There will be some familiar faces in the field when the 2015 Canadian Mixed Doubles Curling Trials get underway Wednesday at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club.
Four-time Tim Hortons Brier and world men’s champion Glenn Howard of Tiny, Ont., will take his first crack at a Canadian mixed doubles title, playing with his daughter Carly, while two-time world junior men’s champion Charley Thomas of Calgary will be joined by Kalynn Park in a bid to improve on their second-place finish a year ago at the Hunt and Golf Club.
Standing in their way will be defending champs Wayne and Kim Tuck of Ilderton, Ont., who went on to post a 7-1 record at the World Mixed Doubles Championship in Dumfries, Scotland, before being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
Other notable entries in the 32-team field include a number of teams featuring players who participated in both the 2015 Tim Hortons Brier, presented by SecurTek Monitoring Solutions, and 2015 Scotties Tournament of Hearts:
• P.E.I.’s Adam Casey (with partner Marie Christianson of Nova Scotia);
• P.E.I.’s Robbie Doherty, with partner Patty Wallingham, who played for the Yukon at the Scotties;
• Ontario’s Mark Kean (with wife Mallory Kean);
• Ontario’s David Mathers, with partner Lynn Kreviazuk, who played for Team Canada’s silver-medal team at the recent Winter Universiade;
• New Brunswick’s Chris Jeffrey (with partner Katie Forward);
• Quebec’s Lauren Mann (with partner Don Bowser of Ontario).
• Yukon’s Bob Smallwood (with wife Jody).
The winning team will represent Canada at the 2015 World Mixed Doubles Championship, April 18-25 in Sochi, Russia, at the same Ice Cube Curling Center that played host to the 2014 Winter OIympic and Paralympic curling competitions.
The Trials get underway on Wednesday are set for 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. (all times Eastern).
It’s the third time Curling Canada has staged a mixed doubles trials; the Quebec pairing of Robert Desjardins and Isabelle Néron captured gold in 2013 in Leduc, Alta., and went on to finish 10th at the 2013 World Mixed Doubles Championship in Fredericton, N.B., while the Tucks finished ninth last year in Dumfries.
Canadian teams for previous world mixed doubles championships were drawn from the winning team at the traditional four-player Canadian mixed curling championship.
The Canadian Trials competition format will consist of 32 teams (each team consists of one male curler and one female curler) divided into four pools of eight, with the top two from each pool after the round robin plus the four teams with the next-best records advancing to a 12-team single elimination playoff.
The gold-medal game is scheduled for Sunday at 5:30 p.m.
Thirteen Member Association champions are in the field, with 19 more teams coming from a call for entries with priority given to individual players based on their standing on the Order of Merit, which is based on Curling Canada’s Canadian Team Ranking System.
The World Curling Federation, with support from Curling Canada, is making its final preparations to pitch to the International Olympic Committee Program Commission later this year to have mixed doubles curling included in the Winter Olympics as soon as the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The World Mixed Doubles Championship began in 2008 in Vierumäki, Finland. It has since been captured five times in seven years by Switzerland. In 2008, it was won by Switzerland’s Irene Schori and Toni Müller, who successfully defended their title the following year in Cortina d’Ampezzo. Russia’s Yana Nekrosova and Petr Dron won the 2010 event in Chelyabinsk, while Switzerland’s Alina Pätz and Sven Michel took the 2011 renewal in St. Paul, Minn. The 2012 edition in Turkey was again won by Switzerland, this time represented by Nadine Lehmann and Martin Rios, while Hungary’s Zsolt Kiss and Dorottya Palancsa won in 2013 in Fredericton, N.B.
Last year, it was the Swiss pair of Reto and Michelle Gribi going home with gold.
In 2008, Canada (Susan O’Connor and Dean Ross) finished fifth while in 2009, Canada earned a bronze medal with a third-place finish by Sean Grassie and Allison Nimik — the only podium finish by a Canadian entry in event history.
In 2010, Canada did not compete because the Icelandic volcanic ash caused the temporary cancellation of air travel which prevented Mark Dacey and Heather Smith from arriving in time for the competition.
In 2011, Canada’s Rebecca Jean MacDonald and Robert Campbell finished 12th, while in 2012, Canada’s Chantelle Eberle and Dean Hicke were sixth, and in 2013, Desjardins and Néron placed 10th.
The mixed doubles game format is played over eight ends (instead of the usual 10 at Curling Canada four-player events). Each team has only six stones and one of those stones from each team is pre-positioned on the centre line before every end of play. One player delivers the first and last stones of the end while the other player throws the second, third and fourth stones. If they choose to, the two players may swap positions from one end to the next. Both team members are also allowed to sweep.