The biggest curling competition in the Lower Mainland — save for the 2010 Olympic Games — is just six weeks away and will be contested at the Langley Events Centre.
“Prior to the Olympics, the last big event like this was 1997,” explained Neil Houston, the event manager for the 2012 World Financial Group Continental Cup.
He was referring to the 1997 Scott Tournament of Hearts, the Canadian women’s national championships, which was played in Vancouver.
The Continental Cup will take place Jan. 12 to 15 at the LEC.
It features the world’s top curlers in a Ryder Cup-style format.
Six teams from North America — four Canadian and two American — will play against six from the rest of the world.
The two sides play a variety of disciplines — regular team matches, mixed doubles, singles, mixed skins and skins games — for points with the first side to reach 200 points declared the winner.
The Langley competition will be the eighth in the Continental Cup’s history, with North America holding a 4-3 advantage.
Houston worked for VANOC for the 2010 Games and then returned to his previous job with the Canadian Curling Association.
He has been working on the competition since November 2010, when Langley was announced as the host.
“Right now it is just getting down to the details, making sure everything is in place,” Houston said.
Houston recently secured the bands who will play at the Patch, which is housed adjacent to the arena in the Langley Events Centre. The Patch has capacity of 1,100 and promises to feature the most colourful and passionate curling fans.
March Hare will play Jan. 11, the Time Benders take the stage on Jan. 12 and The Chevelles will rock the Patch on Jan. 13 and 14.
“They are all great dance bands; people always enjoy them,” said Houston, noting he had previously used them in Regina for the men’s world championships.
“People may have forgotten there is an entertainment element in addition to the curling,” he said.
Two hundred and seventy-five volunteers will help the tournament in its day-to-day operations.
Tickets are still available for the competition.
The field has been set for the Continental Cup.
Competing for Team North America are Team Holland, Team Stoughton, Team Fenson, Team Howard,Team Lawton and Team Lank.
That group includes the 2011 Scotties champions as the top women’s team in Canada (Regina’s Team Holland led by skip Amber Holland) and the 2011 world men’s champions, Winnipeg’s Team Stoughton, skipped by Jeff Stoughton.
Team Fenson, skipped by Pete Fenson, are the U.S. men’s champions and won bronze at the 2006 Olympics.
And the Lank rink is skipped by Patti Lank, one of the most successful competitors in U.S. curling history. She will be making her third appeareance at the Continental Cup.
Team World is made up of two Scottish and two Swedish teams and one each from Norway and China.
Sweden’s Team Norberg is skipped by Anette Norberg, the two-time defending Olympic women’s champion, having captured gold at both the 2006 Games in Turin and 2010 in Vancouver.
The other Swedish entry, Team Edin, skipped by Niklas Edin, is making their second straight appearance at the Continental Cup. They also won bronze at the 2011 world men’s championship after having beaten their soon-to-be teammates, Norway’s Team Ulsrud, skipped by Thomas Ulsrud.
Scotland’s Team Muirhead is led by Eve Muirhead, who has the distinction of being the first skip to represent her country in both the senior and junior world championships in the same year. She also won silver at the 2010 women’s curling championships and is a four-time world junior champion.
The other rinks are China’s Team Wang and Norway’s Team Brewster.
For more on the teams, visit the championship’s website.