The 61st Canadian FireFighters Curling Championships are quickly looming on the 2020 P.E.I. sports calendar, but first things first.
A provincial champion is needed to represent the Island at the 12-team national event March 26-April 4 in Charlottetown. The Island representative will be decided at the P.E.I. Firefighters Curling Championships Jan. 17-19. Both national and provincial championships take place at the Charlottetown Curling Complex.
Twenty-four teams are expected to compete in the P.E.I. tourney — 10 in the championship division and 14 more in the recreational division. Skip Alan Brown and his Charlottetown Station One squad are back to defend their provincial title next month.
The P.E.I. association is hosting the nationals, which sees each province and the Northwest Territories sending a team to Charlottetown, with the exception of Ontario which sends a north and south team.
P.E.I. last hosted the national firefighters’ event in 2009 when Saskatchewan won the 50th annual bonspiel. The prairie province is also the defending champion heading to the 2020 event in Charlottetown after winning earlier this year in Kelowna, B.C.
“There will be lots of highly-competitive curling,” said tourney co-chairman Peter MacDonald of the Crossroads Fire Department.
Co-chairman Winston Bryan, a Charlottetown fire inspector, said the national firefighters event is now ranked among the most prestigious curling championships in Canada.
Two-time Olympic gold medallist John Morris, a former member of Kevin Martin’s multiple Brier-winning team, is competing for the Alberta title and is favoured to qualify for Charlottetown. Other well-known curlers who have competed in the firefighters’ event include legends Ed Werenich and Neil Harrison from Ontario, Steve Moss of Northwest Territories, Gerry Richard from British Columbia and Dale Ness of Quebec.
Admission is free to all games at the nationals and organizers are hoping for good crowds to come out to watch and support curlers from across Canada. Games are 10 ends and teams will play 11 games in the week-long, single round robin format. The top four teams advance into a page playoff, similar to the men’s Brier and women’s Scotties events.
A unique format is used to make the draw in the national firefighters. A ‘ladder draw’ will see provincial flags placed on two aerial ladders parked on Kent Street between the Rodd Charlottetown — the host hotel for the nationals — and city firehall. The order of flags coming out of the ladders will determine the opening matches.
MacDonald said there are lots of social events planned for curlers, families and supporters. Hospitality nights will see provinces taking turns acting as hosts and featuring unique dishes from across the country. “P.E.I. is considered a hot destination spot,” said Bryan and curlers are expected to bring lots of supporters with them.
The two co-chairmen and eight more volunteers comprise the host committee who have been working for months preparing for the nationals. MacDonald and Bryan expressed their appreciation to the P.E.I. government and Charlottetown city council for supporting the nationals, which also has key sponsorship from Molson Canadian-Coors Light and MetalFab Fire Trucks. Organizers are also selling ads in a souvenir program.
P.E.I. has competed in the Canadian firefighters’ championships since 1968.
– Compiled by Bill McGuire.