The final rocks have been thrown and the curling ice has been removed from Affinity Place.
By all accounts, the 2023 Scotties-Tankard provincial championships, with its tagline of “Back to Back, Rockin’ the Hack” – were a hit. Conversations with representatives of CurlSask, the Estevan Curling Club and others resulted in rave reviews for the facility, the ice, the calibre of the curling, the entertainment at The Patch, the volunteers, and the organization of the event.
There will always be things that could be improved if given the opportunity – we’d like to see bigger names and numbers for the east-end scoreboard – but there were no glaring red flags that came up during the two weeks, at least from our perspective.
It’s another testament to what can be done when Estevan is given a chance to host a big-ticket event, whether it be sports, entertainment or a convention.
Now the lingering question is what’s next.
In the past 12 months, Estevan has hosted a national hockey championship, four provincial curling events, three Western Canadian baseball championships, conventions and other events. We’ve seen the fair and rodeo finally come together for the Energy City Ex. and we were the winners of the Sirius-XM Music Towns competition for Western Canada.
We’ve had a lot happening.
Right now, above all else, we can use a breather. When you host events like the Scotties-Tankard, which are largely volunteer driven, it can be taxing. And many of those volunteers at the Scotties-Tankard were at the Centennial Cup or the Western Canada ball tournament or something else.
And with just over two months remaining in the ice sports season, the hockey and figure skating clubs need to be given a chance to finish their campaigns without further interruption or inconvenience. Many of the local hockey teams haven’t had a home game for three weeks.
In terms of what’s next for curling, there’s plenty of great events that could be held in Estevan. We’re not big enough to host the national Scotties Tournament of Hearts or Tim Hortons Brier or the ensuing men’s and women’s world championships.
But there are other options out there. We held the Home Hardware Canada Cup in December 2018. Other CurlCanada events or the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling might be on the table. We have everything that would be needed for these competitions, from the venue to the hotels to the volunteer base.
You wouldn’t want to have one of these events every year; you’d risk burning out the volunteers. And you have to be careful not to inconvenience the other users at Affinity Place for too long. But you could have something every two or three years that would run over five to seven days and really showcase our community.
It would have been nice to have more people at the Scotties and the Tankard. And in a venue the size of Affinity Place, if you have 500 people present, it looks empty.
But let’s be clear: the number of people did not reflect the level of interest in the event in the community. A lot of people were talking about the Scotties and the Tankard, the great curling and what it will mean for the community. Some people who bought event passes for both might have only made it to a handful of draws. But at $125 for an event pass, even if you went to half of the 24 draws, you still had a pretty good deal.
And with the Scotties and the Tankard back to back, it likely split the crowds.
Lots of local youths were able to attend the games during the weekday morning draws, bringing energy to the rink and giving these kids exposure to a sport that can be a lot of fun for life.
Everyone who was involved with these events will need to reflect, debrief and think about next time. But the Scotties-Tankard was still a tremendous success. The economic impact was undeniable. And it once again proved what Estevan and its people are capable of.
We should all be very, very proud.