Emma Miskew can’t wait for the Masters.
Not only is it the first Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event of the season, but it’s also the first time fans will be allowed in the stands for a major tournament since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. A bubble concept was held in Calgary in April featuring two GSOC events, although it was closed to the general public with cardboard cutouts filling the seats.
Miskew, who throws third stones for skip Rachel Homan’s Ottawa-based team, said everyone is looking forward to playing in front of a crowd and interacting and engaging with fans again during the Masters, which begins Tuesday at Sixteen Mile Sports Complex in Oakville, Ont.
“It was so strange in the Calgary bubble to have nobody there and unfortunately the cutouts are a little quiet,” Miskew said. “It was nice to have those there but it’s going to be really nice for people to be back in the stands and have some semblance of normalcy and be able to have friends and family there again. I think everyone really missed that and it’s a big part of our game.”
Although curlers are used to playing without large crowds during tour events in curling clubs, they expect to hear something, anything, in arenas from the applause when they make a big shot and also the “whoa” of a miss.
“Having complete silence was strange,” Miskew reiterated. “You could hear when there were multiple sheets going. You didn’t have that moment where the crowd erupts for another sheet and then you can’t hear anything but I’d say that was about the only good thing about it.
“It’ll be really nice to have people back in there and I think it really adds to the energy and the excitement of playing in those events. It’s such an honour to be there to begin with, so the fans definitely make the energy feel really positive and exciting regardless of who they’re cheering for.”
Team Homan will surely feel extra crowd support as the reigning Ontario women’s champions playing in their home province. Miskew is hoping to have friends and family in the stands but said it’ll be nice regardless of who the fans are cheering for.
“We’re really excited just to get back to what feels like a normal Grand Slam,” she said. “I think it’ll give everyone a nice boost after the past year and a half. I think we’re all itching for human interaction at this point.”
Fans missed out on seeing Team Homan’s exceptional bubble run live as they wrapped up last season winning a record-extending 11th GSOC women’s title at the Champions Cup — just weeks after their skip gave birth to daughter Bowyn no less — and finishing runners-up to Kerri Einarson’s crew at the Princess Auto Players’ Championship.
Even though teams are building towards the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, Miskew isn’t losing sight of the present and focusing on the task on hand this week. The Masters is an important event, too, as one of the four majors on tour featuring a combined $300,000 prize purse and Pinty’s Cup points plus a guaranteed spot for the winners in the season-ending KIOTI Tractor Champions Cup.
“I think that every event is a learning opportunity more than anything,” Miskew said. “Just going into it trying to make some shots, play the best we can and learn from what doesn’t go well and that’s all you can really do. Everyone talks about it’s such a big year, and it is, but when you go into every event like that it kind of ruins the excitement of just being able to play in a Grand Slam, which is exciting in itself. Just going to enjoy the moment a little bit.”
Team Homan begin the Masters facing Edmonton’s Team Kelsey Rocque in the second draw Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. ET.
NOTES: The Masters features 16 of the top men’s teams and 16 of the top women’s teams from around the world. Preliminary play consists of a triple knockout format where teams must win three games before they lose three in order to qualify for the playoffs with eight teams in both divisions advancing to the quarterfinals. … Full-event and weekend passes plus single draw tickets are available for the Masters. Visit masters.goigniter.com to purchase your tickets. … Broadcast coverage begins Thursday at 11 a.m. ET on Sportsnet, Sportsnet NOW (Canada) and Yare (international).