The first edition of the Continental Cup of Curling – a Ryder Cup-like competition – was held in Regina, Nov. 7-10, 2002, after years of discussion between the Canadian Curling Association (now known as Curling Canada), the World Curling Federation (WCF) and the United States Curling Association (USCA).
The organizations agreed on a format where teams would compete in a variety of disciplines with varying points at stake: Mixed Doubles (36), Team Games (72), Singles (32) and Skins (260). The first side to earn 201 of the 400 available points would be declared the champion.
No one knew what to expect from this unique event that had been designed to generate worldwide interest in the sport. But, the inaugural Cup couldn’t have been scripted more dramatically or launched with more nail-biting excitement.
Team North America comprised four teams from Canada and two from the U.S. The Canadian teams included the winners of the 2001 Canadian Curling Trials, 2002 Scott Tournament of Hearts and 2002 Nokia Brier. The USCA selected its reigning national champions. Meanwhile, the WCF and its member nations selected teams to represent Team Europe, with a men’s and women’s team from Scotland each guaranteed spots.
The championship was on the line in the final men’s Skins game between Canada’s Kevin Martin and Sweden’s Peja Lindholm. The teams entered the eighth and final end (worth 13 points) with an overall score of 194-193 in North America’s favour after Lindholm allowed Martin to steal a 20-point seventh end skin and retain hammer.
It came down to the last rock of the last end. Lindholm was forced to attempt a difficult 20-foot double raise with his last brick, but couldn’t move a Martin counter. North America was able to steal the 13 points to the claim the first Continental Cup title.
In 2003, the Continental Cup was staged in Thunder Bay, Ont., and Team Europe came back with a vengeance. They evened the score with Team North America with a 208-179 victory that was determined once again in the 60-point Skins match on the closing day.
The 2004 Continental Cup was hosted by Medicine Hat, Alta., and once again featured a star-studded lineup. This time, it was North America that led virtually from the start. Although Day 1 ended in a 27-27 tie, the home side took command after Day 2, leading 66-42, and widened its margin to 162-118 after Day 3.
On the final day, Randy Ferbey defeated Lindholm in the last end to seal the championship for Team North America.
The Continental Cup moved to Chilliwack, B.C., in 2006. And what a lineup it boasted. In fact, all of the medallists from the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Italy, were there.
This time, it was Europe’s turn to even the score at two Cups apiece, although it trailed after Day 1, 39-15 and 62-60 after Day 2.
However, Day 3 was its coming out party, as the Euros took 114 out of a possible 140 points in Skins play to take a commanding 180-100 lead into the final day and wrapped it up with a 229-171 finish.
The 2007 Continental Cup, presented by Monsanto, returned to Medicine Hat, with North America and Europe tied at two wins apiece in the historical standings.
There were also some new wrinkles, including the introduction of two Mixed Skins Games, worth 20 and 30 points, to complement the three men’s and three women’s Skins Games, now worth 20, 30 and 55 points each.
In the three pivotal 30-point Skins games Saturday evening, involving Mixed, women’s and men’s, each match went down to the eighth end and they were all won by North America. For the first time in the history of the Continental Cup, a winning side was declared by the end of the third day.
In 2008, the Continental Cup of Curling, presented by Monsanto, was staged in Camrose, Alta. With the growing popularity of the sport, and the impact of competitors from Pacific Rim countries, Team Europe was officially designated as Team World.
In the first year playing under its new name, the World claimed the Continental Cup title, besting Team North America by a 208-192 score.
After a break for the 2010 Winter Olympics, St. Albert, Alta. played host to the 2011 edition of the World Financial Group Continental Cup, with the two sides coming into the competition all tied up with three wins apiece.
In what was widely anticipated as a classic showdown, Team North America proved to be the spoilers, wrapping up the title by the time Saturday play was done.
Team World bounced right back in 2012 with a victory in Langley, B.C., to move the World Financial Group Continental Cup back into a four-all tie overall.
Once again, the champions were decided in the final Skins match – between Thomas Ulsrud and Jeff Stoughton – with Ulsrud requiring just a single point to secure the title. The World side prevailed to take a 235-165 advantage.
In 2013, the two sides faced off in Penticton, B.C., at the South Okanagan Events Centre. But, this time around, some key changes were introduced to the event format and scoring – and both proved to make the experience more interesting for competitors and more entertaining for fans.
The original scoring system was revamped with a total of 60 overall points on the line, making 31 the magic number to lay claim to the World Financial Group Continental Cup.
But, the biggest change came in Team Competitions. For the first time, curling fans had the chance to see the three men’s and three women’s team for Team World and Team North America compete in a round-robin format.
The North Americans played their way to three victories in the final Skins session on the final day to clinch the title by a 37-23 tally and move into a 5-4 advantage in the history of the event.
More history was made in 2014 when the World Financial Group Continental Cup was for the first time staged outside of Canada. An attendance record was set of 51,216 fans at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, and they saw Team North America prevail again, 36-24 — the first time one team had captured two straight titles. Fans in Las Vegas were not only treated to an Olympic preview as all six medal-winning teams from the 2014 Sochi Winter Games were on hand.
The 2015 World Financial Group Continental Cup took a new direction as Curling Canada took over the sole operation of the event, and created an all-Canadian host team for the first time, taking on six teams from Europe.
In front of appreciative fans in Calgary at Canada Olympic Park, Team Canada proved unstoppable, rolling to a 42-18 victory. Team Canada was dominant in the Skins competitions to close the event, taking 20 of the available 30 points.
In 2016, the World Financial Group headed back to Las Vegas and the 2014 attendance record was already been broken months in advance of the opening rock. The event brought back Team North America, with two U.S. teams returning to the fold.
Also notable is that the singles competition was eliminated in favour of an additional round of mixed doubles. That was reflective of increased interest in the mixed doubles format thanks to its inclusion as a medal sport in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
The mixed doubles competition in Las Vegas featured newly adopted rules that include live music being played between shots, adjusted placement of the pre-positioned rock in the rings (back four instead of back button) and allowing teams to shoot without a player holding the broom.
The 2016 event came down to a nail-biting last shot to win the tournament. John Morris delivered the winning shot, making a board-weight inturn takeout to beat Torger Nergård’s team 3-2 and set off a wild Team North America celebration.