Team BC participating at the 2020 Brier in Ontario. (Michael Burns Photography)

Team BC participating at the 2020 Brier in Ontario. (Michael Burns Photography)

Kelowna curler prepares for battle ahead of 10th Brier appearance

Rick Sawatsky, shooting lead for Team BC, said the 2021 Brier will be unlike any other

It’s just over a week until Rick Sawatsky steps onto the ice for his tenth appearance in the Tim Hortons Brier.

This year, despite the Canadian men’s curling championship not appearing in his hometown of Kelowna, he’s ready to give the other provinces a run for their money.

Sawatsky, who shoots lead for Team BC (Jim Cotter of Vernon, Steve Laycock of Sask., Andrew Nerpin of Kelowna, fifth player Tyler Tardi of Cloverdale) is no stranger to the Brier cup. However, this year is unlike any other; anything could happen.

Three more wild card teams, comprised of some of the best in the country, have been added to the pools. In addition, COVID-19 restrictions have locked down many rinks. Some teams, who normally would have played 120 competitive games by this point, have played just a handful.

Because of this, the playing field has been levelled out.

During the pandemic, curling teams, especially those with members in different cities, have found it hard to meet up for practices.

However, unlike some provinces, the Government of B.C. has allowed curling rinks to stay open, under strict conditions. Because of this, Team BC was able to continue practicing. Although League play was suspended, they managed to secure some ice to practice on.

“I think that gives us a bit of an advantage,” said Sawatsky.

On Wednesday, Feb. 24, teams started to flock to Calgary in preparation for the tournament at the Markin MacPhail Centre. Before leaving, all athletes were required to be tested for COVID-19.

Upon arrival, team members are on lockdown. From the airport, it’s straight to a COVID-19 testing site, then on to their hotel for isolation until results are received. On game days, they travel from their hotels straight to the arena, with no trips in between.

In addition to no fans, no meet-and-greets and no autograph sessions, there will also be no socializing with other teams, which is a big change from previous years.

“We’ve all created friendships all across the country from all the different guys; we all want to kill each other on the ice but we’re all pretty good buddies off the ice. It’s going to be different,” Sawatsky said.

It’s also a big change for the fans, who often get the opportunity to share a beverage with some of the best in the world, post-game.

To stay sane, Sawatsky has brought a stack of books to read during his alone time in his hotel.

For the start of the tournament, Team BC will be facing some tough competitors. Among them, Team Koe (2x World Champion, 4x Brier Champion), Team Botcher (Canadian Junior Champion), Team Jacobs (Olympic Gold medalist, 1x Brier Champion), and Team Howard (4x World Champion, 4x Brier Champion).

In the 2020 Brier, Brad Gushue beat Bottcher in the final.

That said, Sawatsky is confident in their team’s preparation and said they’re in it to win it. There isn’t a team in the tournament they haven’t beaten before.

“We’ve been doing this quite a long time, we’ve played all these teams many many times on tour, and throughout Briers. There isn’t really a team we’re scared of,” Sawatsky said.

“It’s a lot like golf, right. There are legitimately six or seven teams that could win this event, it’s just a matter of who plays the best that week.”

Catch Team BC live for their first Brier match Saturday, March 6, at 8:30 p.m PST on TSN 1/3, against New Brunswick’s James Grattan.

READ MORE: COVID-crunched BCHL facing trade deadline dilemma with its 20-year-olds

READ MORE: CFL will have to appease more levels of government to get 2021 protocols approved

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: phil.mclachlan@kelownacapnews.com


 

@newspaperphil
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Brier

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Christine Perkins is the new superintendent of schools for the Vernon School District, effective Aug. 1. Perkins moves to the North Okanagan from the Kootenay Lake School District in Nelson. (Vernon School District photo)
Vernon School District names new superintendent

Dr. Christine Perkins moves from Kootenay Lake district to take over from the retiring Joe Rogers

Vernon Public Art Gallery executive director Dauna Kennedy and board member Kyle Britton accept a $43,400 grant from the BC Arts Council one-time StrongerBC fund amid the COVID-19 pandemic April 9, 2021. (VPAG)
$43K boost for Vernon gallery

Province backs local art gallery with one-time pandemic grant

A 46-year-old man from Armstrong died in Revelstoke hospital after being injured in the Lumby area. (File photo)
Armstrong snowmobiler dies in Revelstoke hospital

46-year-old man injured in Tsuius Mountain area of Monashees around Lumby area

Part of the massive mess left behind in a Spallumcheen rental home owned by Wes Burden, whose tenants bolted from the property in the middle of the night. Burden is now facing a hefty cleaning and repair bill as a result. (Photo submitted)
Spallumcheen landlord’s home trashed by tenants

Rooms filled with junk, garbage, human and animal feces; landlord scared to rent again

B.C. wineries are open for indoor tasting despite new provincial health regulations. Photo- 
50th Parallel Winery, Instagram.
Indoor wine tastings still allowed in B.C., not considered a ‘social gathering’

“Tasting is really just part of the retail experience. The analogy I use is you wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on.”

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

The Red Pill Rapper performs to the crowd gathered for the Rally For Food Security at Blackburn Park on Saturday, April 10, 2021. (Kristal Burgess Photography)
The Red Pill Rapper performs to the crowd gathered for the Rally For Food Security at Blackburn Park on Saturday, April 10, 2021. (Kristal Burgess Photography)
Suspicion of ‘fake news media’ makes rally uncomfortable for Salmon Arm event photographer

More than 300 people counted at city park for ‘Rally For Food Security’

A lady wears a sticker given out after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count slows after last week’s peak

3,219 new cases since Friday, 18 additional deaths

North Cowichan councillor Tek Manhas did not violate the municipality’s code of conduct by posting a sexist meme on Facebook, council concludes. (File photo)
B.C. municipality to take no action against councillor who posted sexist meme

Tek Manhas’s meme doesn’t violate North Cowichan council’s code of conduct, municipality concludes

The former Summerland Asset Development Initiative building on Prairie Valley Road in Summerland was suggested as the site for a temporary transitional housing facility for the community. However, Summerland council has rejected this proposal. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Summerland council rejects transitional housing facility

Concerns raised about short timeline and condition of municipally-owned building

Shayla, an 8-pound black and grey Havanese, was stolen from outside a store on Banks Road on Saturday. (Contributed)
Stolen pup located, Kelowna RCMP confirms

Mounties said on April 12 that Shayla, the 8-pound, black and grey Havanese dog, has been located safe and sound

Penticton Vees continue their winning streak carrying a 5-0 win title as of Sunday night's hockey action. (Cherie Morgan/Cherie Morgan Photography)
Penticton Vees continue winning streak

Sunday night’s 6-1 win has them with five in a row since the start of the season

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

President Dan Kelly said it is crucial to maintain programs to help businesses to the other side of the pandemic

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians says that includes attempts to steal Canadian research on COVID-19 and vaccines, and sow misinformation. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Intelligence committee warns China, Russia targeting Canadian COVID-19 research

Committee also found that the terrorist threat to Canada has shifted since its last such assessment

Most Read