The Canadian Firefighters Curling Championship will make one more effort to stage its 61st national event on P.E.I. after a frustrating two-year delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The championships, originally set for early spring 2020 in Charlottetown, are now scheduled for March 24-April 2, 2022, at the Montague Curling Club.
“It’s our fifth attempt to host this event. We’re confident we can hold a successful championship next spring,” says co-chairman Peter MacDonald. “If we can’t do it next March, then that will be it. We can’t go into 2023 against the Canada Winter Games on P.E.I.”
Co-chairman Winston Bryan said the move to Montague was necessary because of the lingering uncertainty surrounding the future of the Charlottetown Curling Club (CCC). The CCC didn’t open this season because of a major plant breakdown.
“It’s been a frustrating period,” said Bryan. “We were two weeks away from the start of the 2020 nationals when we were forced to postpone because of the pandemic shutdown.”
Organizers then hoped to hold the event in the fall, but those plans were scuttled with a second wave of COVID, as were attempts to hold it this spring. MacDonald said there were too many uncertainties for this coming fall, so a decision was made to stage the event in late March 2022 amid high hopes that vaccinations will finally help defeat COVID.
Despite the delays, there is some good news for the host committee. It’s likely that both Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Northwest Territories will have teams on P.E.I. Both were questionable in 2020 because of travel costs. Now, organizers expect 12 teams on hand, as each province — with the exception of Ontario which sends north and south entries — and the Northwest Territories are expected to have representatives on P.E.I.
MacDonald said there will be some scheduling changes required, moving to a four-ice facility from the five sheets in Charlottetown. He noted that most of the heavy lifting has been completed by the host committee and much of the sponsorship is locked in place. Advertising for the souvenir program is secure, and even more sponsorship opportunities are now available.
“Our 2022 event will be one of the first national championships to return to P.E.I. since the pandemic began. It sends a positive signal that the Island is open for business again. It’s good for tourism and good for the Island economy,” said Bryan.
The host committee remains intact and the Rodd’s Charlottetown Hotel will remain as tourney headquarters. There will be some challenges in transporting teams back and forth to Montague but the co-chairmen note that it’s a short trip and shouldn’t pose any issues. Both Charlottetown and Montague businesses will benefit with scores of curlers and supporters on hand for 10 days, and Charlottetown city council has signalled its support, said MacDonald.
Bryan said that Montague club manager Larry Richards, who was the scheduled ice maker for the 2020 nationals, will now be working out of his home club. “We’re confident Montague is a great location. It has a well-deserved reputation for excellent ice, and as a friendly club with a very active membership.”
P.E.I. will hold provincial playdowns in January at the Silver Fox in Summerside to select its representative for the 2022 nationals. Skip Alan Brown from Charlottetown Station One had won the P.E.I. title in 2020.
Other provinces in the national firefighters’ curling rotation and the Canadian association have been very helpful in accommodating the host committee said MacDonald.
P.E.I. is in a great position to stage a successful 2022 event because of its limited COVID cases. “Many provinces didn’t have any curling this season so we’ve been very fortunate here.”
With quarantines and shutdowns, Canadians are anxious for a return to normal, said Bryan. “People are keen to travel, so we expect even more family members and friends to accompany curlers here next spring to make the 2022 firefighters’ event bigger and better than ever.”