There’s a bright future on the horizon for the Grand Slam of Curling.
The series is on track to complete its first full season in four years and Sportsnet, which owns and operates the Grand Slam of Curling, is now looking to chart its next course with multiple routes up for consideration.
New event formats? New locations? All the cards are on the table at the moment and Rob Corte, vice president of Sportsnet and NHL productions, is buzzing about what’s ahead for the series.
“We were slated to do our first event in the United States in Vegas but due to the pandemic, we had to cancel that. That interest and that positive momentum have come back really quickly since we started playing back like we used to,” Corte said. “I’m excited by some of these opportunities. I obviously can’t go into too many details right now but there are a lot of things we’ve worked on and a lot of discussions happening. I think we’re going see a lot of really great things moving forward for the Grand Slam of Curling.”
The series features the top-ranked men’s and women’s teams from around the world with just as many Canadian teams as international teams capturing Grand Slam titles this season.
“All the leagues, and the big leagues in North America, always talk about expansion and international expansion. We’ve been able to do it successfully,” Corte said. “We’ve had events this year that have had entrants from 10 different countries and that’s what makes the Grand Slam of Curling so elite. It is the best of the best. We used to just have fields that were predominantly Canadian with maybe a couple teams that were international. Now, the fields still have a lot of Canadian teams but the international contingent is huge. That’s shown the growth of the game, the health of the game.”
As the international presence in the series continues to flourish, holding an event outside of Canada for the first time appears to be back on the to-do list.
“We’ve had a lot of positive discussions over the last couple of years with numerous international opportunities,” Corte said. “We’re looking to push forward in the years coming and start to expand and take advantage of that international interest.”
Corte explained how in the past, the series would have to sell themselves to communities to host events. Now, it’s the complete opposite.
“Organizations, cities and local organizing committees are reaching out to us from all around the world looking for opportunities to bring the Grand Slam of Curling to their markets,” he said. “That’s extremely satisfying and it shows that the hard work that everybody is putting in — from our team to the sponsors to the volunteers to the curlers — is working.”
The 2022-23 campaign marks the 11th season since Sportsnet purchased the Grand Slam of Curling. The series consisted of four men’s events, with only the Players’ Championship featuring an additional women’s division, but that has expanded under Sportsnet’s watch to six events with men’s and women’s fields included in all of them. Event purses have also not only increased but are shared equally between both divisions.
“I think for me and for our group, what we’re most proud of is the equality that we have between the men and the women on the Grand Slam of Curling tour,” Corte said. “Prize money, the exposure, is equal and that’s something that’s very important for us and something that we’re going to continue moving forward.”
The series has also been at the forefront of testing out new rules and adapting the sport to changing times. The five-rock, free-guard zone and no-tick zone are two relatively recent modifications that were implemented in the Grand Slam of Curling and have since been embraced by the sport’s other governing bodies.
“It shows that everybody involved has a great understanding of the game of curling but also what both the curlers and the fans want,” Corte said. “One of the big things that we focus on is our communication with the curlers. There’s an open-door policy, there are a lot of discussions that happen all the time and the curlers are very comfortable bringing any items, suggestions, or challenges up to us and we do our best to fix them and then incorporate them for the benefit of the game. … This two-way street, two-way communication between the Grand Slam of Curling and the curlers is working to better the game.”
Part of that open dialogue sparked serious discussions about the Champions Cup and Sportsnet will be reviewing the event after this season to ensure its future sustainability on the curling schedule.
“After much consideration and input from the players, we’ve made the decision to temporarily move to five events for the 2023-24 Grand Slam of Curling season schedule,” Corte said. “As a result of that, we’re going to pause the 2024 Champions Cup event.”
Total prize money will not decrease and remain at $2.1 million next season with the purse from the Champions Cup distributed across the other tournaments.
“We’re going to take a step back for one year, go to five events, re-evaluate the whole Grand Slam calendar, consider a lot of these new opportunities that have come that will allow us to invest and grow the Grand Slam of Curling,” Corte added. “We’re going to come back stronger in the 2024-25 season.”
Following the conclusion of the 2022-23 season, Corte said Sportsnet will “really roll up the sleeves and get moving on what the future looks like.”