BANFF – The ice is polished and ready for stones to slide for the first major sporting event in Banff since COVID-19 hit.
Some of the top curlers in the world, such as John Morris, Kevin Koe and Brendan Bottcher, will battle it out at the ATB Banff Classic from Thursday to Sunday (Oct. 15-18) at the Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre.
“We normally wouldn’t get these teams playing out here, so this is great, but we are going to make sure we do it in the best way possible,” said Banff Curling Club president Steven Young.
"We’re not taking any fees out of this. We’re trying to support the top curlers knowing that if we pay it forward, hopefully down the road they pay it forward as well."
The 12-team men's classic, consisting of teams of four, features many of the best teams in Alberta that were looking to stay loose with local competitions during uncertain times. Spectators aren't allowed in the Fenlands, however, a livestream of the games will be available on Banff Curling Club’s YouTube page.
Health and safety protocols will be in place and the Banff Curling Club, with the support of the Town of Banff, have additional safety measures for athletes, such as their own entrance, game spacing, spacing in the lounge area, and segregating the curling wing from other user groups at the Fenlands.
Young said the club wants the health and safety aspect of the event to be a "role model" of what can be expected for the rest of the season.
“We feel really good that we got a very well-thought-out plan, very health and safety conscious,” said Young. “We also know that if we hit into any issues then we got a plan on how we’re going to call 811, we’re going to address any team or the whole event should something unfortunate happen and I think we’ve explained that to the athletes, so they’re aware.”
The Banff Curling Club is seeking volunteers for the four-day event and those interested can email email@example.com.
Total prize money to be won at the ATB Banff Classic is $23,000 with $9,000 to the winner, $6,000 for second and $4,000 each to third and fourth.
The games begin live-streaming Thursday at 4 p.m., and continue Friday, Saturday and conclude Sunday with the final four teams taking the ice at 10 a.m. and the final at 2 p.m.
The draw schedule can be found here.
“Pumped to get back on the ice,” wrote Canmore’s John Morris on Twitter.
Pumped to get back on the ice! https://t.co/m2kCew6lTY— John Morris (@johnnymocurler) September 30, 2020
Earlier this year, Morris, a two-time Olympic gold medallist returned to men's team curling, joining Kevin Koe’s foursome. Morris plays second for the team.
On the opposite end of the 12-team bracket is one of Team Koe’s provincial rivals, Team Brendan Bottcher, which had success at the Banff Fenlands against Koe in recent memory.
At the 2019 TSN All-Star Curling Skins men’s game final, Team Bottcher defeated Team Koe in a shootout to claim the Skins title.
The first round matchups include: Team Van Amsterdam vs. Team Meek, Team Harty vs. Team Jacques, Team Manson vs. Team Hodgson, and Team Kennedy vs. Team Libbus.
Team Koe, Team Bottcher, Team Appelman, and Team Sturmay each have first round byes. The teams play the winners of the first round matchups at 8 p.m. on Thursday.