The Cranbrook Curling Club brought out the big guns to help generate excitement for the Sportsnet Grand Slam of Curling Tour Challenge during a Chamber of Commerce meeting on Tuesday.
Kevin Martin, a legendary Canadian figure in the game of curling, was in town to tour through the area and help the sports broadcasting network build up some local sponsorship buzz.
Martin, along with Rob Depodesta, Manager, Integrated Sponsorship Sales, gave a brief presentation to media and interested dignitaries following a monthly chamber luncheon at the Prestige Rocky Mountain Resort.
“The Tour Challenge is coming here—that’s the biggest event,” said Martin. “There’s 60 teams, the biggest in number [on the Grand Slam circuit].”
The Tour Challenge will feature professional 30 mens and women’s teams from around the world competing in two separate tiers of curling action. The top level teams will curl in Tier 1, while there will be another bracket for Tier 2.
Martin added that ever since the Grand Slam was created with a single event in the early 1990s—before expanding to multiple events after the turn of the century—the quality of play has become more exciting while featuring the best curlers in the world.
He illustrated his point by noting that only three teams that recently competed in the Scotties Tournament of Hearts—the women’s national championship—would qualify for the Tour Challenge event.
“Only three teams would’ve qualified out of the Scotties field to come here,” Martin said. “Two teams in the Tier 1 event and one team in the Tier 2 event.
“Jennifer Jones, of course, would’ve qualified for the Tier 1; Chelsea Carey—ranked number 10 in the world—she would’ve qualified for the Tier 1 event here. Kerri Einarson, ranked 16th in the world, would’ve qualified for the Tier 2 event, not the Tier 1 if you can imagine.”
The calibre of play is high, which translates into strong television ratings, Martin continued. That is due to the two-fold success of Sportsnet growing the sport, and the Grand Slam events, which were originally created to give young curlers a competitive outlet after losing to veterans who would go on to compete in the Tim Horton’s Brier or the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
“The bottom line of the Grand Slams; the reason they exist is for junior curling—for growth in kids,” Martin said. “But the premise is of the best of the best playing around the world, the best teams in the world, playing on the best ice conditions…”
Rick O’Neill, the president of the Cranbrook Curling Club, also gave a brief presentation to chamber members during the luncheon to introduce Martin and give a breakdown of what will be happening between Nov. 8-13, 2016.
The event will take over the ice surfaces at Western Financial Place and the Memorial Arena during the duration of the competition. Sportsnet will have a minimum of 18 hours of broadcasting airtime, which doesn’t include promotions leading up to the event.
O’Neill estimates that the there will be roughly a $1.2-1.8 million economic benefit to the city which should spill over into neighbouring communities such as Kimberley, while Sportsnet alone would requiring 200 hotel rooms.
Depending on the success of the event, O’Neill added that Sportsnet will keep Cranbrook in mind for future Grand Slam stops in the future.
O’Neill also took time to single out Cranbrook Mayor Lee Pratt and Paul Heywood, events manager for the City of Cranbrook, for their work in landing the Grand Slam event.