When we say it’s a brief history of the Elite 10, we’re not kidding. Stephen Hawking we are not as we only have to go as far back as 2015 to cover everything that’s happened in this event, but there’s still a lot to work with here.
The Elite 10 was the first new Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling tournament since the series started in 2001-02. In order to differentiate the Elite 10 from the original four majors, this tournament features unique match play rules where teams compete to win the most ends per game rather than total points scored in each end.
Although the rules are quite similar to a skins game — count two or more with the hammer or steal one without the hammer — there is one key difference in match play: Points do not carry over when there is a blank (single or empty house) as all ends hold the same value.
Due to the nature of scoring, instead of extra ends (which could go on and on if no one counts two-plus rocks or steals), a draw-to-the-button shootout determines the victor if the game is tied after eight.
In summary: Since high scoring is required to win, we’ve seen some crazy shots over the past three years.
2015 Elite 10: Fort McMurray, Alta.
Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen was the first to get his name engraved on the Elite 10 trophy and it wasn’t a shocker either. Team McEwen was on fire during the tour year with the Elite 10 victory representing their eighth championship of 2014-15 and second in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling that season.
Still, it was quite the battle in the final against Sweden’s Niklas Edin, who found the secret weapon to winning match play games was by firing runbacks from each and every angle. Seriously, Edin was an human-highlight reel in this one.
McEwen was simply unstoppable though firing at a practically perfect 98 percent clip. Already up by one in the seventh, McEwen counted four to score the championship with a 2 & 1 victory.
2016 Elite 10: Victoria
The Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling went off-script when handing out the invitations for the 2016 edition. After a couple of the top 10 men’s teams declined, the series opted to invite No. 1 ranked women’s club Team Rachel Homan, who accepted.
Hats off to Team Homan. The Ottawa-based crew broke down the gender barrier making history as the first women’s team to compete against men in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling since Sportsnet acquired the series in 2012. They continued to rewrite the record books by also becoming the first women’s team to score a win over a top-ranked men’s team in the series when Homan defeated Team Charley Thomas in round-robin play.
Skips Rachel Homan and John Epping faced off against each other at the 2016 Elite 10. (Anil Mungal)
Although none of the games in the first Elite 10 tournament required an extra end, it was bound to happen eventually and sure enough, we had two right at the start of the 2016 edition. One of the shootout games took place between Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., and Winnipeg’s Reid Carruthers. Gushue was sharp and covered the pin to secure the victory.
Gushue and Carruthers clashed again after both scored shootout victories in the semifinals and big surprise, the championship game also required a shootout. Carruthers went first and rolled a little heavy while Gushue was on the mark grabbing a piece of the button.
Gushue was the class of the field finishing with an unblemished 6-0 record and followed that up with another undefeated run at the Players’ Championship a month later extending his winning streak to 14 games. The Gu was good.
2017 Elite 10: Port Hawkesbury, N.S.
Team Homan was the surprise entry the year before, this time it was a league of legends who returned for one time only. Jeff Stoughton, Dave Nedohin, Nolan Thiessen and Jamie Korab came back to the series to form the Elite 10 Selects team and turned back the clock proving they could still hang with the best by qualifying for the playoffs.
Coincidentally, Stoughton lost in the quarterfinals to former teammate Carruthers. The apprentice was now the master.
Why not, let’s also throw in Gushue’s shot to take the seventh end over Stoughton because that one was pretty gnarly as well.
Of course, there were shootouts but none more dramatic than the quarterfinals match between Calgary’s Kevin Koe and Peter de Cruz of Switzerland. Team de Cruz fourth Benoit Schwarz went through the house on his attempt and all Koe had to do was hit anywhere in the paint. Koe’s rock also went deep but stopped short of crossing the back line completely.
The prophetic moment of the tournament took place at the start of the week when John Morris was hanging out in the GSOC production office chatting with photographer Anil Mungal. Morris, from Chestermere, Alta., mentioned he didn’t want to miss out on the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup taking place in Calgary right near his home, but he was running out of time to qualify with the event only a month away. That’s when Mungal said to Morris, well, just win the Princess Auto Elite 10 and you’re in.
Easier said than done and yet mission accomplished.
Morris managed to defeat Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., in the final thanks to a clutch performance from fourth Jim Cotter. The game was tied after seven ends and Team Morris, based in Vernon, B.C., held the all-important hammer in the decisive eighth. Jacobs sat shot rock under the covers but Cotter saw an opening on an angle and slashed in one of his own to knock the counter off of the button.
That brings us to the present with the 2018 Princess Auto Elite 10 just a week away running March 15-18 at Winnipeg’s St. James Civic Centre.