Ontario and Manitoba followed Northern Ontario’s lead on Monday by cancelling their respective provincial curling championships.
Ontario declared that last season’s winners would represent the province at the national championships in the Calgary bubble later this season. Team John Epping will play for Ontario at the Tim Hortons Brier and Team Rachel Homan will wear Ontario colours at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
Teams will compete in a bubble setting at Markin MacPhail Centre. Dates haven’t been finalized but the Scotties is expected to begin around Feb. 19.
"It will be a different Scotties for sure but we’re so excited to be able to represent Ontario," Homan said. "We’re thankful that we’re able to go and represent and hopefully do Ontario proud."
Manitoba announced its playdowns were cancelled Monday but did not immediately state its team picks for nationals. Northern Ontario cancelled its playdowns earlier this month.
Team Brad Jacobs will return to the Brier and Team Krysta Burns accepted an invite from the Northern Ontario Curling Association to compete at the Scotties after Team Krista McCarville declined.
McCarville cited travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, family and work commitments for the decision. Burns, who dropped a 6-5 decision to McCarville in the 2020 provincial final, was next in line as the finalist.
"I think all of us were completely shocked," Burns said of the opportunity. "We had never even really considered it as a possibility. So when it came through, we were just like, ‘OK, let’s pinch ourselves here."’
The national women’s championship will be the first of six competitions to be held in a hub on the grounds of Canada Olympic Park. The Scotties will be followed by the Brier, the Canadian mixed doubles championship, the world men’s playdowns and then two Grand Slam events.
Burns finished third at the 2017 Canadian U21 junior championship. She also won a U Sports title with Laurentian University that year.
"Being there and getting to represent where you’re from, it makes the whole opportunity mean a lot more," Burns told The Canadian Press from Sudbury, Ont. "I know it’s going to be something we’re never going to forget."
Her team includes lead Amanda Gates, second Sara Guy and third Megan Smith. Gates has played at the Scotties on three occasions, most recently in 2018 with Team Tracy Fleury.
The 16-team fields at the Scotties and Tim Hortons Brier are primarily filled with winners from provincial and territorial playdowns that are traditionally held in January and February. Many of those events remain on the calendar but they appear to be on uncertain ground due to the pandemic.