After more than a year of modified schedules and public health restrictions, the Airdrie Curling Club (ACC) is set to host the ninth annual McKee Homes Fall Curling Classic over the Thanksgiving weekend.
According to ACC manager Don Delair, the yearly bonspiel previously served as a leg of the World Curling Tour. This year, with the addition of the Alberta Curling Series and the Canadian Team Ranking System, the stakes have changed slightly from previous iterations of the event.
“There are ranking points available for this event,” he said. “A lot of the teams, especially locally, this means a lot to them in terms of moving toward provincials and other championships.”
Over the Thanksgiving weekend, 12 teams are set to face off in a pool format, with each rink playing three games. Following pool play, the top six rinks will continue to play in a championship round.
On top of ranking points, Delair said competitors are also playing for prize money. He added the championship pool will see a $9,600 prize purse, with the winner taking home $3,000.
In previous events, Delair said there were plenty of international competitors featured at the McKee Homes Fall Curling Classic, but with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to impact international travel, this year’s bonspiel will focus more on local talent.
“We’ve got four Edmonton teams coming down, two from our Airdrie Super League, and then the rest is a mix of Calgary and Edmonton on the same teams,” Delair explained.
While the event will be welcomed by not only local curling fans and competitors, Delair said he is excited to finally be able to offer another bonspiel, considering the disruption the Airdrie venue has repeatedly faced amid the pandemic.
“The more we can try and get people into the club, obviously in a safe manner, the better off we are as a club,” he said.
Delair added the last year has been tough, as the ACC had to shut down for most of the 2020-21 season. Although it has been difficult, he said membership this year has gone up.
One reason for the spike in local participation is a new local league just for rookies new to the sport of curling.
“There is a lot of interest out there, we just need to keep that momentum going throughout the year,” Delair said.
For those hoping to check out the action this weekend, the bonspiel will offer in-person attendance as well as a livestream. For interested attendees, the ACC is taking part in the Restriction Exemption Program, meaning proof of COVID-19 vaccination, a medical exemption, or a recent negative COVID-19 test result is needed prior to entry.
“We’ll be doing that for everyone in the building,” Delair said, adding masking is mandatory for spectators.
Everything considered, Delair said things are looking up at the ACC, as the club prepares for a hectic winter of hosting regular bonspiels and league play.
“We put our hand up for quite a few of these provincial qualifiers and provincials with Curling Alberta,” he said. “Typically, we might host one of those events a year, [but] this year we are doing five of them. We are very busy.”
The McKee Homes Fall Curling Classic will take place from Oct. 8 to 11. Delair said there will be no fees at the door for people who would like to come and check out the live curling.
For anyone who may be more inclined to watch from home, the tournament can be viewed via livestream by visiting curlingalberta.ca
For more information, visit airdriecurlingclub.ca