OLDS — The best curlers in the world are about to descend on the main ice at the Sportsplex.
They’ll be there May 3-8 to compete in the 2022 KIOTI Tractor Champions Cup – the final event of the 2021-22 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season.
Gary Gaudette, co-chair of the KIOTI Tractor Champions Cup organizing committee, can’t wait to see action by legends such as Brier champion team Gushue and Scotties champion team Einarson.
Teams from as far away as Scotland, Sweden, South Korea and Japan are coming to compete, along with many local championship rinks.
Canadian male competitors include a team skipped by four-time Brier champ and six-time Alberta champ Kevin Koe rink of Calgary; Newfoundland’s Brad Gushue rink, three-time Brier champs that have also won Olympic gold and bronze medals; and the Brendan Boettcher rink of Edmonton, winners of the Brier, the Champion’s Cup and the world juniors, among many other accomplishments.
Female Canadian competitors include the Kerri Einarson rink from Manitoba, winners of the Player’s Championship in 2019 and 2021; the Carey rink, skipped by Chelsea Carey of Calgary, two-time Scotties and Alberta champions; the Jennifer Jones rink, multiple national, champions Cup and players winners; and the Rachel Homan rink, a primarily Edmonton-based rink that has won so many championships there’s not room to list them all.
“It’s going to be a good competition,” Gaudette said during an interview. “For one, a lot of these teams, this is their last time they’re going to be playing together because teams are getting mixed up for the next quad, the next Olympics.”
There’s lots of action off the ice too. Gaudette notes the Grand Slam Social House will also be operating in the Sportsplex auxiliary rink Tuesday through Saturday from 12 noon to late into the evening, suggesting it might go until 2 a.m.
The Grand Slam Social House will feature lots of local entertainment, including Devin Cooper, Liz Christensen, Dustin Farr and Girl Crush.
Best of all, admission is free.
Gaudette says the social house will not only be a chance for local residents to mingle but also likely an opportunity to meet some of the top curlers in the world and maybe get one or two autographs.
"You’ll definitely be able to meet them. I can almost guarantee they’ll be down in the social house mingling. There will be some autograph sessions, I’m pretty sure about that,” Gaudette said.
“Like I said, it’s their last time around with each other, so they’re going to come out and have a good time with everybody else.”
The KIOTI Tractor Champions Cup has been a long time coming to Olds, after having been postponed, due to COVID.
“The first year, it was cancelled. Then we had to regroup and start all over again, so it’s been quite the haul. But we’re slowly getting there,” Gaudette said.
Gaudette said ticket sales to watch the world-class curling have really picked up.
“Single tickets just went on sale Tuesday and we noticed a big surge,” he said.
Plans call for money raised from the event to go to a variety of local organizations, including junior curling.
The KIOTI Tractor Champions Cup is a chance to not only watch top-shelf curling, but to pick up some tips as you watch the various rinks.
A team from Toronto is coming to make the ice and make sure it’s world-class. Gaudette says ice-makers from several clubs in the area will also help out.
Lots of local volunteers have stepped up to ensure it runs smoothly.
“We’re well over 230 right now,” Gaudette said.
Gaudette is looking forward to the championships.
“For sure. They're world-class curlers. Number 1 in the world,” he said.
“It’s finally coming. It was kind of a big letdown when we got shut down for COVID, but we’re back at it and excited that it’s just around the corner.”