TORONTO — After tinkering with the wild-card setup last season, Curling Canada will revert to the regular 16-team format for its Canadian men's and women's curling championships this season.
Two extra wild-card teams were added to the Tim Hortons Brier and Scotties Tournament of Hearts last season as a one-off setup in the so-called bubble in Calgary.
The federation scrapped the regular Friday night play-in game at each event and instead included three wild-card teams in the field. The changes were made due to the cancellation of several provincial championships as a result of the pandemic.
Kerri Einarson's Manitoba-based team will wear Canadian colours at the Jan. 28-Feb. 6 Scotties in Thunder Bay, Ont. Brendan Bottcher's Alberta-based rink will be sporting the Maple Leaf at the March 4-13 Brier in Lethbridge, Alta.
At each event, the defending champions will be joined by the 14 provincial and territorial champions and a Team Wild Card entry.
In the past, the top two teams in the Canadian team ranking system that weren't already qualified made the cut for the play-in game but that setup may be adjusted.
An announcement on the qualification process for the play-in games was expected soon, a federation director said in an email.
Coming off a disappointing finish at Canada's Olympic curling trials, Rachel Homan's team will soon be shifting focus to next month's Scotties.
However, a challenging qualification road awaits the three-time national champions. Homan's team has primarily played in Alberta this season and has yet to qualify for the Jan. 5-9 Ontario championship in Thornhill, Ont.
Homan would need to earn one of three spots in a Dec. 17-19 last-chance double-knockout open qualifier in Guelph, Ont., to get a spot in the eight-team provincial field.
Jacqueline Harrison, who finished just ahead of the last-place Homan side at the trials, earned a berth via ranking points along with Hollie Duncan. The other early berth went to Jestyn Murphy via the provincial tour series.
Two more berths are available at a cashspiel this weekend in Mississauga, Ont., but Homan is not in the field.
Lisa Weagle of Team Jennifer Jones could have a chance to pull off a rare double at the Winter Games.
Weagle booked her ticket for the 2022 Olympics when her Manitoba-based team won the women's trials final last week in Saskatoon.
She's also entered in the Dec. 28-Jan. 2 mixed doubles trials with John Epping. A victory in Portage la Prairie, Man., would mean she would get to participate in both disciplines in Beijing.
Unlike many other federations, Curling Canada does not allow members of the four-player men's and women's teams who have qualified for the Games to play mixed doubles there as well.
However, the Jones rink is a unique case since it's a five-player team. Weagle, who has shared lead duties with Dawn McEwen since joining the team in March 2020, saw limited action at the trials and is officially listed as an alternate by the Canadian Olympic Committee.
While her teammates and the four members of Team Brad Gushue are not eligible to participate in the mixed doubles trials per Curling Canada's nomination process, Weagle is allowed to enter.
Jones vice-skip Kaitlyn Lawes teamed with John Morris to win gold for Canada at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games when mixed doubles made its Olympic debut.
Sherry Anderson will be looking to make Canadian senior curling championship history next week in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
Her Saskatoon team will try to win a fourth straight senior's title at the Dec. 6-11 event. She currently shares the record with the Saskatchewan team skipped by Ev Krahn that won titles from 1984-86.
Anderson won national crowns from 2017-19. The 2020 competition was cancelled due to the pandemic.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2021.
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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press