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

Just Posted

People participated in a walk to honour the 215 children found at a former Kamloops residential school, as well as residential school survivors. (Twila Amato/Black Press Media)
Kelowna marks National Indigenous Peoples’ Day with walk to remember Kamloops 215

“Let’s speak the truth and deal with the truth, and heal.”

Kelowna Cabs’ dispatchers will be coming back to work now that their union and the taxi company have come to an agreement. (Facebook/Kelowna Cabs)
Kelowna Cabs dispatchers set to go back to work

The taxi company and the dispatchers’ union have reached an agreement

t
Motorcyclist critically injured in Westside Road collision

Motorcyclist collides with vehicle, struck by another: preliminary police findings

People at the beach in front of Discovery Bay Resort on Tuesday, July 14. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Heat wave forecast for Okanagan-Shuswap

Temperatures are forecast to hit record breaking highs this week

The Crofton trailer park home where the bodies of two people were found. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Kelowna mom still waiting for answers after daughter and her fiance found dead

Pair discovered in their Vancouver Island home in May identified as Rachel Gardner and Paul Jenkins

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Photograph By MICHAEL POTESTIO.KTW
Former Kamloops security gaurd wants job back after kicking incident caught on video

Rick Eldridge quit when a video surfaced of him kicking a man outside a facility for homeless

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

(Black Press file photo)
EDITORIAL: Curtailing attempts at scams

The true total of losses from all scams and frauds could be much higher than the figures on file

A home on Cameo Drive sustained major damage due to an early morning fire Monday, June 21. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)
UPDATE: Fire sparked during Vernon home renovation

Heavy black smoke from Cameo Drive home, no one inside

Most Read