THUNDER BAY -- There will be a few extra faces at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in 2022.
Curling Canada on Thursday announced there will be three wild-card teams at both the Scotties and the Tim Hortons Brier, helping overcome some of the controversy surrounding the wild-card play-in after some provincial play-downs were cancelled, depriving some teams the opportunity to add ranking points and qualify for the two available spots.
Manitoba's Tracy Fleury, the top-ranked team in the country, Saskatchewan's Chelsea Carey and Ontario's Rachel Homan rink will now be in the field when the Scotties opens at Fort William Gardens later this month, alongside the likes of Thunder Bay's Krista McCarville rink, representing Northern Ontario.
Homan, the skip, won't be in Thunder Bay, after being named to represent Canada in mixed doubles with Alberta's John Morris.
"Curling has a time-honoured tradition of teams playing their way into events such as national and world championships. Unfortunately, over the past two years, that's fallen to the wayside due to the ongoing pandemic," said Curling Canada CEO Katherine Henderson, who grew up in Thunder Bay.
"Like last season, some play-down events were played and others were cancelled leading up to the Scotties and Tim Hortons Brier, and the only thing we can do to ensure equity across the playing field is expanding the field once again. Barring any future setbacks relate to the pandemic, we fully intend on returning to the traditional 16-team field and wild-card play-in game in 2023."
The wild-card entries were the top three teams otherwise not qualified, on the Canadian Team Ranking System.
Homan, whose team will include three of its usual four members, was deemed eligible under those circumstances.
Curling Canada said the Thunder Bay event is still pending provincial approval, adding it will release more information about ticketing and spectators following further consultation with the province.
Ontario has put a temporary halt to all ticketed events, though elite level amateur and professional sports are permitted to proceed in many cases, with no spectators. This order is scheduled to end on Jan. 26. The Scotties is scheduled be begin on Jan. 28.