Pinty’s Cup receive a big bonus of $75,000 plus commemorative championship rings, courtesy of Pinty’s.

Third End: What’s the no-tick zone?

The no-tick zone is a modification of the five-rock, free-guard zone. During the first five rocks of play in every end, if a delivered stone causes an opposition stone in the free-guard zone that is touching the centre line to be removed to an off-centre line position, the non-offending team has the option to: 1) remove the delivered stone from play and replace all stones that were displaced to their positions prior to the violation taking place; or 2) decline and leave all stones where they came to rest.

Why has this rule been implemented? Basically, it’s because players became too proficient at executing the tick shot — which allowed players to nudge guards off to the side but still keep them in play while the five-rock rule was in effect — and led to predictable ends unfolding. The Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling first tested the no-tick zone rule at the 2019 Champions Cup during the eighth and extra ends only.

Fourth End: When we last left our heroes …

It’s been roughly five months since the end of last season at the Kioti Tractor Champions Cup in Olds, Alta., where Team Gushue topped Team Koe in the men’s final and Team Einarson beat Team Gim in the women’s final.

The Kioti Tractor Champions Cup was quite an emotional event as it also capped the Olympic quadrennial with numerous teams retooling their rosters for the new cycle.

For Team Gushue, it was the 12th Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title for the foursome of Brad Gushue, Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker and the end of an amazing era as Gallant has joined the new-look Team Bottcher.

Not everyone shook things up with Team Einarson among those who decided to stick together for another run.

Fifth End: Back to the Bay

This is the second time Memorial Gardens has hosted a Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event and what an event it was at the 2019 Masters with a capacity crowd on hand.

Tracy Fleury, from nearby Sudbury, skipped her Manitoba-based club to their first Grand Slam women’s championship together while Matt Dunstone also claimed his first title in the series on the men’s side with his Saskatchewan squad.

Both Fleury and Dunstone are back in North Bay but with different teams this time around.

The 2019 Masters had the highest attendance for any Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event ever, and the 2022 Boost National will surely be a hot ticket as well.

Sixth End: Men’s division preview

Let’s look at some familiar faces in new places. As previously mentioned in the Fourth End, skip Brendan Bottcher has a revamped roster featuring third Marc Kennedy (formerly with Team Jacobs), second Brett Gallant (Team Gushue) and lead Ben Hebert (Team Koe). Can you say powerhouse?

Gushue grabbed E.J. Harnden from Team Jacobs and the veteran second should fit in seamlessly.

Kevin Koe claimed Bottcher’s former front end of second Brad Thiessen and lead Karrick Martin and also snagged former skip Tyler Tardi to play third to complete his overhauled lineup.

The Winnipeg-born Dunstone is back playing out of Manitoba adding third B.J. Neufeld (Team Koe), second Colton Lott (Team Simmons) and lead Ryan Harnden (Team Jacobs) to round out a rock-solid roster. Staying in Manitoba, Reid Carruthers and second Derek Samagalski added Jason Gunnlaugson at third and Connor Njegovan at lead to form the new Team Carruthers.

Meanwhile, Mike McEwen is now playing out of Toronto adding third Ryan Fry and lead Brent Laing from Team Epping plus second Jonathan Beuk of Team Horgan.

Phew, we need a flow chart.

Notable men's teams that have remained together include reigning world and Olympic champions Team Edin of Sweden plus reigning Pinty's Cup champions Team Mouat from Scotland and why not? They both have the talent to run it back.

Seventh End: Women's division preview

Team Homan made an unorthodox adjustment adding skip Tracy Fleury to throw third and call the game. It makes sense to have Homan, who will continue to throw last in the lineup, now handle some sweeping duties instead of Fleury due to her experience in mixed doubles. The team is leaving its options open, so keep that in mind if the order shuffles.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Jones’s team disbanded and the skip joined forces with Mackenzie Zacharias’s club, which has found early success together with two wins on tour already.

Consider it a case of mergers and acquisitions. Kaitlyn Lawes and Jocelyn Peterman, formerly of Team Jones, stuck together and added Team Fleury’s Selena Njegovan and Kristin MacCuish to create the new Team Lawes.

Skip Chelsea Carey, third Jolene Campbell and lead Rachel Erickson made a player and a province change with the addition of second Liz Fyfe (Team Fleury). The former Saskatchewan squad is now a Manitoba one as Carey, Fyfe and Erickson were all born in the province.

It wasn’t just the Canadian clubs that made significant changes as three-time reigning world champions Silvana Tirinzoni and Alina Paetz from Switzerland have a new front-end with second Carole Howald and lead Briar Schwaller-Huerlimann.

Eighth End: How to watch the 2022 Boost National

Can’t make it to North Bay? Sportsnet will have you covered with online streaming also available via SN NOW (Canada) and Yare (international) beginning Thursday at noon ET / 9 a.m. PT.

The schedule is subject to change, visit sportsnet.ca/schedule for the latest listings.

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