With Olympic gold medalist and four-time world champion Kevin Martin at the podium Thursday, the clock began to tick toward December and one of the curling world’s top events coming back to Saskatoon.
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This winter, 32 of the top men’s and women’s curling teams on the planet will descend on Saskatchewan as part of the Grand Slam of Curling season to compete at the 2023 WFG Masters.
“It’s the highest level of play,” said Martin. “These are the most difficult events to win in the world of curling, period. As far as the field goes, it doesn’t get better than what will be here in Saskatoon in the middle of December. There’s no doubt about that.”
It’s part of a special curling season coming to Saskatchewan, as Regina will play host to the 2024 Brier in March at the Brandt Centre.
This will be the second time that the tour has made a stop at Merlis Belsher Place, after Saskatoon hosted the 2019 Champions Cup following the opening of the facility.
Championship curling returning to Saskatchewan with the 2024 Brier
According to Discover Saskatoon, this winter’s Grand Slam stop will generate roughly $3 million in economic activity for the city.
It’s something Mayor Charlie Clark was quick to highlight at Thursday’s press conference, as well as the word-of-mouth marketing that will come with hosting international teams.
“We know that we’re going to have teams from all around the world,” said Clark. “European teams, we’re even hearing that there’s teams in development in India and other places. That gives our city a chance to tell our story.”
On the volunteer front, between 60 and 70 people have already signed up to assist with the event according to organizing committee member Sandra Svenkeson.
However, there is no cap on the amount of volunteers they’ll be looking to add, as she mentioned the benefits of a large volunteer roster.
“The more you have the better,” said Svenkeson. “If we get to 100 [volunteers], then you only have to do two or three draws. So the higher the number, the better it is to coordinate and the easier on all the volunteers. Then nobody gets burned out.”
In an all-Alberta final on the men’s side in 2019, Brendan Bottcher’s rink defeated Team Kevin Koe, while it was a Saskatoon victory for Switzerland’s Silvana Tirinzoni rink over Canada’s Kerri Einarson rink on the women’s side.
Calling Saskatchewan a “curling Mecca,” Martin has played in dozens of tournaments in Saskatoon over his lengthy career and knows what the athletes are in store for in December.
Adding he’s excited to see the atmosphere that fans will create at Merlis Belsher Place.
“It will be a full house,” said Martin. “The crowd will be loud and proud Canada, and they get to come here and just soak it all in. The players love it and that’s what is pretty special about coming to Western Canada as a whole, but Saskatoon definitely.”
Primetime and weekend passes for the event will go on sale to the general public on Friday, while the WFG Masters will be held from December 12 to 17.
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