Players Championship underway in Toronto
With the Players Championship underway in Toronto this week, there is no shortage of storylines to follow. Some teams are playing their first event with a new lineup (Toronto’s John Epping). Some teams are playing the last event with an old lineup (Penetanguishene, Ont.’s Glenn Howard). And other teams are just playing their last event (Winnipeg’s Jeff Stoughton)… for now.Then you’ve got a host of international flavour, including both of this year’s world champions. Niklas Edin of Sweden flew into YYZ less than 24 hours after besting Norway in the final of the Ford World Mens Championship in Halifax. Switzerland’s Alina Paetz, on the other hand, had a couple weeks to recoup after her victory at the women’s worlds in Sapporo, Japan. Even though the event has a “last day of school” feeling to it, as players look to ahead to relaxing over the summer, there’s still a lot at stake. Money, of course, is the obvious prize. The 24-teams (12 men’s, 12 women’s) are playing for a share of $200,000, not to mention the end-of-season bonuses for the squads with the best Grand Slam of Curling results. There are also valuable points on the Canadian Team Ranking System (or World Curling Tour Order of Merit for non-Canadian teams), that will dictate invitations to some of next year’s events including the Home Hardware Canada Cup of Curling in Grand Prairie, Alta. in December. Four teams have already punched their tickets to that event, which guarantees spots to the defending Canada Cup champion and that year’s national champion. On the men’s side, Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen will defend his title, while Tim Horton’s Brier winners Pat Simmons/John Morris (Calgary) will also have a spot. Last year’s women’s Canada Cup champ Val Sweeting (Edmonton) is guaranteed entry, as is Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones, as the reigning Scotties champion. Which brings us back to the Players in Toronto… By the end of this weekend, the CTRS will dictate the next five teams to qualify for both the men’s and women’s Canada Cup. While Brad Jacobs (Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.), Brad Gushue (St. John’s, Nfld.), and Steve Laycock (Saskatoon), are almost guaranteed spots, the results in Toronto could affect the last two teams. In the mix are Winnipeg’s Reid Carruthers, Howard, Epping, and Calgary’s Kevin Koe. Keeping in mind that changing team lineups affects points carried forward, this event will have major implications on who is invited to Grand Prairie. The women’s event is more uncertain as team shakeups will have a greater effect than tournament results. As teams disband and reassemble with different players, the ensuing point shifts will dictate Canada Cup invitations.