Top teams in town this weekend for SPCC Women’s Classic 

The current Scotties Tournament of Hearts national women's curling champion Kerri Einarson rink will be among the big name entries taking part in the Sherwood Park Curling Club Women’s Classic event this weekend at the Glen Allan Recreation Complex. Photo Supplied

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It was a slightly bigger ask than getting friends to help you move out of your apartment. 

The Sherwood Park Curling Club recently managed to convince a hearty group of volunteers and Strathcona County staff to transport more than 11,000 pounds of outgoing old curling rocks and incoming brand spanking new ones, as they received a shipment of 128 new rocks to replace the original set that has been in use for more than 40 years. 

The timing couldn’t be better either, as those new rocks will be in use this weekend for a major event that will usher in the new curling season. 

The SPCC’s ice and new shiny stones will be put to an early test in advance of the new season as their club will be hosting the inaugural SPCC Women’s Classic from Friday through Sunday at the Glen Allan Recreation Complex (GARC), featuring some of Canada’s top teams as they attempt to fine-tune their games in advance of the Canadian Olympic Curling Trials, running from Nov. 20 to 28 in Saskatoon. 

Among the teams coming to the Park to participate in the SPCC Women’s Classic this weekend are the current Scotties Tournament of Hearts national women’s curling champion Kerri Einarson rink, as well as teams skipped by Rachel Homan, Jennifer Jones and Tracy Fleury, just to name a few. 

SPCC business manager Heather Nedohin, who moonlights as the head coach of the champion Einarson team, said it is thrilling to bring so many high-quality women curlers to town to showcase the Sherwood facility. 

“The top six teams in Canada will be here, so that is really exciting for us to see them in play,” she said. “It is like a mini-Trials. We have four teams that have already qualified for the Trials plus some local entries like Laura Walker and Kelsey Rocque. We embrace the opportunity to showcase our world-class facility at GARC, with our new ice pad and the renovations we have done. We are able to put on these events and offer world-class playing conditions. Through my association with Team Einarson and my strong connections with the elite group, I saw a strong need for training competition coming off of COVID and the previous season. There was only one women’s event in Alberta last year versus five men’s events. We need to provide playing opportunities for the elite women’s teams. We partnered with the event at the Saville this past week to provide two elite women’s events back-to-back to allow our teams to prepare for the Trials and therefore whatever team comes out of that should only be a stronger representative for Canada at the upcoming Olympics.” 

Spectators will be allowed adhering to strict COVID precautions, with ticket prices set at $5 for draw at the door — with two draws on Friday, three on Saturday and the semis and finals on Sunday. 

“The lower level will be an athletes-only zone, so the viewing will take place from our upper lounge,” Nedohin said. “We definitely want people to have the chance to see these curlers in action here at our club, but we will be adhering to whatever health standards are called for when we start the event. We’ll have more information on our website.” 

Switching out old stones for new took some toil

Volunteers prepared to unload 128 new curling rocks and move more than 11,000 pounds worth of stones in total last month. Photo supplied

As for the new rocks, it was a massive undertaking to move the old stones out and bring in eight sheets worth or 128 rocks, all of course originating in Scotland before being shaped by Canada Curling Stones, with a value over $100,000. 

“It was quite an undertaking to move all those stones, they are not light pebbles, to say the least,” Nedohin chuckled. “It was a group collaboration and our new babies have come to rest and we are so excited to let them out to play. The old stones date back to when the curling club was over at the golf course as the Broadmoor Club and when we opened up our current club back in the 70’s, those stones came over. That was a four sheeter and this is an eight, so we don’t know when the extra rocks came in exactly and from where. But we are looking at more than 40 years that we have had them. They are naturally going to deteriorate over that length of time. With our use-rate, we were doing maintenance to them, but it came to a point where if we refinished them again they would not meet championship standards. So we wouldn’t be eligible to host any provincial, national or international event. In our plans we would very much like to host another national level championship or world championships, so we needed stones that would be legal to play.” 

Theresa Chatelain, Owen Pidwerbeski and Pero Pelmic pack up the old rocks. Photo Supplied

The old rocks weren’t simply piled into a dumpster behind GARC, and will instead be used for outdoor winter venues which will include curling sheets and “Crocicurl,” a large scale version of the board game Crokinole. 

Nedohin said the new rocks and the SPCC Women’s Classic are a fine way to whet the appetite for what appears to be a “normal” curling season this fall, although with considerations like vaccination status and masking in place. 

“We are sitting really well with registration for most of our leagues,” she said. “We have been impacted most at our junior levels and we are working hard to attract more curlers there. Our men’s leagues and mixed leagues are full and we are getting there with our ladies.” 

The SPCC will be hosting a Week of Welcome from Sept. 20 to 25 for those interested in curling who want to stop by and get more information in advance of the start of league play at the end of the month.