THUNDER BAY – Kevin Martin knows a thing or two about curling.
Routinely called the greatest curler of all time, owner of four Brier championships, one Olympic gold medal and one world championship, the 52-year-old says next month’s Pinty’s Tour Challenge stop in Thunder Bay should be electric.
More importantly, it’s a chance for local curling fans to get a first-hand view of 60 of the top curling teams in the world.
That’s a rare opportunity, Martin said.
“You’ve got the best of the best, the top 15 men’s teams, the top 15 ladies teams from around the world, battling it out in Tier 1,” said Martin, who made a quick stop Tuesday in Thunder Bay to promote the nearly sold-out, $300,000 event, scheduled to begin on Nov. 6 at the Tournament Centre.
“But really important to me, and to curling, is the Tier 2 event, because these are the up-and-comers. They will be the best in the world, they’re just not there yet, they’re too young.”
Among the skips expected to lead teams at the Thunder Bay event are Newfoundland’s Brad Gushue, Sault Ste. Marie’s Brad Jacobs and Kevin Koe of Alberta on the men’s side, and reigning Olympic champion Anna Hasselborg, Ottawa’s Rachel Homan and defending world champion Jennifer Jones on the women’s side.
Martin, who will commentate up to 27 hours of live action on Sportsnet, owners of the Grand Slam of Curling, said the action will be fast and furious, but it’ll also leave an impact on the community after the final shots have been made.
“The curlers are really easy to talk to. They will talk to the young athletes and curlers. They will spend time with them,” Martin said. “So you get all of these people excited about curling and you see a bump in the membership at the junior and the adult level at the local clubs. You always do.
“And that will happen again and that’s exciting because you get new people coming out to the clubs and healthier curling clubs with more young people.”
At least one local rink is expected to take part.
The team led by former Scotties Tournament of Hearts runner-up Krista McCarville is guaranteed a spot, though it’s yet to be determined whether they’ll be in the Tier 1 or Tier 2 division. The top 15 teams on the world curling rankings get first dibs on the top draw. McCarville’s squad is currently 20th.
Committee co-chair John Cameron said while the weekend draws are completely sold out, there are about 244 single tickets left for the round-robin portion on the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
With a month left to go, Cameron said things are looking good.
“I think we’re in good shape as far as the logistics of the event. There are going to be a few unseen things we may not have thought of, and the site visit by Sportsnet today will maybe point out some of those out to us,” he said, adding they already have 280 volunteers in place, 100 more than they originally sought.
Limited sponsorship opportunities, at the $2,500 and $5,000 level, also remain.