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Waiting Game: After cancellation of mixed doubles trials, curlers waiting on decision

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After COVID-19 challenges forced the cancellation of Canada’s mixed doubles trials, several top curlers are anxiously waiting to learn whether they will be chosen to represent the country in the discipline at the Beijing Games.

Curling Canada has said it will consult with the Canadian Olympic Committee and Own the Podium before an announcement will be made.

Specifics on a timeline haven’t been determined, making an extended wait for the contenders seem even longer.

“This is a position we’ve never really been in before where it’s completely out of your control,” said John Morris, who won Olympic mixed doubles gold in 2018. “I think that’s the biggest thing. As an athlete, you always want to control your own destiny. That’s been the tough part.”

The trials were originally scheduled for Dec. 28-Jan. 2 in Portage la Prairie, Man., but were cancelled on Boxing Day. The federation cited travel risks and positive cases among athletes for its decision.

Olympic mixed doubles play begins Feb. 2 at the Ice Cube in Beijing, two days before the opening ceremony. The Canadian nomination decision was still in the “consultation process,” a COC spokesman said Tuesday in a text message.

Morris teamed with Kaitlyn Lawes to win gold in the discipline’s Olympic debut in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

His usual partner, Rachel Homan, was not available for the trials that year as she had secured an Olympic spot in the women’s team competition. Curling Canada doesn’t allow curlers to play in both disciplines at the same Games.

Homan and Morris, currently ranked fifth in Canada, are both available for selection this time around. Now they just have to cross their fingers and hope they get the nod when the decision is finally made.

“It’s definitely hard on the heart,” Homan said Tuesday from Beaumont, Alta.

Jocelyn Peterman and Brett Gallant are ranked No. 1 in Canada but both are already Beijing-bound after victories in the four-player team trials last November in Saskatoon.

Peterman helped Team Jennifer Jones to victory and Gallant helped Team Brad Gushue win the men’s berth. Jones and Brent Laing are ranked second in mixed doubles.

Given the unique scenario, it’s possible — although seemingly unlikely — that Curling Canada could make an exception to its rule. Many countries allow players to compete in both disciplines at the Games, but it appears doubtful the Canadian federation would want to disrupt team plans at this late date.

Nancy Martin and Tyrel Griffith are ranked third ahead of Lisa Weagle and John Epping. Weagle is part of Jones’s five-player team but is eligible for mixed doubles since she’s listed as an alternate for Beijing.

Another potential contender is the duo of Kerri Einarson and Brad Jacobs. Einarson, who won the Canadian mixed doubles title last season with Gushue, planned to play the trials with Jacobs.

Rankings and recent results will likely impact the decision-making process. Experience in major events like world championships and Olympic Games could also be factors.

Morris said he was “champing at the bit” to get on the ice before the playdowns were cancelled.

“Rachel and I had a great training camp leading up to the trials,” he said in a recent interview. “We were so ready to go. That’s the hard part. You can’t go and prove yourself.”

Sweden, Great Britain, Switzerland, Norway and the United States are some of the headliners in the 10-team Olympic mixed doubles field.

“I would absolutely love to have the chance to take them on but I’m sure there’s some other curlers that are saying that too,” Morris said from Canmore, Alta. “I just love going to battle against the world’s best and I would absolutely love that opportunity.”

Homan, meanwhile, is also waiting for news on another curling front. The Ontario Curling Association recently suspended its Jan. 5-9 provincial championship in Thornhill due to new restrictions in the province.

On Friday, the association plans to declare a representative for the Jan. 28-Feb. 6 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Thunder Bay, Ont.

“It has just been a crazy couple of weeks really,” Homan said. “Just so many emotions that come with it.”

Homan, a three-time national champion who has led Ontario to three straight Scotties final appearances, would normally be a slam dunk for selection.

However, if she gets the Olympic mixed doubles call, it could open the door for Ontario contenders like Team Hollie Duncan (ranked sixth in Canada) or Team Jacqueline Harrison (tied for sixth at trials).

MORE CANCELLATIONS

The 2022 Canadian Under-18 Championships were postponed Tuesday due to ongoing uncertainty related to the pandemic, Curling Canada said.

The event was scheduled for Feb. 14-20 in Timmins, Ont. The federation said it will try to reschedule the competition for later this year in a different location.

The 2023 U18 nationals will be held in Timmins next year. Curling Canada also said the inaugural Under-23 Lethbridge Classic in March will be cancelled.

SUPER SUNDAY

Five different provincial and territorial championships were on tap this week to fill out the field at the upcoming Canadian women’s curling championship.

Finals were set for Sunday in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Yukon, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories.

Kerri Einarson’s team will wear Canada colours at the 2022 Scotties. The Manitoba-based rink will be joined by Christina Black (Nova Scotia), Brigitte MacPhail (Nunavut), Sarah Hill (Newfoundland and Labrador) and Mackenzie Zacharias (Manitoba) in the field.

Ontario, Northern Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island have either cancelled or suspended their playdowns and have yet to announce their representatives. A single wild-card team will also be added.

The men’s national championship, the Tim Hortons Brier, is set for March 4-13 in Lethbridge, Alta.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 4, 2022.

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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Exercise in ‘patience’ pays off for Kadri, says winning a factor in joining Flames

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By David Alter

Nazem Kadri said the Calgary Flames expressed interest the moment he became an unrestricted free agent, but it was an “elaborate process” before he finally signed on the dotted line on Thursday.

“The patience definitely did me some good,” Kadri told reporters in a Zoom call Friday. “There were some decisions to be made.”

The Flames’ wild off-season took another dramatic turn Thursday when the team signed the coveted free agent to a seven-year, US$49-million deal.

Before the deal could be made official, Calgary sent forward Sean Monahan and a conditional 2025 first-round pick to the Montreal Canadiens for future considerations in a move to create salary cap space for Kadri’s contract.

“That’s part of the reason why it’s been taking so long,” Kadri said from Paris, where he is on vacation.

The 32-year-old Kadri was one of the biggest names available in free agency after an all-star season with Colorado that ended with the Avalanche winning the Stanley Cup.

The benefits of returning to Canada, where his NHL career started, and taking part in the ‘Battle of Alberta’ with the provincial-rival Edmonton Oilers were benefits to signing with the Flames, but what ultimately led him to sign was how close he feels the team is to winning a Stanley Cup.

“Ultimately, it’s about winning and that played a huge factor in me coming to Calgary,” Kadri said. “The time is now and it certainly can be close with the moves we’ve made and me hopping on board.”

The 31-year-old Kadri had 87 points (28 goals, 59 assists) in 71 games for the Avalanche in 2021-22. He added 15 points in 16 playoff games, including the overtime winner in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final against Tampa Bay.

That was his return to action after being injured in Game 3 of the Western Conference final after being hit from behind by Edmonton forward Evander Kane.

Kadri’s addition capped a wild off-season for the Flames that saw star forward Johnny Gaudreau walk away in free agency.

The Flames’ leading scorer last season (115 points), and a finalist for the Hart Trophy as league MVP, Gaudreau informed the Flames before the start of the free agency period that we would not be re-signing with the Flames in a desire to move closer to home.

The New Jersey native signed a seven-year, $68.25-million contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets when free agency opened on July 13,.

Calgary was then informed that forward Matthew Tkachuk, who had a breakout season with 42 goals and 104 points, would not sign a contract extension after the upcoming season.

What looked like a potential nightmare for Calgary started to turn around when the Flames dealt Tkachuk to Florida for a package that included forward Jonathan Huberdeau, who had 115 points last season, and defenceman Mackenzie Weegar.

The Flames then locked up Huberdeau long-term with an eight-year, $84-million contract extension.

“It’s alarming to anybody when you lose players of that magnitude,” Kadri said. “But I think Brad (Flames GM Brad Treliving) has done a great job getting some return and valuable players.”

This is not the first time the Flames have tried to add Kadri to their roster. The Flames attempted to acquire him from the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2019, but Kadri used the no-trade clause in his contract to veto the deal. Kadri was then traded to the Avalanche on July 1, 2019.

“I didn’t see myself leaving (Toronto),” Kadri said about the situation. “That had nothing to do with the city of Calgary or the organization, I just wanted to stay where I was.

“It’s important for me to clarify that. I think it’s important because I’ve always admired the city of Calgary and Canada in general. I’m a Canadian boy. I love playing in Canada but it’s certainly ironic, but it was always a team that was on my radar.”

Kadri was selected seventh overall by Toronto in the 2009 NHL draft and has 512 points (219 goals, 293 assists) in 739 career games with the Maple Leafs and Colorado.

The London, Ontario native has yet to have his day with the Stanley Cup, but his plans include taking it to his hometown.

He also said he’s going to bring it to Toronto, where he spent his first eight NHL seasons.

“I’ve done a lot of growing up in that city as well and there’s been lots of supports of mine there,” he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 19, 2022.

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Alberta

Reports: Flames closing in on signing UFA forward Nazem Kadri

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The Calgary Flames are closing in on a deal to sign unrestricted free agent Nazem Kadri, according to multiple media reports.

Sportsnet reported the deal is for seven years at US$7 million per season.

The Flames, according to Sportsnet and TSN, are moving forward Sean Monahan to the Montreal Canadiens to create salary cap space for Kadri’s contract. Details of that trade have not been released.

The 32-year-old Kadri was one of the biggest names available in free agency after an All-Star season with Colorado that ended with the Avalanche winning the Stanley Cup.

Kadri had 87 points (28 goals, 59 assists) in 71 games for the Avalanche in 2021-22.

He added 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in 16 playoff games, including the overtime winner in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final against Tampa Bay. That was his return to action after being injured in Game 3 of the Western Conference final after being hit from behind by Edmonton forward Evander Kane.

Kadri’s signing would be the latest chapter of a chaotic off-season for the Flames.

Calgary lost leading scorer and Hart Trophy candidate Johnny Gaudreau to the Columbus Blue Jackets early in free agency, then was informed that star forward Matt Tkachuk would not sign a contract extension after the upcoming season.

The Flames dealt Tkachuk to Florida for a package that included forward Jonathan Huberdeau, who had 115 points last season, and defenceman Mackenzie Weegar.

The Flames then locked up Huberdeau long-term with an eight-year, US$84-million contract extension.

Monahan, selected sixth overall by the Flames in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, has played nine seasons in Calgary. The three-time 30-goal scorer tallied just eight goals and 15 assists for 23 points in 65 games last season.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 18, 222.

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