January 8, 2015
Gold – the word has such a nice, rich, ringing sound to it.
In Canada, the possibility of striking it rich sparked the 1897 gold rush to the Klondike and led to the establishment of Dawson City and the Yukon Territory.
Thousands left their homes for places unknown to endure brutal conditions in their quest for the precious metal. Some struck it rich, some perished.
Since then, Canadians have continued seeking gold, though often as not the quest is through athletic endeavours.
The champions of a number of those quests will be on display, Jan. 16-18 at the Fenlands recreation centre, when the Pinty’s All-Star Curling Skins Game takes over the facility.
In all, $100,000 will be up for grabs. In the 2014 event, Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton drew to the button against Alberta’s Kevin Martin in the final for a $37,000 win.
In fact, the theme of gold medallists will be strong at the Pinty’s event, which will be broadcast on TSN. Gold medals from different levels of curling can be found everywhere among skins game participants.
For the 2015 Pinty’s event, gold medallists taking part include the 2014 Sochi Olympics champion Jennifer Jones rink from Winnipeg and the Brad Jacobs rink from Sault Ste. Marie.
Both were in Banff last year in January; Jacobs to take part in the first curling skins game (men’s rinks only) to be hosted in Banff, and Jones to take part in an official Olympic Games sendoff.
No doubt the Jones rink in particular looks back fondly on its Banff visit prior to the Sochi Olympic Games. After all, once they took part in the Olympics sendoff in Banff, the Manitoba foursome (Jones, third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jill Officer and lead Dawn McEwen) tore through the Olympic field from start to gold versus Sweden undefeated – the first women’s rink to do so.
The Jacobs rink (third Ryan Fry, second E.J. Harnden and lead Ryan Harnden) had a somewhat more difficult tour through the Olympics (7-2 in round robin) before defeating Great Britain for gold.
“We’re really looking forward to the skins game in Banff,” said Officer, who interrupted some Christmas shopping after returning from a successful event in Japan “And we’re really glad Pinty’s and TSN decided to sign up women for the event this year” (for the first time since 2003).
Luckily for the Jones rink, they do compete in the Continental Cup event in Calgary the week before the skins game. The Continental Cup, said Officer, which features competition in several different formats, is the only place the foursome has played for skins.
“Every end is its own game and there’s always rocks in play. The Continental Cup and skins game will be a great start to the new season. We didn’t play our best in Japan, but we found a way to grind it out, get into the final and win.”
Unfortunately for many women’s rinks in Canada, after striking gold in Sochi, Jones and company have committed to another four-year Olympics cycle for a shot at another medal in Korea in 2018.
“We did have certain expectations going to Sochi,” said Officer. “But the Games exceeded anything we could have imagined. It wasn’t just the competition, but meeting other athletes – hockey players, figure skaters and speed skaters – and living in the village.
“Curlers never stayed in the Olympic village before, so it made the most sense. It really was an awesome experience.
“And we all really enjoy playing together, so we all made a commitment in spring to try and make it back. It’s exciting, because you never know if you’ll get back.”
Joining Jones on the women’s side of the Pinty’s All-Stars Skins Game are Ontario’s Rachel Homan (current and 2013 Canadian champion and 2014 world silver medallist), Alberta’s Val Sweeting (2014 Scotties Tournament of Hearts finalist) and Manitoba’s Chelsea Carey (third at 2014 Scotties).
On the men’s side, joining Jacobs will be Ontario’s Glenn Howard (four-time world/gold medal and Brier champion), Alberta’s Kevin Koe (2014 Brier/Canadian champion) and Alberta’s John Morris (2010 Olympic gold medallist, who will represent Canada at the Brier this year.
With the addition of the women’s teams, TSN’s skins game broadcast coverage extends to 18 hours.
Tickets for the Pinty’s event are available through The Banff Centre at 1-800-413-8368.