Anticipation has been building for the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling in Pictou County as the conversion from hockey rinks to curling facilities continued this week at the Pictou County Wellness Centre.
The tournament is the second in the 2019-20 season as part of the KIOTI Tractor Tour Challenge that was scheduled to begin with a draw on Tuesday evening and continue through Sunday.
It has been a whirlwind time as crews dismantled the protective glass rimming both ice surfaces and assembled railings, pulling back the protective netting that surrounds the ice surfaces for hockey and preparing the ice for curling.
Crews took time outside the Wellness Centre to air dry mats for the ice level walking areas.
“I think it’s tremendous,” said Cliff Taylor, one of the nearly 300 volunteers for the tournament. “I think it’s fantastic for curling in Pictou County. It’s going to raise awareness.”
Host committee co-chairman Jim Nix praised the work of ice chairman Danny Roy and Larry Romaine, who is set-up and tear-down chairman to help prepare the Wellness Centre for curling.
“It’s going really well,” he said. “We’ve had to solve a few problems but the guys are working really hard. Ticket sales have been going well for the last couple of weeks, so we’re feeling good about that.”
The Grand Slam will feature 31 top men’s and 31 elite women’s teams from around the world, with the 62 teams divided into Tier I and Tier II tournaments.
Tier I teams on the Sobey surface include: 11-time Grand Slam champion Team Gushue from St. John’s, N.L., reigning Olympic gold medallists Team Hasselborg from Sundbyberg, Sweden, 2019 Pinty’s Cup champion Team Koe from Calgary and defending Tour Challenge winners Team Homan from Ottawa and Team Jacobs from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
In the Aliant rink, Tier II, competition will feature a number of Atlantic squads that include Team Arsenault from Halifax, Team Birt from Charlottetown, Team Brothers from Halifax, Team Crawford from Saint John, N.B., Team Glynn from St. John’s, Team Hilliard from Halifax, Team Murphy from Halifax, Team G. Smith from St. John’s, Team Stevens from Halifax, Team K. Thompson from Halifax, and Team S. Thompson from Dartmouth.
In Tuesday’s Tier I games, Brad Gushue skipped histeam to a 6-4 victory over the Scott MacDonald team from Kingston, Ont., while John Shuster’s Minnesota team outscored Bruce Mouat’s team from Edinburgh, Scotland by a 6-4 margin.
In women’s Tier I matches, Team Fujisawa edged Team Yoshimura 6-5 in an extra end, while Team Homan nipped Team Rocque 7-6.
All participating teams will compete in a round-robin style bonspiel, contending for a combined $340,000 purse and a berth in the Humpty’s Champions Cup, the final Grand Slam event of the season.
The Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling has been owned and operated by Sportsnet since 2012 and offers an elite series of six curling events, which are part of the World Curling Tour. It features the best men’s and women’s teams from across Canada and around the world.
Skip Satsuki Fujisawa delivers a stone in her team’s opening match on Tuesday. (Goodwin photo)