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Masters preview: Everything you need to know for GSOC season-opener

The Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling tour is returning to the road this season starting with the Masters.

After a shortened campaign in the Calgary bubble earlier this year, the 2021-22 season kicks off Tuesday at Sixteen Mile Sports Complex in Oakville, Ont. The Masters is the first major tournament to allow fans in the stands since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Here’s what you need to know before the first draw …

What’s new for 2021?

The Masters has undergone two significant changes: the format and the number of teams.

Triple knockout brackets have replaced pools for preliminary play. As a quick refresher: teams must win three games before they lose three in order to qualify for the playoffs.

Each loss drops a team from the A Event to the B Event and then finally to the C Event where elimination is on the line in the race to three wins. Two A teams (3-0 records), three B teams (3-1 records) and three C teams (3-2 records) in both men’s and women’s divisions advance to Saturday’s quarterfinals.

With the tour rankings paused last season and not entirely reflecting the true order of teams today, splitting them up into pools could have ended up with some lopsided groups.

“I honestly like the triple,” Team Homan third Emma Miskew said in a recent interview. “I think the only challenge is not knowing exactly when your game times are but that’s something that we’re all used to doing in other events. I think that based on the last year and not being able to provide accurate team rankings, this is the most fair way of ensuring that the top teams that are there are going to make the playoffs.”

The triple knockout also means teams don’t have to worry about tiebreakers or draw-to-the-button shootout scores to help them get into the playoffs. Teams can control their own destiny: Just win three games and you’re in.

The second change is a result of the triple knockout and that’s an expanded field from 15 teams per division to 16 in order to even out the brackets. Besides, we couldn’t let the No. 1 teams off the hook and get a first-round bye, right?

What’s at stake?

The Masters is one of the four majors on tour and features a lucrative purse with a combined $300,000 CAD up for grabs. The winning teams take home the lion’s share earning $33,000 CAD. Winners are also guaranteed berths to the season-ending KIOTI Tractor Champions Cup taking place May 3-8, 2022, in Olds, Alberta.

Strength of field affects how tour points are calculated and with all the top teams in the competition, the Masters also offers the best opportunity for teams to move up the tour rankings.

The Pinty’s Cup also returns this season. The men’s and women’s teams that accumulate the most bonus points over the course of the GSOC season following the conclusion of the Princess Auto Players’ Championship are declared Pinty’s Cup champions.

Pinty’s Cup points breakdown at the Masters

  • Winners: 12 points
  • Runners-up: 9 points
  • Semifinalists: 7 points
  • Quarterfinalists: 5 points
  • Non-playoff teams: 1 point per win

READ MORE: Draw Schedule | Men’s Triple Knockout Brackets | Women’s Triple Knockout Brackets

Who are the favourites in the men’s division?

Bruce Mouat and his Scottish squad are the kings of the castle after sweeping through both GSOC events — the Champions Cup and Princess Auto Players’ Championship — last season. Team Mouat picked up where they left off winning a tour event in Oakville, oddly enough, to begin their 2021-22 campaign. It’s their spot to lose.

Brad Jacobs and his team from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., are still ranked No. 1 in the world thanks to winning three consecutive GSOC men’s events during the 2019-20 season. Jacobs, who is a seven-time title winner in the series, just needs to claim to Masters to complete the list. Only Kevin Martin, Glenn Howard, Wayne Middaugh, Jeff Stoughton and Brad Gushue have won all four majors as skips and just Gushue has taken it one step beyond winning all six different events in the series.

Speaking of Gushue, his St. John’s, N.L., crew lost to Team Mouat in the Champions Cup semifinals and finished runners-up to them in the Princess Auto Players’ Championship. Gushue, who has won 11 GSOC men’s titles including two at the Masters, is always considered a championship contender due to remarkable consistency having missed the playoffs only three times in the series since 2014.

Kevin Koe and his Calgary club jumped out of the gate winning twice on tour and have earned the most points so far this fall although they stumbled a bit and missed the playoffs this past weekend in Penticton, B.C. Five-time world champion Niklas Edin and his Swedish squad had been a bit quiet this season but came out swinging to win the Penticton event and appear all fired up now.

Reigning Brier champion Brendan Bottcher and his Edmonton team were chugging along at the Champions Cup finishing runners-up to Team Mouat but derailed during the Princess Auto Players’ Championship and missed the playoffs. They’ll look to get back on track in the series here. OK, this might have just been an excuse to make a bunch of train puns the team is fond of on social media.

Matt Dunstone enters as the defending champion, winning his first GSOC title two years ago thanks to unreal marksmanship all week. Dunstone’s Regina rink can run through hot and cold streaks and it’ll most likely come down to clutch sharpshooting again from the man dubbed “The Sheriff.”

Who are the favourites in the women’s division?

There has been some buzz about the fact there are only five Canadian teams in the women’s division, but two of them are the heavy favourites: Team Homan and Team Einarson.

Ottawa’s Rachel Homan captured her record-extending 11th GSOC women’s title at the Champions Cup and finished runner-up to Kerri Einarson of Gimli, Man., in the Princess Auto Players’ Championship.

Einarson, who lost to Homan in the Champions Cup semifinals, has won back-to-back Scotties Tournament of Hearts titles defeating Homan in the final both times. If these two face off again, it’s a must-see match.

Double defending world champion Silvana Tirinzoni and her Swiss squad are more likely to make a GSOC final than miss the playoffs. Since forming in 2018, they’ve reached four finals, winning the Champions Cup in 2019, and have missed the cut just three times. They finished second to Team Homan in the Champions Cup and also lost to them in the Princess Auto Players’ Championship semifinals. PROTIP: Avoid Team Homan.

Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg skips the No. 1 ranked women’s team in the world — like Team Jacobs, thanks to three consecutive GSOC title wins in 2019-20. Haselborg went 0-4 through the Champions Cup but returned to form with a semifinal finish in the Princess Auto Players’ Championship. Nobody predicted a winless run from Team Hasselborg and it was likely just a blip as they hadn’t played in over a year due to the pandemic.

Tracy Fleury’s team from East St. Paul, Man., are the defending champions and started this season on a 17-game winning streak with two title victories. They begin the Masters coincidentally against Team Sayaka Yoshimura, who they defeated in the 2019 women’s final.

Six teams from Asia are competing in the women’s division. Japan’s Team Satsuki Fujisawa have qualified for the playoffs in seven consecutive GSOC events including a couple of times as just a trio when lead Yurika Yoshida was out of the lineup.

We welcome back Eun-Jung Kim’s team from South Korea as the “Garlic Girls” will compete in their first GSOC event since the 2018 Players’ Championship. Team Kim, who captured silver at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, stopped competing for a bit as they were involved in a dispute accusing their national coaches of abuse.

How to watch the Masters

The only way to guarantee you never miss a moment of the Masters is to see it live at Sixteen Mile Sports Complex. Full event and weekend passes plus single draw tickets are available at

Enhanced event protocols are in effect and attendees will need to show proof of double vaccination and wear a mask.

If you can’t make it to Oakville, broadcast coverage will be available on Sportsnet, Sportsnet NOW (Canada) and Yare (international).

DateTime (ET)DrawChannelOnline
Thursday, Oct. 2111 a.m.Triple KnockoutSportsnetSportsnet NOW (Canada)
Yare (International)
3 p.m.Triple KnockoutSportsnetSportsnet NOW (Canada)
Yare (International)
7 p.m.Triple KnockoutSportsnet 360Sportsnet NOW (Canada)
Yare (International)
Friday, Oct. 2211 a.m.Triple KnockoutSportsnetSportsnet NOW (Canada)
Yare (International)
3 p.m.Triple KnockoutSportsnetSportsnet NOW (Canada)
Yare (International)
7 p.m.Triple KnockoutSportsnet NOW (Canada)
Yare (International)
Saturday, Oct. 23NoonMen’s QuarterfinalsSportsnet
Sportsnet ONE
Sportsnet NOW (Canada)
Yare (International)
4 p.m.Women’s QuarterfinalsSportsnet ONESportsnet NOW (Canada)
Yare (International)
8 p.m.SemifinalsSportsnet NOW (Canada)
Yare (International)
Sunday, Oct. 24NoonWomen’s FinalSportsnetSportsnet NOW (Canada)
Yare (International)
4 p.m.Men’s FinalSportsnetSportsnet NOW (Canada)
Yare (International)
Note: Broadcast schedule subject to change.