#BetweenTheSheets: Champions Cup Preview
The final tour event of the season hits the ice in Olds, AB
The final slam of the 2021/22 season is upon us.
As the catch phrase for the event states, "The World's Best Battle" at the Champions Cup.
The Champions Cup began in 2016, taking place in Sherwood Park, Alberta. I was at this event and one thing I remember was the outstanding marketing job done by Heather Nedohin.
She had player cardboard cutouts scattered all over Sherwood Park promoting the event, handing out tickets and encouraging fans to take their picture with the cutout players and post on social media.
It was pure marketing genius. And something we need to see more of to #growthesport from an attendance and hype perspective.
The Champions Cup seems to have a home in Alberta over the years with the 2017, 2018 and 2021 versions all taking place in Calgary (Sidenote: Same women's champion each time, Team Homan, so #HERstory Repeating?).
Ok 2021 doesn't really count due to the #COVID19 pandemic and #IceBubble but still, it happened and it happened in Alberta.
The 2019 edition took place in Saskatoon and the 2023 edition will go back to Saskatchewan, this time in Regina.
Hmmm, maybe we can get some #Nickisms for the 2023 Champions Cup and have my brother Nick do some guest interviews? Thoughts?
Ok, getting ahead of myself. Lets focus on the 2022 edition in Olds, Alberta.
If you follow the blog over the years (obviously you do right?) you are well aware of my love for this event.
Prior to the inaugural event in 2016, the blog made a few comments about how curling needs to have an event bringing together the big champions of the season for an end of the year battle royal.
Bring on the Champions Cup!
I love it. I love the theme. I love the qualification. I even love the ring colour, a bit of Baby Blue Soundcrew old school music vibes.
Hey, whoever is on DJ duties at the Olds Sportsplex, toss on some old school "Money Jane" or "The Day Before" for us so we can rock out like it is 2000.
We know Team Dupont is in the house and they LOVE to dance.
The joy of Champions Cup is rankings mean nothing.
You want in the final slam of the season? You better land yourself hoisting a trophy somewhere during the season to qualify.
The previous season's Players' Championship and Champions Cup winners earn a spot.
As do the slam winners from the same season.
Not to mention national winners from Canada and USA.
Of course the world champions should have an auto spot as well.
Regional champions from #PACC and #ECC would earn a berth.
Normally the world junior champions would earn a berth but the world junior championship does not take place until AFTER the Champions Cup so no world junior champs in the field this year (HUGE disappointment with scheduling here to be honest!).
This year the qualification is a bit different. Some of the teams earned multiple spots.
Take Scotland's Bruce Mouat as an example.
Team Mouat already earned their spot in winning the 2021 Players' Championship. They also won the 2021 Champions Cup, 2021 European Championship and 2021 Masters.
Due to their winning ways, all of those spots became open to World Curling Tour winners. Teams who won events with high enough Strength of Field quotients.
Mouat's domination became a gain for Team Gunnlaugson and Team Jacques, as examples.
Here is how each team qualified for the field:
Team Edin - 2022 Winter Olympics
Team Mouat - 2021 Players' Championship
Team Gushue - 2021 National
Team Bottcher - 2021 Brier
Team Koe - 2021 IG Wealth Management Western Showdown
Team Dropkin - 2021 US Champion
Team Epping - 2021 ATB Banff Classic
Team Gunnlaugson - 2021 DeKalb Superspiel
Team Jacques - 2021 Vesta Energy Curling Classic
Team Kim - #PACC2021
Team Sturmay - 2022 Alberta Curling Tour Champion
Team Jacobs - Sponsor's Exemption
Team Einarson - 2021 Players' Championship
Team Homan - 2021 Champions Cup
Team Hasselborg - 2021 National
Team Tirinzoni - #WWCC2021
Team Fleury - 2021 Masters
Team Jones - 2021 Canadian Curling Olympic Trials
Team Kim - 2021 Saville Shoot-Out
Team Christensen - 2021 US Champion
Team Holland - 2021 DeKalb Superspiel
Team Dupont - 2021 Women's Masters Basel
Team Peterson - 2021 Autumn Gold Curling Classic
Team Gim - 2021 Boundary Ford Curling Classic
Worth noting, some teams declined their invite.
Team Schwaller qualified after winning the Swiss Nationals. Team Yoshimura qualified via their #PACC2021 championship. Both declined their spot.
The spot in the draw was then filled by the next highest WCT event winner.
For this season, a sponsor's exemption was executed as well, handing a spot in the field to Team Jacobs.
The 2022 Champions Cup will also be a special one as it will be the final time we will see some of these teams on the ice together.
Team Tirinzoni. Team Gushue. Team Jacobs. Team Jones. Team Fleury. Team Koe. Team Gunnlaugson.
Sure some will be continuing on new teams with a few familiar faces but the core four as we know it today will be gone at the conclusion of this event.
It will be a bit sad to see but in a good way. Players are people first. Everyone needs to make decisions on their future based on what is best for them going forward.
Regardless of where players end up and the decisions already made, we, as fans, can get excited to see these current teams step on the ice for the final time.
So lets get to the competition itself.
Quick add here, I personally love how the draw schedule is mixed. No longer are there men's and women's only draws. For the Champions Cup, each draw has 2 women's and 2 men's games. Personally, I like it.
Who are the #Favs? Who can be #TeamUpset? And, of course, #W2W4!
Bring on the preview and predictions...
2021 Champions: Team Homan (women) & Team Mouat (men)
Format: 12 team RR with 2 pools of 6. Top 6 qualify. 1st place in each pool earn bye to SF.
Teams: Team Christensen, Team Einarson, Team Fleury, Team Gim, Team Homan, Team Kim
The 2021 champs are back to #DefendTheIce. And defending the ice is something Team Einarson is really good at doing.
They did accomplish the #3peat earlier this year at the Scotties.
They are coming off a finals appearance at the Players' Championship last month.
Why should we think anything different heading into the final #GSOC event of the season?
Not to mention there is no emotional distraction. After winning bronze at the world championship, the team announced they are sticking together into the next Olympic cycle.
This is another event for them and they have all the confidence, momentum and focus in the world.
Dangerous for their opposition.
Hellloooo Cory Christensen! The slam ice has been waiting for you.
Christensen has been to one slam before, the 2018 Tour Challenge. She finished 1-3 in the RR and missed the playoffs.
But that was MANY years ago. This is a very different team. Vicky Persinger is still with her but now she has the Anderson sisters with her as well.
This has been a breakout season for Christensen.
The team won the US Nationals and earned their world championship ticket.
They impressed in Prince George with a 8-4 RR record and qualifying for the playoffs. Had it not been for arguably the shot of the year from Anna Hasselborg in the QF to score 4 in 10, who knows where this team could have finished. The ceiling is HIGH!
They entered the world championship playing with curling house money, everything to gain and nothing to lose.
They will arrive in Olds the same way. An experienced GSOC field in front of them. Everything to gain. Nothing to lose.
Plus maybe they get some revenge against Canada's Einarson and Korea's Kim for those RR losses at the world championship.
The Korean wildcard factor will be in play in Olds.
How will Team Kim respond after their silver medal win at the world championship? Can they keep the momentum going?
They made #HERstory with their 2nd place finish in Prince George, can they do it again and win Korea's first #GSOC title?
And what about Team Gim?
They have become a slam regular this season, qualifying for every slam event.
Sure they have yet to qualify but it is now a question of "when" and no longer a question of "if" with this team. They are going to knock off those "favoured" teams and reach the playoff bracket eventually. Why not in Olds?
And hearts will be out in full effect for Team Fleury and Team Homan as they say goodbye to their current iconic lineups after this event.
What a way to go out though, winning the final event of the season. It could happen folks.
Projected Final Standings: 1. Team Einarson 2. Team Kim 3. Team Homan 4. Team Fleury 5. Team Christensen 6. Team Gim
Teams: Team Dupont, Team Hasselborg, Team Holland, Team Jones, Team Peterson, Team Tirinzoni
Remember earlier in the season when everyone was "concerned" over the results from Team Hasselborg?
Well what have they done this season?
Just win #ECC2021 silver and #Beijing2022 bronze.
Not to mention winning the past two slam events, the National and Players' Championship.
Team Hasselborg now owns 7 #GSOC titles folks (yes, we still include the now defunct Elite X title in 2018).
Hasselborg loves the slam events. Since the 2018/19 season they have played in 14 slam events. They have won 7. They have reached the final one other time. They have reached the SF twice. There are only 3 instances where they have failed to qualify for the playoffs.
One of those instances was the 2021 Champions Cup. Bit of redemption coming to Olds?
Not to mention the 4th place finish at the world championship this season. Revenge perhaps as well?
Remember Hasselborg's win at the Players' Championship was a #HERstory making moment for the team, becoming the 1st women's team to win the career grand slam.
They will chase #HERstory once again in trying to become the 1st women's team to win EVERY #GSOC event. Only once has it happened (Team Gushue).
A special shout out to skipper Anna Hasselborg. She will celebrate her birthday on the ice in Olds on Thursday May 5. Send her some bday love on social media folks!
Welcome back to slam ice Amber Holland!
The 2011 Scotties champion and world silver medal winner will make her return to the #GSOC as skip of her own team this week.
We last saw Holland at the 2019 Tour Challenge, subbing as skip for Team Scheidegger.
The last time Holland skipped her own team at a slam was the 2015 Tour Challenge Tier II, where the team lost the final to Kerri Einarson.
Take note, Holland is also a #GSOC champion having won the 2008 Players' Championship.
But don't let the lack of slam experience cast a shadow on the potential for this team. They reached the SK provincial SF this season, losing to eventual champ Team Barker.
They earned their spot here winning the DeKalb Superspiel in Morris, MB, consistently known as one of the strongest WCT events each season.
Similar to Team Christensen, they are playing with slam money here. All gain, no real loss.
And, for complete transparency, I may be biased with this team as their lead, Deb Lozinski, is my cousin. To say I am excited to watch her play at the slam this week is an understatement.
Also special shout out to Denmark's Team Dupont. They will be making their slam debut in Olds.
We do not often see a team from Denmark qualify for a #GSOC event but this team has put in the work and effort over the past few seasons and the results are paying off.
They competed at the 2022 Winter Olympics after all so nobody should underestimate them in this field.
On first glance it may appear this pool is a slam dunk for the big names: Hasselborg, Jones, Tirinzoni.
All 3 were in Beijing. All 3 have won slams in the past. All 3 have all the experience in the world.
But don't sell off Holland, Dupont and Peterson so easily.
Dupont and Peterson were also in Beijing.
Holland is a past Canadian champ and world medalist.
Jones and Tirinzoni will have the small emotional aspect of playing their final event together under their current successful lineups.
I think this pool is more wide open for playoff spots compared to the other pool.
The spider senses are tingling and I think we are due to see a few upsets here.
Projected Final Standings: 1. Team Hasselborg 2. Team Tirinzoni 3. Team Holland 4. Team Jones 5. Team Peterson 6. Team Dupont
Qualifiers: Team Einarson, Team Hasselborg, Team Kim, Team Tirinzoni, Team Homan, Team Holland
#GSOC Champions Cup Women's Final: Team Tirinzoni def. Team Einarson
Teams: Team Epping, Team Gushue, Team Jacobs, Team Jacques, Team Koe, Team Sturmay
Hmmm wonder who the favourite is here?
Pretty tough to go against Team Gushue, isn't it?!
The season success reads for itself.
2021 Masters = SF.
2021 National = Win.
Olympic Trials = Win.
2022 Winter Olympics = Bronze.
2022 Brier = Win.
2022 World Men's Curling Championship = Silver.
2022 Players' Championship = SF.
Pencil them into the SF round now...and might as well make it easy and just say they win the pool to earn the bye too.
Plus this will be the goodbye event for this team as Brett Gallant heads off to join Team Bottcher next season.
The only question is how tired will Gallant be after just wrapping up competition in Switzerland at the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship?
He must have a TON of frequent flyer points by now. Hope he has an Avion Visa or some kind of card where he scores big travel points.
Karsten Sturmay has been one of those "on the cusp" players in Alberta for the past few seasons.
After finding success at the University of Alberta, winning the 2018 U Sports championship after losing the 2016 and 2017 final, Sturmay made a statement in the men's game by reaching the Alberta provincial final in 2018.
Since that finals loss he has reached the playoffs at every Boston Pizza Cup (AB provincial championship), including another finals appearance in 2020.
Sturmay is the #NextGen player to watch out for in not only Alberta but in Canada.
He will be making his #GSOC skipping debut in Olds as well. He has played in the Champions Cup before though, as a spare with Team Balderston in 2018.
The pool schedule is daunting when looking at the names on the other side of the house but do not be surprised if this team picks up a W or two this week and makes a run.
The Goodbye Tour!
The teams in this pool are shaking up the game next season as players move around and current formations will become memories.
Every team wants to leave it all on the ice and go out on a winning note.
The reality is, for the majority if not all, these teams will take their final slides together this week in Olds and it will not end with a giant cheque and lovely trophy poses on ice.
Sports can be cruel sometimes and this week we will see a bit of that. These are fan favourite teams who will end their current formation with a tough loss, whether RR elimination or in the playoffs.
As fans, we can celebrate and embrace these final games for teams many of us have been cheering and supporting for a number of years.
Enjoy the moment. Celebrate the memories. And wish all the players the best of luck in the future.
Projected Final Standings: 1. Team Gushue 2. Team Koe 3. Team Jacobs 4. Team Sturmay 5. Team Epping 6. Team Jacques
Teams: Team Bottcher, Team Dropkin, Team Edin, Team Gunnlaugson, Team Kim, Team Mouat
Do you go with the Olympic and World champion?
Or do you side with the #GSOC hot hand?
I suppose we can go with both here, yes?
Team Edin is having a season to remember, capturing the gold medals in the major events. Minus the silver at #ECC2021 (losing to Mouat), it really has almost been a perfect year.
And let's not forget the world championship run with alternate Daniel Magnusson and then the run to the 2022 Players' Championship final with only 3 players (again losing to Mouat).
But if Edin is Superman, Mouat is his kryptonite.
Mouat bested Edin for the Euro title and the Players' Championship. Mouat also won the Pinty's Cup this season and has reached 5 straight slam finals!!
Sure Edin got some revenge at the Olympics mind you, winning the gold medal final.
But you have to think this rivalry has a few more spins on the rock before coming to a stop.
And by "rivalry" I mean in a friendly way. Can anyone really call Niklas Edin or Bruce Mouat a "rival" in a negative sense of the word?
Take note Grant Hardie will not be in Olds with the lads this week as he has a prior personal event to attend to. Ross Whyte will step in as the #SuperSpare though.
Plus note Team Edin lead Christoffer Sundgren will be back in the lineup with the #SwedishVikings this week.
Small advantage Team Edin perhaps?
I am buying in to the #YoungBucks this week.
After watching Team Dropkin make their debut at the world championship a few months ago, more people should be paying close attention to this team.
Not only did they reach the playoffs with a 7-5 record, they knocked off Scotland's Team Waddell in the QF before coming up just short vs. Canada in the SF. Bring on Mouat next?
Yes they struggled in the bronze medal loss to Italy but can anyone blame them? We know bronze medal games are the hardest games to play in any sport and doing so in front of a home crowd, while feeling like an advantage, can play into being a mental disadvantage of letting the fans down in the SF game.
The boys will come to Olds fresh and ready to go though. And remember, they are no strangers to the slam ice either.
Dropkin won the 2019 Tour Challenge Tier II championship and seized the day with qualifying for the next slam. At the 2020 Canadian Open, he reached the QF.
We have not seen Dropkin at the #GSOC level since but the results certainly speak for themselves.
This is a team not going to be distracted by TV camera's and bright lights. They are laser focused.
I wouldn't want to be facing them this week....and Team Shuster might want to pay very close attention to how they do this week as well.
Everyone is going to assume those 2 teams will run away with this group. The SF bye will likely come down to the result of their RR game Thursday evening (one I have to miss as I will be participating in a celebrity fundraising poker tournament for Kids Up Front Calgary).
The question is who nabs that final playoff spot?
We know what Brendan Bottcher can do. His title at this event in 2019 is one of three slam titles to his name.
Jason Gunnlaugson has quickly become not only a slam regular but is fresh off a QF appearance at the Players' Championship.
And Korey Dropkin? Well see above as the #TeamUpset pick of the pool.
Korea's Chang-min Kim is perhaps the wildcard of the group. But don't interpret that to mean less experienced. Kim has played in a slam final remember, losing the 2017 National to Mouat.
This will be Kim's first slam since the 2018 Canadian Open but I think the RR format works more to his advantage.
Plus Kim, similar to Edin and Dropkin, competed at the world championship. Kim missed the playoffs with a 6-6 record due to the Last Stone Draw TB procedure.
The final playoff spot in this pool is wide open folks!
Qualifiers: Team Gushue, Team Edin, Team Koe, Team Mouat, Team Jacobs, Team Dropkin
#GSOC Champions Cup Men's Final: Team Gushue def. Team Edin
What say you rockheads? Agree or disagree with the predictions? Who are YOU cheering for?
Share your thoughts via the comments below and/or via social media using #GSOC.
The #TwineTime blog will be in Olds to cover the event. Live around the rings coverage will begin Tuesday afternoon on the TwineTime social media accounts.
A special thank you to the Grand Slam of Curling for their continued support of the blog and providing media accreditation to non-traditional media outlets.
There are international events still on the ice this week in Finland and Lithuania.
In Finland, the inaugural World Wheelchair Mixed Doubles Curling Championship is underway.
18 nations competing to become the first #WWhMDCC2022 winner. Nations were divided into 2 pools of 9 for the competition with the Top 3 in each pool advancing to the playoffs.
After the opening few days of action, Hungary (5-1) and Italy (4-1) lead Pool A while Norway (5-1) leads Pool B.
Canada is in Pool B and, after 3 days of competition, sit tied for 5th in Pool B with a 2-3 record and 3 RR games remaining.
Stay up to date on all the scores and standings at the World Curling Federation event page HERE.
Also, taking place in Lithuania, is the European Curling Championship C-Division.
9 men's nations and 8 women's nations are competing for promotion to the #ECC2022 B-Division. The Top 2 nations will earn promotion and will compete at #ECC2022 in November.
Ireland have the early advantage for the men with a 5-0 record followed closely by Romania (4-1) and Portugal (3-1).
Finland leads the women's standings with a 3-0 record followed by Spain, Ukraine and Wales (2-1).
Catch all the live scores and updated standings at the World Curling Federation event page HERE.
AND, the Canadian U18 Boys and Girls Curling Championships are underway in Oakville. Stay up to date on all the scores and standings on the Curling Canada event page HERE.
Pay attention to this event rock heads. These are the #NextGen athletes who will be future #GSOC players and champions.
Champions Cup may be the final tour event of the season but we still have another world championship event to get excited about. The World Junior Curling Championships hit the ice in Sweden from May 15 - 22. The blog will return for a preview.
And who knows what else the blog (or maybe a podcast?!) have in store before wrapping up the season.
For those competing for the final time, whether with the current team and/or before hanging up the broom, the ice in Olds is yours. Good luck and good curling!