What we know and don't know about the curling bubble
There's a lot to unpack and a lot still to figure out
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Curling wants to bubble up like the NHL and NBA
The national governing body Curling Canada announced late yesterday that it wants to stage the three biggest events it's responsible for organizing this season — the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the Brier and the men's world championship — plus a few others in a bubble environment in Calgary. Here's what we know and don't know about the plan, informed by a conversation with ace CBC Sports curling reporter Devin Heroux:
We know where. Those three big tournaments, along with the Canadian mixed doubles championship and two Grand Slam of Curling events, will take place at Canada Olympic Park. There's a facility there called the Markin MacPhail Centre that contains an Olympic-size hockey rink with 3,500 seats. The games will all be played on that ice, without fans in attendance, and will of course be broadcast on TV.
We don't know when. No firm dates were released. But, for a variety of reasons, it makes sense to keep the marquee tournaments in their traditional slots, where they were scheduled before the pandemic hit. So expect the Scotties to run Feb. 20-28, the Brier March 6-14 and the men's world championship April 3-11. In fact, the World Curling Federation announced today that the men's worlds will happen April 3-11 in Calgary, the women's world championship will remain March 20-28 in Switzerland, and the mixed doubles worlds are April 24-May 1 in a TBD location.
We don't know how. Curling Canada says it's still working with the different levels of government on health protocols, but the idea is to borrow from the successful bubbles built by the NHL and NBA last summer. Devin reported that, based on what Canadian curlers have told him, they'll have to get to the bubble at least three days before their competition begins and won't be allowed to leave until they're eliminated. Family members can't join them. It's a lot to ask in a sport where many players have other jobs or have chosen to devote their off-ice time to their families. The sheer amount of money at stake in the NHL and NBA helped those leagues summon the will to pull off their bubbles, but there's obviously much less of it in curling.
And we don't know who. Even if every curler is up for the bubble, deciding which teams get to compete could be tough. Curling Canada says it expects every province and territory to be represented at the Scotties and the Brier, as usual. But provincial/territorial curling associations are, for the most part, small-time operations that might find it too challenging to stage their qualifying tournaments this year. And some teams might opt to skip them. So it's possible that some regions simply appoint their Scotties and/or Brier reps (likely the same team they sent last year). Pretty much the only rinks you can count on being invited to Calgary at the moment are the defending champs — Brad Gushue's team for the Brier; Kerri Einarson's for the Scotties.
Canadian pro wrestling trailblazer Pat Patterson died. Born Pierre Clermont in Montreal, Patterson is credited with several firsts from his six-decade career in sports-entertainment. In 1979, he became the first WWF (now WWE) Intercontinental Champion. After retiring from the squared circle, he became one of WWE boss Vince McMahon's main backstage lieutenants and invented the Royal Rumble match — a twist on the classic Battle Royal that sees a new wrestler enter the ring every couple of minutes. The first official one was held in Hamilton, Ont., in 1988, and the Royal Rumble became one of the WWE's "big four" annual pay-per-view events the following year. Patterson continued to appear in WWE shows and storylines, even winning a belt in the summer of 2019 at the age of 78. Patterson is also believed to be the WWE's first openly gay star. He came out in the '70s, though his sexuality wasn't acknowledged in WWE shows until much more recently. Read more about Patterson's interesting life and career here.
The U.S. women's soccer team settled one part of its fight for equality. The players' dispute with (and lawsuits against) the U.S. Soccer Federation centred on two fronts: equal pay and equal treatment. The former is still being litigated, but the latter was settled out of court yesterday with a deal that gives the women's team the same quality of charter flights, hotel accommodations, field conditions and support staff that the U.S. men's squad gets. The road to this agreement was paved in May when a judge allowed the women's allegations of discriminatory working conditions to go to trial even though he dismissed their claim that they ought to be paid the same as the men. He ruled that the women chose, via collective bargaining, a deal that gave them greater base pay and benefits over a bonus structure (like the men have) that could have allowed them to cash in on big performances like winning the Women's World Cup, as they did in 2019 and '15. Now that the working-conditions dispute is resolved, the women may ask an appeals court to restore their wage claims. Read more about the deal here.
Josh Dueck was named Canada's chef de mission for the 2022 Paralympic Games in Beijing. He competed in two Paralympics as an alpine skier and won three medals — including a gold in 2014. He's also the first person to successfully perform a backflip on a sit ski. As chef de mission, Dueck's job is to build a positive environment around the Canadian team, promote it to the media and the general public and make sure athletes have the support they need. Read more Dueck and his new gig here.
A wardrobe malfunction played a role in the longest Game 7 in NHL history. The first-round rubber match between the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders in 1987 lasted the equivalent of more than two full games. It was dubbed the Easter Epic because it dragged into the early hours of the holiday before Pat Lafontaine's goal at 8:47 of the fourth overtime period finally ended it. But the game may have had a conventional runtime if Bryan Trottier hadn't tied it for New York with 5:23 left in the third period. And Trottier may not have scored if Washington goalie Bob Mason wasn't bothered by a busted skate boot. He couldn't get it fixed without coming out of the game, which Caps coach Bryan Murray didn't want to do, and the rest is history. Get Mason's side of the story (and some other neat Easter Epic anecdotes) in the latest edition of Rob Pizzo's "I was in net for…" video series:
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