According to Wikipedia, the town of Morris, Man., boasts a population of 1,797 people. This weekend, however, that will swell to well over 2,000 while 64 teams come into town to compete in the annual DEKALB Superspiel at the Morris Curling Club and the Rosenort Arena.
With the men’s and women’s field each boasting 32 teams, the total prize pool of $95,000 will be split between a total of 16 teams (8 men’s, 8 women’s) who reach the playoffs, following a triple-knockout qualifying process.
Morris is only a short, one-hour drive from Winnipeg, so a lot of Manitoban talent made the trip, most notably World Curling Tour Order of Merit No. 1 Mike McEwen and reigning Scotties Tournament of Hearts champion Jennifer Jones.
Both McEwen and Jones are looking to improve on their place on the Canadian Team Ranking System. McEwen failed to qualify in last week’s Grand Slam of Curling event, while the three teams above him in the rankings (Kevin Koe of Calgary, Reid Carruthers of Winnipeg and Brad Gushue of St. John’s) all gained major points for a playoff appearance.
The Jones team, on the other hand, has qualified in its last three events, but hasn’t won any so far this year. And while the field lacks their biggest competition in recent years (Rachel Homan of Ottawa and Val Sweeting of Edmonton), this may be an opportunity for them to return to championship form.
That’s not to say that it will be a walk in the park for either squad. Jones will have to contend with four Top-10 CTRS teams in Kerri Einarson (Winnipeg), Chelsea Carey (Calgary), Kristy McDonald (Winnipeg), and Alli Flaxey (Caledon, Ont.).
McEwen, meanwhile has to deal with Carruthers, Charley Thomas (CTRS No. 10, Calgary), and two recent Canadian junior champs, both from Winnipeg, in Matt Dunstone (the event’s defending champion) and Braden Calvert (reigning World Junior champion).
Across the country, in Halifax, the Dave Jones Stanhope Simpson Mayflower Cashspiel will host 24 men’s teams and 15 women’s teams. Gushue headlines a field that also includes 2013 European champion Sven Michel. 2015 Tim Hortons Brier skips Adam Casey (Summerside, P.E.I.) and Jeremy Mallais (Moncton, N.B.) round out a field that also includes Quebec legend Guy Hemmings.
The women’s side features teams skipped by Hall of Fame teammates Colleen Jones and Mary-Anne Arsenault, as well as former World Junior champion Suzanne Birt (Charlottetown).