Team Smith heading to Brier, Team Hill to Scotties after winning N.L. curling championships

Skip Greg Smith in the Newfoundland and Labrador Curling Finals on Sunday. (Submitted by Mark Noseworthy)

Team Smith and Team Hill deserve trips to the Brier and Scotties Curling Championships after winning provincial titles this weekend.

Eight men’s teams started a round robin tournament on Wednesday at the ReMax Center in St. John’s. Greg Smith’s rink prevailed against Team Thomas in a thrilling 12-end game on Sunday.

It is very rare that a second extra end is required for a 10-end curling game. However, skip Colin Thomas’s last stone to win the game which was moved just inches too far, resulting in an empty end on the 11th.

Team Smith will compete as Team Newfoundland and Labrador at the Tim Horton’s Brier in Calgary in March.

Brad Gushue and his team will also be the defending champions at the Brier, representing Team Canada.

Team Hill – which includes Sarah Hill, Beth Hamilton, Lauren Barron and Adrienne Mercer – was the best of two women’s teams and beat Team Mitchell 7-6 on Saturday. They will represent the province at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, also held in the February takes place in Calgary.

Mark Noseworthy, president of Curling NL, says the pandemic has hindered some players this year as the tournament winners have to travel to Calgary and be quarantined for two weeks upon their return.

“Teams that wanted to register to play had to commit to a month or more off,” said Noseworthy.

Because of this commitment, only two women’s teams – Team Hill and Team Mitchell – were able to register and play.

“So it is not possible for everyone to do this with the COVID this year,” he said.

Colin Thomas shot with Mike Mosher and Zach Young in the finals at the ReMax Center in St. John’s on Sunday. (Submitted by Mark Noseworthy)

Noseworthy said this was the first provincial tournament since the pandemic began and since the curlers returned to the ice in October after approval from the provincial chief health officer.

He said most curling clubs in the province are now open and regular curling games are played with public health guidelines and changes to the rules. Many curling clubs have curtailed their ability to provide space for social distancing, as well as signage, hand sanitizing stations, and improved cleaning to limit COVID-19 exposure.

“The whole environment is just an increased sense of security for everyone,” said Noseworthy.

Still, he says, many local clubs are in need because capacity, memberships, events and catering services have all been reduced since the pandemic began.

“Your expenses are similar, but your earnings are not the same. I mean, most current clubs have a huge impact on the income side,” he said.

But when it comes to sending players to the Brier and the Scotties, Noseworthy says Curling Canada is implementing many public health protocols to protect players from across the country during the Calgary national tournaments this spring – fact included that the players stay in a bubble A turntable with no spectators in the stands.

“Curling Canada had to do with the Alberta health authorities and Health Canada. And I know a lot of the protocols they put in place in this bubble are many of the protocols the NHL had last year when they played Edmonton “, he said.

The Scotties will be played February 19-28 and the Brier March 6-14 at the Markin MacPhail Center in WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park in Calgary.

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