Christmas will come early this year for the local curling community when the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling sets up shop at the Sarnia Arena.
“I’m pumped that it’s actually coming here,” said Steph LeDrew, a Sarnian and former professional curler.
“It’s never made it quite as close as this. They’re all heavy-weight matchups.”
The round-robin bonspiel will feature 15 of the top men’s and 15 of the top women’s teams from around the world competing for the Masters crown Oct. 20-25.
The Sarnia stop is the first of six series stops with teams vying for their share of a $2.1 million purse.
The community is seems eager for the chance to see world-class curling up close. Early bird ticket packages are already 50% sold, said Michael Hearse, general manager at Sarnia Golf and Curling Club.
“That’s a true indication of the appetite for a major curling event in this region,” he said during a promotional event last week.
Accomplished local curlers say the Grand Slam really is a big deal.
“There are no easy games. It’s crazy,” said LeDrew, who was a spare for a Grand Slam event a decade ago.
Sarnia’s Heath McCormick said the level of play will be Olympic calibre or higher. Instead of hosting one team from each country, the Grand Slam is open to all the best teams in the world, he said.
McCormick was a member of the U.S. high performance team. He narrowly missed qualifying for the 2018 Olympic Games and made it to the semifinals at the Masters.
He expects the field to be heavy with Canadian and European squads with a few U.S. teams qualifying as well.
“People will be coming from Port Huron and Michigan,” he added.
Organizers say the economic impact will be large with 120 curlers, their coaches and support personnel joined by thousands of fans at the rink, hotels and restaurants.
LeDrew said talented teams from Europe, Asia and the U.S. have created parity in the sport.
“It’s anybody’s game. It’s not like Canada is the curling mecca anymore. There’s a lot more competition out there,” she said.
Crews will convert the home of the Sarnia Legionnaires into five sheets of world-class curling ice, shaving back layers before adding paint, logos and the finely pebbled surface needed for curling ice.
Sportsnet will broadcast more than 27 hours of coverage from Sarnia Arena over six days, Tourism Sarnia-Lambton says.
Qualifiers have yet to happen so the curlers participating are not yet known.
Tickets are available at www.ticketscene.ca/GSOC. The early bird package for the full six-day event and 18 draws is $175 plus HST/service charges.
For more, visit http://thegrandslamofcurling.com