While there will be thousands of dollars and hundreds of CTRS points on the line at this weekend’s Shorty Jenkins Classic, the most exciting part of the weekend for curling fans will be watching a guy who hasn’t played in a year fill in on a team that is not expected to win.
No disrespect to Brantford’s Chad Allen (skipping in place of Wayne Tuck), but his foursome will have their work cut out in Cornwall, Ont., where the event will be hosted for the second year. In a field that includes the likes of Brad Gushue (St. John’s; currently No. 1 on World Curling Tour rankings), Sweden’s Niklas Edin (2015 World Champion), Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen and Reid Carruthers, Toronto’s John Epping, and Sault Ste. Marie’s Brad Jacobs (No. 3-6 respectively), the Tuck/Allen team won’t be the oddsmaker’s favourite.
They will, however, be the crowd favourite. With Tuck out of the line-up, all eyes will be on his replacement: Ottawa’s Craig Savill, who will be making his return to competitive curling after a battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma sidelined him for the 2015-2016 season. In August, Savill announced that his treatments were successful and that his cancer was in remission.
“I feel 100 per cent, maybe healthier than I’ve ever been,” said Savill. “I’ve been in the gym for the last few months, getting my strength back, working on my cardio. I’m feeling better than ever.”
This will come as fantastic news to fans and players alike, who have been following his progress as closely as possible, and sending him encouraging messages, texts, and emails.
“I can’t imagine what this whole process would have been like without the tremendous support of the curling community. I got thousands of messages, and they really helped me stay positive.”
Now back on the ice, Savill is turning his thoughts back to curling.
“I’m not going to be playing on tour with a team, but I’m hoping to spare when I can and play some events” he said. “In the meantime, I can spend some time at home with my family, and we’ll see what happens next year. The Olympics are still a goal, so we’ll see if I can hook up with a team and get into the Trials somehow… The competitive juices are still flowing.”
Savill said he’ll also spend his time running camps and clinics this season in the Ottawa area, for both juniors and adults.
Already one of the most popular players among his peers, Savill will have no shortage of hands to shake and hugs to give when he enters the building in Cornwall. The event features 24 men’s teams and 15 women’s teams, competing for $59,000 and $29,500 respectively.
The men’s field is stacked with Canadian, international, and world champions (as well as multiple Grand Slam winners). In fact, based on the World Curling Tour Order of Merit, 10 of the top 13 teams are in the field. Aside from the money, this is a chance to earn early-season points on the Canadian Team Ranking System, which at the end of the year will lead to a berth in the Tim Horton’s Roar of the Rings.
On the women’s side, world No. 1 Rachel Homan will begin her season. While many teams played in last week’s Stu Sells Tankard in Oakville, Ontario, Homan and team delayed the start of their season… and for good reason. Homan got married on weekend.
Also in the field are former Ontario champs Sherry Middaugh (Coldwater, Ont.), Alison Flaxey (Caledon, Ont.), Nova Scotia champ and Canadian Curling Hall of Famer Mary-Anne Arsenault, and nine-time Quebec champion Marie-France Larouche (Levis, Que.).
The international entries include Scotland’s Hannah Fleming and last week’s StuSells champion, Switzerland’s Silvana Tirinzoni.