Pinty's Grand Slam of Curling: Mid-Season Summary and Boost National Tournament Insights with Jon Brazeau

Work, social events, holidays; fall is a busy season for everyone. Next thing you know, it’s already December and the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling Boost National tournament is happening! If you haven’t been following GSOC, or are looking for a refresher ahead of Boost, this blog post has you covered.

With the help of Sportsnet writer and GSOC social media guru Jon Brazeau, we’re giving you a recap of the season so far, and offering an insider’s look at the action you can expect from Boost National - which kicks off TODAY!

For those who aren’t familiar with GSOC, can you tell us a little bit more about the boost national tournament?

In terms of format, rules and play, what makes it different from other GSOC tournaments? The Boost National features fifteen of the best men’s teams and fifteen of the best women’s teams from around the world. Both men and women divisions are split into three pools of five teams for round-robin play, with the top eight overall qualifying for the playoffs. The Boost National is one of the four original events, or majors, in the GSOC series - dating back to the inaugural 2001-02 season.

Can you give us a rundown on some teams who have won the national in previous years?

Glenn Howard and Kevin Martin have each won the Boost National men’s title four times as skips, with Wayne Middaugh winning twice as a skip and twice while playing third for Howard. Bruce Mouat is the defending men’s champion. At age 23, Mouat made history last year becoming the youngest men’s skip to win a title in the series.

A women’s division was added to the event in 2015, with Rachel Homan winning the inaugural title. Kerri Einarson captured her first top-tier Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title at the Boost National the following year while Jennifer Jones, who holds a record nine women’s titles, is the defending champion.

What will the atmosphere be like at National?

It’s going to be electric at Conception Bay South Arena as anticipation has been building since the event was announced. Full-event passes went on sale in the spring and sold out within days! This will be one hot ticket you don’t want to miss. It’s halfway through the 2018-19 GSOC season.

Which teams have been impressive so far? Who has fallen short of general expectations/predictions? Have there been any big surprises, in terms of certain teams’ performances or skill sets?

Anna Hasselborg kicked off the season with a bang, claiming her first career Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title by taking the first-ever Princess Auto Elite 10 women’s championship. Hasselborg made it two in a row by also snatching the Canadian Beef Masters from Homan in the final. With Hasselborg absent for the Tour Challenge, it was an opportunity for Homan to strike as she swept through the field of that event finishing with an undefeated 7-0 record.

The men’s field has seen three different winners. Brad Gushue, who closed out last season winning the Humpty’s Champions Cup, picked up where he left off to earn the Princess Auto Elite 10 and his eleventh championship in the series. Two new-look squads met in the final of the Canadian Beef Masters, with John Epping edging Kevin Koe for the prize. Brad Jacobs went winless through the Canadian Beef Masters but managed to turn things around to secure the Tour Challenge.

Can you tell us one big moment from each tournament that has happened so far this season?

Princess Auto Elite 10: This was the first time a women’s division was added to the event, which brought parity to the series. Now all seven events feature men’s and women’s divisions with equal prize money.

Canadian Beef Masters: World junior champion Kaitlyn Jones and her Halifax-based team received the sponsor’s exemption to compete in the Truro, N.S., tournament. Jones exceeded expectations by qualifying for the playoffs with upset wins over the likes of Homan, Einarson and Silvana Tirinzoni. The young team proved they could hang with the world’s best and we’ll likely see them again sooner than later.

Tour Challenge: This one goes out to the curling fans of Thunder Bay, Ont., who packed the house from the opening draw all the way through to the championship-winning shots. While Thunder Bay’s own Krista McCarville received the loudest ovations — and some moose calls — the fans cheered on good shots by all. The crowd still had some Northern Ontario curlers to cheer for after McCarville was eliminated with Jacobs, from Sault Ste. Marie, delighting the crowd with his title victory and while Tracy Fleury now skips a team in Manitoba, she still calls Sudbury home and thrilled to the final against Homan.

What have been the most memorable shots so far this season?

Princess Auto Elite 10: Although it was Team Hasselborg’s first time playing in the match-play event, you wouldn’t have guessed that as they took to the format with ease. Here is a compilation of their best shots from the final as they powered their way past Team Tirinzoni.

 

Masters: Koe was running out of time and on the verge of elimination when he pulled off this double takeout to score three and clip Mouat for a spot in the men’s final.

 

Tour Challenge: Team Homan third Emma Miskew performed a little house cleaning with this shot in the extra end of the semifinals against Nina Roth. Miskew peeled out the top rock that redirected in and took out two more along with it.

 

Which teams are you, personally, most excited to watch during the Nationals?

All eyes will be on Team Gushue for the Boost National. The St. John’s crew are playing in their own backyard but have thrived under the spotlight in recent years. Gushue was a finalist at the 2015 Tour Challenge down the road in Paradise, N.L., and captured his first Brier championship on home ice in 2017.

Team Hasselborg will be the ones to watch in the women’s division having already won two Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling titles this season. Hasselborg missed the Tour Challenge to prepare for the European Championships and it worked out as she claimed that title for the first time.

Are there any new faces for the Nationals that we haven’t seen this season?

Kirk Muyres topped Scott McDonald for the Tour Challenge Tier 2 men’s title to clinch a spot for the upcoming Meridian Canadian Open. However, both have earned early promotions to the elite ranks here at the Boost National thanks to stellar seasons. On the women’s side, Sayaka Yoshimura and Jacqueline Harrison also competed in the Tour Challenge Tier 2 but scored enough points elsewhere to move up into this event.

Based on the season so far, who do you think is going to make it to the finals?

Gushue is always a favourite on the men’s side and you can bet he’s fired up to perform well in front of his family, friends and fans. Koe has clinched playoff spots at all three Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling tournaments so far and should be considered another contender.

We might be on another collision course between Hasselborg and Homan in the women’s division. The two already met in the Canadian Beef Masters final where Homan let Hasselborg off the hook and Hasselborg made Homan pay delivering a final shot to score three points to win the title.

Any final thoughts, Jon?

Fans should expect a one-of-a-kind event that they don’t want to miss a moment of! These are the best curling teams in the world and you’re sure to see amazing shots and exciting action all week long.

Thanks for chatting with us, Jon!

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