Eight Ends: All you need to know for the GSOC Masters

Jennifer Jones shoots a stone during the fifth draw of round-robin play at the Princess Auto Elite 10 in Chatham-Kent, Ont. (Anil Mungal)

TRURO, N.S. — The first “major” test of the new Olympic cycle is upon us with the Canadian Beef Masters beginning Tuesday night at Rath Eastlink Community Centre.

Read on to learn all about the second Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event of the season, which teams to keep your eyes on plus how you can watch either in person or over the airwaves.

1st End: History of the Canadian Beef Masters

The Canadian Beef Masters is considered a major as it is one of the four original events in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling having been held annually since the inaugural 2001-02 season. (The Boost National, Meridian Canadian Open and Players’ Championship are the other three.)

This will be the 18th running of the Canadian Beef Masters and the second time Truro’s Rath Eastlink Community Centre plays host after holding the event in 2015. The now-defunct Team Mike McEwen was victorious on the men’s side that season with Team Rachel Homan capturing their third Masters title in four years in the women’s division.

Homan’s trio of titles is the most among women’s teams at the event while Team Glenn Howard holds the men’s record winning the Canadian Beef Masters six times.

Team Brad Gushue (men’s) and Team Jennifer Jones (women’s) are the reigning champions. Both clubs went through last season’s event in Lloydminster, Sask., undefeated at 7-0.

2nd End: The rules of play

The Canadian Beef Masters features 15 of the top men’s teams and 15 of the top women’s teams from around the world. Both divisions consist of 14 teams selected from the World Curling Tour’s Order of Merit as of Sept. 20 plus a sponsor’s exemption.

The sponsor’s exemption is used at the discretion of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling and was implemented for the Canadian Beef Masters to invite two Halifax-based teams skipped by Jamie Murphy and junior sensation Kaitlyn Jones, whose club includes cousins Karlee and Lindsey Burgess from the Colchester County area.

Both men’s and women’s divisions are split into three pools. Teams compete in four round-robin games against the teams within their pools. The top eight teams overall, regardless of pools, qualify for the weekend playoffs.

3rd End: What’s at stake?

The Canadian Beef Masters features a $250,000 total purse, split evenly between the men’s and women’s divisions. Winners cash in $30,000 plus berths to the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup, running April 23-28 at Saskatoon’s Merlis Belsher Arena.

Points are also on the line for the Pinty’s Cup, which is awarded to the season champions. The Canadian Beef Masters winners collect 12 points, runners-up take nine, semifinalists earn seven and quarterfinalists get five each. Non-playoff teams pick up one point per round-robin win.

The top four teams in the Pinty’s Cup standings earn bonus prize money at the end of the year with the winners banking $75,000.

4th End: In case you’re just joining us

The Princess Auto Elite 10 opened the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season last month in Chatham-Kent, Ont.

Unique match-play rules were in effect for the one-of-a-kind event where scoring was based on winning ends. (We’re back to regular curling scoring rules for the Canadian Beef Masters).

Team Gushue was coming in cold making their season debut, but the St. John’s, N.L., crew turned out to be red-hot as they captured their 11th men’s championship in the series and 10th in the past four years. Gushue cooled Team Reid Carruthers 2 UP (two ends to one) in the men’s final.

Team Hasselborg was also running at high octane as the Swedish squad finished with an unblemished 6-0 record including a commanding 4-and-2 victory (winning four ends to none in six ends) over Team Tirinzoni during the final.

5th End: Men’s division preview

Team Gushue enter as defending champs and fresh off of winning the season-opening Princess Auto Elite 10 but are making a tight turnaround from finishing second in the China Open this past weekend. How they will adjust to the jet lag is going to be a key factor.

John Epping has won three Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling titles, all majors, and just needs a Canadian Beef Masters to complete the career Grand Slam quartet. It’s a good thing he now has second Brent Laing and lead Craig Savill as the pair captured the Canadian Beef Masters six times during their tenure with Team Howard. Team Epping have started strong qualifying for the playoffs in their first four events.

Although Team McEwen is no more, look to Mike McEwen (now tossing fourth stones for Winnipeg’s Team Carruthers) and B.J. Neufeld (throwing third for Calgary’s Team Kevin Koe) as solid contributors who could affect their respective team’s fortunes.

Say hello to Team Yannick Schwaller and Team Matt Dunstone as they’ll both be making their Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling debuts. Schwaller’s Swiss squad picked up the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard last month. Dunstone is no stranger to the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling but this will be the first time the two-time Canadian junior champion will be skipping in the series.

6th End: Women’s division preview

Jennifer Jones is in a similar boat as Gushue heading straight from China to Truro and will also have to deal with the round-the-world time change. Team Jones finished in third place at the China Open and former second Jill Officer, who stepped back into the alternate role at the end of last season, returned to the lineup filling in for lead Dawn McEwen.

As mentioned above, Team Homan won the title here in 2015, can they rekindle the magic? Event sponsor Canadian Beef also happens to be a major supporter for Team Homan, so you know they’ll want to be on a good show.

Team Hasselborg scored their first Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title at the Princess Auto Elite 10. Could it be the first of many for the reigning Olympic gold medallists?

The Canadian Beef Masters is the first time in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling we’ll see the all-new Team Einarson squad from Gimli, Man. Kerri Einarson and former skips Val Sweeting, Shannon Birchard and Briane Meilleur took the curling tour by storm to start winning four titles already and are flying in from a runner-up result at the Canad Inns Women’s Classic in Portage la Prairie, Man. Is it a Grand Slam title possibly in the cards next?

7th End: Ticket information

Full-event passes, weekend passes plus tickets for individual draws are available for the Canadian Beef Masters. Visit Ticketpro.ca or call 1-888-311-9090 to purchase yours today.

Don’t know which draw to go to? Check out the full round-robin match schedule by clicking here.

8th End: Televised?

If you can’t make it to Truro, broadcast coverage of the Canadian Beef Masters begins Thursday at 10:30 a.m. ET on Sportsnet.

Broadcast draws are also available for streaming online via Sportsnet NOW (Canada) and Yare (international).

Draw Eastern Time Pacific Time Watch
Thursday, Oct. 25      
Round Robin 10:30 a.m. 7:30 a.m. Sportsnet
Round Robin 2:30 p.m. 11:30 a.m. Sportsnet
Round Robin 6:30 p.m. 3:30 p.m. Sportsnet
Friday, Oct. 26      
Round Robin 10:30 a.m. 7:30 a.m. Sportsnet
Round Robin 2:30 p.m. 11:30 a.m. Sportsnet
Round Robin 7 p.m. 4 p.m. Sportsnet 360
Saturday, Oct. 27      
Men’s Quarterfinals 10:30 a.m. 7:30 a.m. Sportsnet
Women’s Quarterfinals 3 p.m. Noon CBC
Sunday, Oct. 28      
Men’s & Women’s Semifinals 9 a.m. 6 a.m. Sportsnet
Men’s Final 1 p.m. 10 a.m. CBC
Women’s Final 5 p.m. 2 p.m. Sportsnet

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