Curling Pre-Trials dubbed a sweeping success

·5 min read

Wait, is that Liverpool’s-own Jill Brothers, five-time Scotties participant? And wait a minute, is that Glenn Howard, four-time world champion? And is that really Sherry Anderson, the two-time World Senior curling champion?

The stars were out in Liverpool for the 2021 Home Hardware Curling Pre-Trials competition held Oct. 25-31 at Queens Place Emera Centre. Fourteen men’s and women’s teams were competing for four, last-chance berths in the Tim Hortons Canadian Curling Trials in Saskatoon, which will determine the two teams who will represent Canada at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing.

The pre-trials were the third major curling event held in Liverpool. In 2014, Queens Place Emera Centre hosted the Canadian junior championships; in 2019, it was the world junior championships.

At the head of the local organizing committee for all three events was Greg Thorbourne, chair of of the host Liverpool Championships Society. He says this year’s event went smoothly, despite a few challenges.

“There are always glitches when you host something like this, but you work through them and they work out one way or the other,” he said, adding there was a bit of a COVID-19 scare at one point, but further testing was negative.

Making it tough this year was the COVID-19 precautions that had to be taken to keep everyone safe. Temperature scanners were in place for volunteers and players. Everyone had to be double-vaccinated, players had to be separated from the fans and volunteers and all scorekeepers and statisticians had to be separated by plexiglass.

“There was always that concern about transmission. It put a lot of pressure on to make sure everybody was safe,” said Thorbourne.

All-in-all, however, the tournament was dubbed a success by many.

The teams were split into pools of seven teams for a six-game round-robin event. The top three teams in each grouping advanced to the playoffs and the winner of the A event and B events moved on to Saskatoon.

Earning trips to Saskatoon on the men’s side were the Jason Gunnlaugson team from Altona, Man., and Tanner Horgan of Kingston, Ont. On the women’s side was Krista McCarville from Thunder Bay, Ont. and Jacqueline Harrison from Hamilton, Ont.

Al Cameron, director of communication and media relations for Curling Canada, had nothing but the best to say about Greg Thorbourne and his team. Cameron has worked for Curling Canada for the past eight years and has been to curling venues throughout the country.

“First of all, it’s just a great host committee. Greg Thorbourne and the crew just do a marvelous job and every event they’ve had here has been a success, including the Canadian Juniors in 2014 and the World Juniors in 2019,” he commented.

“Coming back here, we knew it was a slam dunk. There’s always risks, never more than in the age we live in, but we had a fair degree of certainty that if anyone could pull it off it was Greg and his team here in Liverpool.”

When asked about the possibility of future events, he was quick to respond. “Always. When Greg Thorbourne talks to us we listen. Put it that way.”

Tyler Tardi won the world junior championships in 2019 in Liverpool and said that it was great to be back.

“It’s pretty cool. There’s obviously a lot of good memories here. It’s fun to be back, and hopefully we can repeat some success,” he said prior to the playoffs.

Tardi finished with a four-win, three-loss record.

Four-time world champion Glenn Howard, 59, said the town and venue were “awesome. It’s a beautiful little city.”

Skip Jacqueline Harrison, curling out of the Dundas Valley Golf & Curling Club in Hamilton, who won the second berth available for the Olympic Trials Oct. 31, heaped praise on the experience.

“We were able to meet a couple of local fans. A little five-year-old drew me a picture. She was so adorable. It’s nice when people come down and want to say ‘Hi,’” she said. “The people here have been so fantastic. So nice and hospitable. We really enjoyed our stay.”

Organizing committee and volunteers

Thorbourne said there were 75 volunteers that stepped up to help make the event a success. However, this was less than half of the number from previous event. According to Thorbourne, COVID-19 kept many people away.

“It takes everybody to make this kind of thing a success. The volunteers we had worked very hard, doing double shifts and asking for more. They were a great team,” he said.

Fans

The number of fans in the stands were up-and-down for much of the week. Thorbourne reported that the largest crowd was on Oct. 30, the first day of playoffs. He said it was a tough-go considering that it was always touch-and-go whether they could even have fans or not.

Early on they were advised they could only have about 250 people in the building; volunteers, players and coaches pretty much filled that maximum.

“It was really hard to go out and promote and sell tickets in such a short time,” said Thorbourne. “But we pulled it off for the most part. Sunday was a little disappointing for the final draws, but all of our local connections were beat out by then and those teams that were left were from Ontario or out west.”

Thorbourne said there were many area players that had connections to the Maritimes, which helped put fans in the stands.

Spin-offs

Meanwhile, the curlers, who numbered upwards of 112, along with staff and fans, were big contributors to the local economy over the week. Although COVID-19 prevented a thorough economic study this year, it’s likely thousands of dollars were spent all along the South Shore for accommodation, food and gifts.

“Many of those in attendance were talking about coming back here in the summer when they can enjoy our beaches and summer activities,” said Thorbourne. “You couldn’t pay the number of dollars it would take for this kind of promotion. It was great, not only just for Liverpool, but for the South Shore and the province.”

Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin

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