Welcome to the new year and the midway mark of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season with three events down and three more to go.
The Roaring 20s? More like the roaring game 20s, am I right?
Here’s a rundown of what’s coming up during the second half of the GSOC campaign:
Meridian Canadian Open — Jan. 14-19, Yorkton, Sask.
We’re going back to Saskatchewan to start off 2020. Yorkton’s Gallagher Centre hosted the Meridian Canadian Open previously in 2014 and 2015.
The third major of the season features 16 men’s teams and 16 women’s teams with a unique twist: triple knockout brackets replace round-robin pools for preliminary play to determine playoff spots. Basically, teams must win three games before they lose three games in order to advance to the quarterfinals.
This can lead to some interesting scenarios as teams could breeze through at 3-0 and only need to play the bare minimum to qualify (and thus also get a day off) or they could find themselves dropping to the C Event with their backs against the wall and every game a must-win scenario. There’s no right or wrong way as we’ve seen teams emerge from both paths en route to capturing the title.
Team Rachel Homan and Team Brendan Bottcher are the defending champions and both went undefeated through the Meridian Canadian Open last year. For Homan, it was the Ottawa skip’s record 10th GSOC women’s title (and third in a row) while Edmonton native Bottcher captured his first career men’s title and kickstarted his own trio run.
Speaking of threes, Team Brad Jacobs and Team Anna Hasselborg enter the Meridian Canadian Open having won back-to-back GSOC events to finish 2019. It’ll be intriguing to watch if either one or both can make a push for three straight.
Princess Auto Players’ Championship — April 7-12, Toronto
The prestigious Princess Auto Players’ Championship returns to Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre for the sixth straight season and seventh time in eight years. The crown jewel event of the series has found a familiar home at the historic venue formerly known as Maple Leaf Gardens.
In a way, you could see the Princess Auto Players’ Championship as a playoff to the entire season featuring 12 of the top men’s teams and 12 of the top women’s teams based on the WCF World Team Ranking year-to-date list.
Team Kerri Einarson squeaked into the quarterfinals last year with a 2-3 round-robin record. The Gimli, Man., club saved their best for the playoffs fending off Sweden’s Team Anna Hasselborg 5-4 in the championship game. Bottcher topped Calgary’s Team Kevin Koe 6-1 in rematch — but not a repeat — of the Brier final.
The Pinty’s Cup, awarded to the season champions in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling, will also be handed out during the Princess Auto Players’ Championship. Roughly double points are up for grabs here keeping the chase competitive down to the final.
Humpty’s Champions Cup — April 29 to May 3, Olds, Alta.
A clash of champions closes out the GSOC season at the Olds Sportsplex. All 12 men’s teams and 12 women’s teams competing in the Humpty’s Champions Cup have won a high-profile title in order to qualify. That includes GSOC winners such as Masters champions Team Matt Dunstone and Team Tracy Fleury plus 2019 Humpty’s Champions Cup winners Team Brendan Bottcher and Team Silvana Tirinzoni returning to defend their titles.
It’s quite possibly the trickiest tournament to qualify in the series as just being good during the season isn’t good enough; you have to have won something big in order to enter. Spots have filled up fast and the Meridian Canadian Open is the last of the GSOC events for teams to punch their tickets directly. From there on out it’s national championships like the Brier or Tournament of Hearts or world championships as guaranteed berths.
Keep an eye on teams that have won multiple championships, such as Team Jacobs and Team Hasselborg, as that opens up the side door for winners of top tour events.