The B.C. Curling Championships are fast approaching, as organizers and volunteers prepare Western Financial Place and the Cranbrook Curling Centre for a week of curling action.
Western Financial Place will host the men’s and women’s curling draws, while the Cranbrook Curling Centre will serve as the social hub.
Rick O’Neill, the president of the Cranbrook Curling Club, says crews have been working away at WFP to get the ice surface ready for curling over the last few days.
“They’re going to be flooding a couple more times, then putting in all the rings and everything else, so probably going to be putting in about a 16-hour day today, probably 12 tomorrow,” O’Neill said. “They want to try and get it ready for Sunday, and once that’s done, then we can put up everything else.”
An ice-level pub and seating will be featured by the curling areas, while glass panes have been removed along the hockey rinkboards for better spectator viewing.
WFP has been transformed twice in recent years for curling events, note ably for the 2011 Canada Cup and the Pinty’s Grand Slam Tour Challenge in 2016.
Once the rinkboard Plexiglas is removed, the ice surface has to be shaved so that it is even — flush all the way across. Then crews repeatedly flood the surface to eliminate any rough or uneven spots.
“There’s a lot of prep work done,” said O’Neill. “It’s not regular, as we call it, ‘arena’ ice; we have to filter the water, we have to put in chemicals in it so it freezes, so there’s a lot more prep to do it for the curling than there is for anything else.”
With all the teams now finalized for the tournament, everyone should be arriving in Cranbrook over the next few days as the curling will kick off on Tuesday.
Team Medford is the lone local representatives in the event, featuring Chris Medford (skip), Steve Tersmette (Third), Mitch Young (Second) and Jeff Langin (Lead).
The bulk of the team has been curling together for a while now, but added Young this season after former teammate, Nathan Small, joined a squad from the Okanagan.
Medford says the season has been pretty good for the foursome, who have made their presence known in World Tour Championship events this year.
“We were ranked inside the top 200 in the world at one point so not bad for a local Kootenay team that has to travel six-plus hours to get to the closest event, that is also $1,000 to enter,” Medford said, which is supported by sponsors that include Hearing Loss Clinic, Kimberley RCR, Torchlight Brewery and St. Eugene Golf Resort and Casino.
Medford’s team booked their spot in the B.C. Men’s Championship following a successful playdown in Kimberley in December against two other Kootenay teams.
Now, the stage is much bigger, once the draws get underway on Tuesday in Cranbrook.
“For us, to be able to compete at home, in front of friends and family, is something that really only happens when we host a local municipal bonspiel,” Medford said. “For this event, at this level, it’s only going to bring more pride for us and more effort for us to really push for the playoffs and try to win this thing.”
Jim Cotter, who skips a team out of Vernon, is the defending championship for the men’s side, while Sarah Wark, who skips her team out of Abbotsford, is the defending champion for the women’s side.
For both divisions, the winner goes on to the national championship — the Tim Horton’s Brier for the men and the Scotties Tournament of Hearts for the women.
“When you realize that the [winners] men go to the Brier and the women go to the Scotties, you realize that this is the next step and a lot of the teams are trying for it, they want to get to that level,” said O’Neill. “They practice for it all year, they play games all year, they travel all year. We’ve got teams coming from all over B.C. so I think that up’s the competition and it’s a big stepping stone for a lot of these teams.”
Information on the event, including tickets and a draw schedule, can be found here.