By Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press on October 16, 2020.
Braeden Moskowy has a new roommate in skip Matt Dunstone thanks to provincial rules that have limited the Saskatchewan curling team’s options this season.
Dunstone, who normally lives in Kamloops, B.C., arrived in Regina this week to begin preparations for a campaign loaded with question marks.
Saskatchewan Health Authority guidelines say that interprovincial travel is not permitted for competition at this time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That has forced Team Dunstone and other elite Saskatchewan teams to focus on in-province events until changes are made.
“I’m definitely one of those people still scratching my head about it,” Dunstone said Friday.
The Regina-based rink originally planned to include fall bonspiels in Red Deer, Alta., and Penticton, B.C., on their schedule but they are unable to confirm their participation.
Under current guidelines, the winners of Saskatchewan’s provincial playdowns wouldn’t be able to compete at national championships like the Scotties Tournament of Hearts or Tim Hortons Brier.
“To me, it’s an absolutely unacceptable consequence that Saskatchewan would not be represented at a national championship,” said Ashley Howard, the executive director of Saskatchewan’s curling association. “So we’ll be doing everything we can to make sure that our teams can go to those events if we’re able to host those events (in Canada) this year.”
Dunstone arranged a new five-team event for this weekend in Regina and his team is planning to play Saskatchewan tour events starting next weekend.
Although the purses aren’t as strong, it will at least allow the team to get some quality games in against good competition.
After a third-place finish at the Brier, Dunstone’s team was looking for big things this season with just over a year out until the Olympic Trials. However, matchups against the likes of Kevin Koe, Brendan Bottcher and others will have to wait.
“You’ve got to play the best and you’ve got to beat the best to be the best,” said Moskowy. “And that’s the whole goal of our team. And obviously with the restrictions that are in place right now, it definitely makes it challenging to get that competition in and stay sharp.”
Four Grand Slams were cancelled this season and the top events in early 2021 are on uncertain footing. Teams have resumed play across the country in recent weeks but primarily on a regional basis due to various provincial and territorial restrictions and travel concerns.
Howard said that provincial sport guidelines differ from general travel, which is not recommended but still possible.
“How it was explained to me was I could go and have a meeting with the executive director of Curling Alberta in Edmonton,” she said. “That would be not recommended, but allowed.
“If I stop to throw rocks at the Saville Centre on my way home, that activity was prohibited.”
In addition to travel plans being affected, teams like Dunstone’s side or the rink skipped by Robyn Silvernagle have additional hurdles to clear since some players are imports or use birthright status to play in Saskatchewan.
“It’s devastating, it was incredibly difficult to even relay the message to the teams (last week),” Howard said. “Because I’m a competitive curler myself, I know how disruptive it is to their season. So that was definitely a very difficult conversation.
“We’ve continued to work with each individual in the situation and try and find ways for them to work around it and work within the guidelines.”
Moskowy said the situation has left him frustrated.
“We can go golf with Koe’s team in Alberta, we can go houseboating with a bunch of other teams in B.C., but we can’t go play a spiel?” he said. “I feel like it doesn’t really add up to me.”
A voicemail left with the Saskatchewan Health Authority wasn’t immediately returned.
“By the letter of the law, we’re not permitted to travel for sport,” Howard said. “We are though preparing documentation and an approach to explain the safety protocols that we would be willing to go through to get our athletes out to a championship or back in.
“I’m hopeful and I would say cautiously optimistic that we can make that pitch to the ministry of health. And we can also ensure public safety when we do that. So it’s kind of in the queue, so to speak, it’s something we’re working on.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 16, 2020.
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