No Yukon teams making run for Brier, Scotties

The Northwest Territories' top curling teams won't have to battle Yukon rinks for a spot at nationals this year. Yukon's selection process for the Yukon/N.W.

The Northwest Territories’ top curling teams won’t have to battle Yukon rinks for a spot at nationals this year.

Yukon’s selection process for the Yukon/N.W.T. playdowns was supposed to have happened over the weekend at the Whitehorse Curling Club. However, not a single Yukon rink threw their hat in the ring for a chance to play at the Tim Hortons Brier, the national men’s curling championships, or the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the national women’s curling championships.

“It’s not that the number of curlers is down, I think it’s the number of competitive curlers in the age group that would be really attracted to those events,” said Ellen Johnson, president of the Yukon Curling Association. “We seem to have a gap in that age group of competitive curlers.

“Usually 25-40 is your prime age for the really competitive curling. And that’s the age when they have young families or are beginning careers.”

Each year only one spot is allocated for the two territories at the two national championships. Usually both territories select their top four teams – two men’s and two women’s teams from each – to compete for the spots at the Brier and the Scotties.

This year the Yukon was supposed to send its top two men’s teams to Yellowknife while N.W.T. would send their top two women’s teams to Whitehorse, to compete in the Yukon/N.W.T. playdowns.

Cost is a factor when having to travel to Yellowknife for the playdown, said George Hilderman, whose team was the Yukon’s No. 1 seed in the Yukon/N.W.T. men’s playdown last year.

“Mostly, it’s a very expensive proposition,” said Hilderman. “You have to fund your flight, your hotel, your vacation time, everything. So the team decided it was too much of an expense this year.

“Last year it was here (in Whitehorse) and this year it’s in Yellowknife. And we used to have a direct flight from here to Yellowknife … So we have to fly to Vancouver, Edmonton or Calgary and then fly up to Yellowknife.

“If you go and do qualify for the Brier, then the Canadian Curling Association then pays for the rest of it.”

It’s the second straight year that no Yukon women’s team is vying for a trip to the Scotties, even though the women’s Yukon/N.W.T. playdowns were scheduled to take place in Whitehorse. (The two capitals alternate between hosting the men’s and women’s playdowns.)

“We hoped that because they were here, that would reduce the time people would have to take off work to participate,” said Johnson. “We hoped, by hosting it here, there’d be someone to come forward.”

Whitehorse junior rinks Team Young and Team Koltun, who will compete at the junior nationals later this month, are ineligible for the Brier and Scotties. To compete at either championships this year curlers must be 19 or older as of December 31, 2012.

This year’s Scotties will take place in Kingston, Ontario, Feb. 16-24 and the Brier will take place in Edmonton March 2-10.

A Yukon rink has not reached the Brier since 2008 and the Scotties since 2000.

“We have to get more competitive curling going again and build up the interest,” said Hilderman. “I’ve been up here for 10 years now and you can see the decline in participation every year.

“I’m not being negative. I love the game and I tell you: if there was any way to get over to Yellowknife – if it didn’t take up a lot of time and a lot of expense – I’d be over there in a second.”

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