Team Smith and Team Hill have earned trips to the Brier and Scotties curling championships, respectively, after winning provincial titles this weekend.
Eight men's teams began a round-robin tournament at the ReMax Centre in St. John's on Wednesday, with Greg Smith's rink coming out on top over Team Thomas in a thrilling 12-end game on Sunday.
It's very rare for a 10-end curling game to require a second extra end, but skip Colin Thomas's final stone to win the game slid just a few inches too far, resulting in a blank end in the 11th.
Team Smith will now compete as Team Newfoundland and Labrador at the Tim Horton's Brier in Calgary in March.
Brad Gushue and his team will also be at the Brier, as defending champions, representing Team Canada.
Team Hill — which includes Sarah Hill, Beth Hamilton, Lauren Barron and Adrienne Mercer — was the best of two women's teams, winning 7-6 in an extra end, over Team Mitchell, Saturday. They will go on and represent the province at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, which is also in Calgary in February.
Mark Noseworthy, president of Curling NL, says the pandemic created hurdles for some players this year, because the tournament winners will need to travel to Calgary and must be able to quarantine for two weeks once they return home.
"Teams that wanted to sign up to play had to commit to about roughly about a month off work or more," Noseworthy said.
Because of that commitment, he said only two women's teams — Team Hill and Team Mitchell — were able to sign up and play.
"So it's not possible for everybody to do it this year with the COVID," he said.
Noseworthy said this is the first provincial tournament since the pandemic began and since curlers returned to the ice in October, after approval from the province's chief medical officer of health.
He said most curling clubs in the province are now open, with regular curling games being played with public health guidelines and rule modifications. Many curling clubs have limited their capacity to create space for social distancing, he said, as well as adding signage, hand sanitizing stations and enhanced cleaning to limit COVID-19 exposure.
"The whole environment is just a heightened sense of safety for everybody," Noseworthy said.
Still, he says many local clubs are in a pinch because capacity, memberships, events and food service has been reduced since the pandemic started.
"Your expenses are much the same, but your revenues aren't the same. So, I mean, most current clubs are taking a major hit on the revenue side," he said.
But when it comes to sending players to the Brier and the Scotties, Noseworthy said Curling Canada is putting many public health protocols in place to keep players from across the country safe during the national tournaments in Calgary this spring — including keeping players in a bubble in a hub city, with no spectators in the stands.
"Curling Canada was dealing with the Alberta health authorities and with Health Canada. And I know a lot of the protocols that they have in place, in this bubble, are a lot of the same ones that the NHL had last year when they played in Edmonton," he said.
The Scotties will be played Feb. 19 to 28 and the Brier will be March 6 to 14 at the Markin MacPhail Centre at WinSport's Canada Olympic Park in Calgary.