Yukon curlers to get direct entry to nationals beginning in 2018

Come 2018, Yukon curling champs are guaranteed spots in Canada's two biggest curling events. Yukon and other jurisdictions that struggle to make the big show will have direct entry into both the Tim Hortons Brier and Scotties Tournament of Hearts in 2018.

Come 2018, Yukon curling champs are guaranteed spots in Canada’s two biggest curling events.

Yukon and other jurisdictions that struggle to make the big show will have direct entry into both the Tim Hortons Brier and Scotties Tournament of Hearts in 2018, Curling Canada announced this week.

The pre-qualifying system for the Brier and Scotties, introduced this past season, will continue for the 2016 and 2017 men’s and women’s national championships.

The Yukon Curling Association, the Nova Scotia Curling Association and the Northwest Territories Curling Association banded together to make a motion to drop the pre-qualifying rounds at Curling Canada’s annual general meeting last week in Collingwood, Ont.

“We each had a motion on the floor and we worked together to have a concerted motion that we all could support, and it was unanimously accepted,” said Yukon Curling president Ellen Johnson.

“We had three people attend the summit and the meetings – that was myself, (YCA executive director) Laura Eby and Lani Klassen – and we were just so excited that the motion for direct entry was passed.”

“It’s just a huge step forward,” she added.

Both Yukon champion rinks were ousted in the pre-qualifying rounds at the Brier and Scotties this past season.

Yukon skip Sarah Koltun welcomed this week’s announcement.

“I think it’s good news that they’re getting rid of the (pre-qualifying) process, I don’t think it was the best system that could have been implemented,” said Koltun. “They are keeping it for the next two years, but it’ll be nice to see the new format, having a lot more teams and having all of the territories represented.”

“The problem was, this season we didn’t have representation at the Scotties from any of the territories,” she added. “It was kind of unfortunate that it’s supposed to be a national event, but not all the jurisdictions were represented.”

Team Koltun has competed at the Scotties the last two years. In 2013 her team won a territorial playdown between Yukon and N.W.T. for a spot in the Scotties, coming away with a pair of wins.

This past February, playing in the pre-qualifier, Koltun and her team were done after just two games in Moose Jaw, Sask. Yukon’s Team Smallwood, led by skip Robert Smallwood, were sent packing after three games in the Brier pre-qualifier in Calgary.

“We were done in 12 hours or something – both of our games were on the same day,” said Koltun. “There was all this build up and then having to go home. It was definitely disappointing.

“It’s a weird thing to try to plan around because you don’t know what to expect – you have to be prepared to be gone all that time.”

Adding insult to injury, teams that don’t reach the main draw at the two nationals championships didn’t receive funding from Curling Canada to help with travel costs. But that’s changing too. All teams that compete at the nationals, including those in the pre-qualifiers, will receive funding, it was decided in the AGM.

Another change to emerge from the AGM allows curlers of all ages to compete at the Scotties and Brier, provided they qualify. Teams are also now allowed to include one non-resident curler on their team.

Contact Tom Patrick at

tomp@yukon-news.com

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