Home Hardware Canada Cup starts Wednesday in Grande Prairie (Curling Canada)

The Olympic dream will become a little more real for the two teams that prevail at the 2015 Home Hardware Canada Cup of Curling, presented by Meridian Manufacturing, beginning Wednesday at Revolution Place in Grande Prairie, Alta.

The elite competition, which features the top eight men’s and top seven women’s teams in Canada, will not only offer a huge prize purse of $140,000, it will send the winning men’s and women’s teams directly to Canada’s final stage of qualifying (the 2017 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings in Ottawa) to determine our four-player teams for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Also on the line in the 12th edition of the Home Hardware Canada Cup will be berths for the winning men’s and women’s teams in the 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup, presented by Boyd Gaming, Jan. 14-17 in Las Vegas, as members of Team North America.

Former champions from the Winter Olympics, Tim Hortons Brier and Scotties Tournament of Hearts headline the field in Grande Prairie, which features:

— The defending champions of the Tim Hortons Brier (Calgary’s Pat Simmons) and Scotties Tournament of Hearts (Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones);

— The defending champions of the Home Hardware Canada Cup from last year’s event in Camrose, Alta. (Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen and Edmonton’s Val Sweeting);

Camrose Ab,December 7, 2014.Home Hardware Canada Cup Curling.Winnipeg skip Mike McEwen holds the trophy after guiding his team to a 8-3 victory over Brad Jacobs. michael burns photo

The 2014 champions of the Home Hardware Canada Cup, Mike McEwen and Val Sweeting, will be back this year in Grande Prairie to defend their titles. (Photos, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

— The next five highest qualified teams from the 2014-15 Canadian Team Ranking System. Because there was a virtual tie for the fifth and final men’s qualifying berth between Winnipeg’s Reid Carruthers and Toronto’s John Epping, both teams were granted entry.

Both reigning Olympic champions (Jones and Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.) are in the field, as are the current runaway leaders on the 2015-16 Canadian Team Ranking System — 2006 Olympic gold-medallist Brad Gushue of St. John’s and two-time Scotties Tournament of Hearts champion Rachel Homan of Ottawa.

It might come as a surprise, but Brad Gushue has yet to skip a team with a winning record at the Home Hardware Canada Cup, presented by Meridian Manufacturing. In 2012 Gushue made his Home Hardware Canada Cup debut with a 0-6 round robin record. In 2014 he fared better, but was still outside the playoff picture with a 3-3 record. This year Gushue and his St. John’s, N.L., team of third Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant, and lead Geoff Walker (who grew up in Beaverlodge, Alta., just outside of Grande Prairie!) have big expectations. They’ve been one of the best teams on the circuit so far this season and would like to see it translate to success at the Home Hardware Canada Cup.

Gushue’s path to the Home Hardware Canada Cup playoffs commences on Dec. 2 with a game against Kevin Koe of Alberta at 1:30 p.m. The Newfoundland team finishes Day 1 of the round robin against last season’s Team Manitoba – Reid Carruthers and his team from Winnipeg. Gushue, who had a 9-2 round robin record at the 2015 Tim Hortons Brier, defeated Carruthers 8-5 during last season’s men’s championship.

Fans at Revolution Place in Grande Prairie will be in store for a game between two of the best on the curling circuit during Day 2 action on Dec. 3. Team Gushue will take on defending Home Hardware Canada Cup champion Team Mike McEwen during the 1:30 p.m., draw. That evening fans will be treated to a 2015 Tim Hortons Brier semifinal re-match when Gushue plays Team Pat Simmons at 6:30 p.m. Simmons defeated Gushue 8-6 in that semifinal game on its way to winning the national men’s championship.

Gushue will continue the trend of playing teams he lost to during last season’s Brier on Dec. 4. Team Gushue is scheduled to play Team Steve Laycock of Saskatchewan during the afternoon draw at 1:30 p.m. Laycock was victorious against Gushue during the bronze medal game. At 6:30 p.m., Gushue and his team will be on the ice again, but this time against John Epping and his Toronto-based team.

Dec. 5 will be the final day of round robin play for the men’s teams. Team Gushue will face a challenge when they take on Brad Jacobs and his team from Northern Ontario. The teams split a pair of games at last season’s Brier. Gushue won 6-5 during the round robin, but Jacobs won the ever-so-important 1 vs. 2 Page Playoff game by a score of 7-5.

The men’s field is rounded out by two-time Tim Hortons Brier and 2010 world champion Kevin Koe of Calgary and 2015 Tim Hortons Brier bronze-medallist Steve Laycock of Saskatoon.

The other women’s teams are skipped by two-time Canadian and world junior women’s champion Kelsey Rocque of Edmonton, 2013 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings runner-up Sherry Middaugh of Coldwater, Ont., reigning Northern Ontario champion Tracy Fleury of Sudbury and 2014 Scotties bronze-medallist Kristy McDonald of Winnipeg.

TSN and RDS2 will provide complete coverage of the Home Hardware Canada Cup, from the opening draw on Wednesday (8:30 a.m. MT, 10:30 a.m. ET) through to and including the women’s (11 a.m. MT, 1 p.m. ET) and men’s (5 p.m. MT, 7 p.m. ET) finals on Sunday. Click here for the broadcast schedule.

The Home Hardware Canada Cup format calls for the men’s and women’s teams to play a three-day round robin, with the first-place teams advancing to their respective finals on Sunday, while the second- and third-place teams meet in semifinals on Saturday, after any required tiebreakers, to determine the other finalists. Click here for the full draw.

The total prize money is $70,000 each for men and women, with the winning teams receiving $14,000. The runners-up get $9,000 while the third-place finishers earn $5,000. Teams also receive cash for each round-robin win — $2,000 in women’s games and $1,500 for men’s games. The difference is due to the men having an additional round-robin game to play.

Since its inception in 2003, the Canada Cup has been won by some of the country’s most successful curling teams. On the men’s side, Edmonton’s Kevin Martin is the only four-time winner (2005, 2006, 2009, 2011), while Edmonton’s Randy Ferbey (2003, 2004, 2007) is a three-time champion. Koe (2008), Howard (2010) and Winnipeg’s Jeff Stoughton (2012) have also emerged victorious.

On the women’s side, Saskatoon’s Stefanie Lawton is a three-time winner (2008, 2010, 2012), while Jones (2007, 2011) and Shannon Kleibrink of Calgary (2005, 2009) are all two-time Cup winners. The other winners were Middaugh (2003), Colleen Jones of Halifax (2004) and Cathy King of Edmonton (2006).

The Canada Cup was staged in Kamloops, B.C., from its inception in 2003 through 2008. In 2009, it was played in Yorkton, Sask., while Medicine Hat, Alta., staged the 2010 renewal, followed by trips to Cranbrook, B.C., in 2011, Moose Jaw, Sask., in 2012 and Camrose last year.

The 2016 Home Hardware Canada Cup will take place in Brandon, Man.

Click to read at Curling Canada website.

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