The NWT Curling Association says its recovery plan has been rejected by Protect NWT, potentially jeopardizing the sport’s season.
The association, known as NWTCA, said the NWT government’s Covid-19 response agency had instead asked individual curling clubs to each submit plans of their own.
“They want plans specific to each facility and expect them to drill down into the details about how the objectives will be achieved,” said Steve Moss, NWTCA’s past president and Covid-19 lead.
Moss says if those individual club plans are denied, curling will have no season this year.
The association worries about the impact on numbers for future seasons.
“I feel – and we as a board, the NWTCA, feel – that it’s very critical to us to have curling every year,” said Moss.
“Any sport that takes a year off, it hurts them in the long run because a lot of people will find something else to do and don’t come back.”
NWTCA said it met with Protect NWT and the territory’s chief public health officer, Dr Kami Kandola, on Thursday to discuss an overarching plan submitted almost a month ago.
Other sports, like hockey and speed skating, have been granted a limited ability to return to the ice in Yellowknife. Initially, ice sports were told they should not expect to resume until all Covid-19 restrictions had been lifted, which is expected once an effective vaccine or treatment is in place.
Protect NWT denied curling’s plan and asked for individual clubs to submit their own, NWTCA said.
The association’s plan focused on how to get curlers through the building and onto the ice, and outlined changes to the game that would allow it to be played safely. Clubs would then submit plans dealing with management of change rooms, lounges, and other major touch points.
Moss, explaining the envisaged changes, said: “We’re looking at one sweeper and then one of the four players is sort-of out of the picture on each stone.
“The opposite team – where, at the t-line, they would be able to sweep the rock to try to get it through the rings – well, that doesn’t happen.”
“You can’t forget yourself and jump in and sweep. You need to maintain that two metres. The difference is by respecting this and not doing that, we may be able to get back on the ice this year.”
Teams from across the NWT competing in the February 2020 NWT Seniors bonspiel held in Fort Smith. Photo: NWT Curling
National governing body Curling Canada shared its own return-to-play guidelines in early July for clubs to use as outlines.
The guidelines cover topics like playing on the ice, cleaning equipment, and alternatives for shaking hands and keeping score. They include examples of waivers curling clubs should have curlers fill out, and posters for use in venues.
The Yellowknife Curling Club said by email it has been working with the NWTCA but has yet to submit its own club plan.
“We are currently still working with Protect NWT and our territorial governing body to have our sport moved out of phase four of the Emerging Wisely plan,” the email stated, referring to the title of the NWT government’s broader pandemic recovery plan.
Nick Saturnino, president of the Inuvik Curling Club, said the club was starting work on a plan to submit to Protect NWT and hoped to begin its season on time.
“We haven’t done anything at this point. We were waiting for some direction, which we now have,” said Saturnino last week.
“We do plan on having curling this fall. We’re not sure what that’s going to look like yet, but hopefully we’ll start getting a better picture during the month of August.”
The Fort Smith Curling Club, Fort Simpson Curling Club, and Hay River Curling Club did not respond to requests for comment.
Moss says deciding how clubs should run leagues will be next on the association’s list if curling gets the go-ahead.
He hopes Protect NWT approves the clubs’ plans and the season starts on time.
“Typically it’s somewhere between a three and seven-week process to install the ice,” he said.
“So if we’re going to have a full-schedule year, we’re probably looking at late September that they’d have to be getting back to work to start putting the ice in.”