After worries the sport would be swept aside, three NWT curling clubs last week received approval for their return-to-play plans from the territory’s chief public health officer.
That approval, first reported by NNSL, means modified gameplay can begin once each community’s curling facilities implement safety measures and are ready to open their doors.
Nick Saturnino, president of the NWT Curling Association, said the Yellowknife, Inuvik, and Fort Smith curling clubs had each received permission to return to play.
Saturnino does not expect the season to be delayed, although changes still need to be implemented at some clubs.
“The club reps are excited to get it over with and move on and make adjustments as required,” he said.
The approved plans allow four people per team.
Saturnino says one of the main changes requires an empty lane between each game to ensure social distancing, meaning there will be fewer people allowed on the ice.
NWT rinks are following a Curling Canada package outlining how to put Covid-19 protocols in place.
Clubs with four sheets of ice, like Inuvik, can normally accommodate 32 people curling at a time. Now, Inuvik can have two lanes operating with a maximum of 16 people.
The club in Yellowknife will be able to accommodate four games at a time, according to its website.
Registration in Inuvik is currently closed while the club awaits information about a separate plan that could allow a higher number of children aged five to eight on the ice.
Fort Smith Curling Club’s website states there are to be no more than two games happening at a time, with no more than 20 people on the rink at once.
Fort Simpson rink sees upgrades
The curling rink in Fort Simpson received an upgrade over the summer.
Cement flooring has been poured in to give curlers the opportunity of a longer season.
The season typically lasts from the end of November until early March, according to Val Gendron, president of Fort Simpson’s curling club.
Gendron hopes the new floor will let curling begin earlier than in the past, depending on the weather.
The Fort Simpson curling rink recently received upgrades, including cement being laid down to make it easier to install and maintain the ice. Photo: Sean Whelly
Ice sheets were previously made on a sand base that was difficult to flatten and smooth out, Gendron said. The concrete base will help the ice remain in place for longer and make it easier to flood and level out.
“It will be good for the ice makers because it will make their job easier,” she said.
Mayor Sean Whelly said the project cost approximately $300,000.
Gendron said the club has yet to submit a reopening plan to NWT’s public health officers, but expects to do so in the coming weeks.
As Fort Simpson has only two ice sheets and not many people in the village use the facility, Gendron expects social distancing to be straightforward.
“It would be pretty easy to be Covid-friendly at our curling rink because … in the bigger clubs they have way more sheets of ice, therefore way more opportunities to interact with people,” she said.
The senior administrative officer of Fort Simpson, Darrell White, said the rink should be set to receive ice and reopen as soon as the plan is approved.
“We’re hopeful there are no more delays,” said White.
“Once we know we’re good to go, then we’ll start it up.”