Rachel Homan delivers a stone during the 2018 Humpty's Champions Cup women's final in Calgary. (Anil Mungal)

Eight Ends: Guide to the Princess Auto Elite 10

September 25, 2018, 5:35 PM

CHATHAM-KENT, Ont. — A new season of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling is on the horizon with the Princess Auto Elite 10 set the start the 2018-19 campaign Wednesday at Thames Campus Arena.

Many teams retooled their rosters during the off-season as we begin a new quadrennial and the long road to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Some teams have already hit the ice on the World Curling Tour and are coming in hot while others have been waiting for this event to jump out of the gate.

This also marks a historic moment in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling as the addition of a women’s division to the Princess Auto Elite 10 means parity has been achieved. All seven events in the series now include both genders.

Here’s what you need to know before the opening draw kicks things off:

1st End: A brief history of the Elite 10

This one is actually brief because it’s only been around for a few years. The Princess Auto Elite 10 was created for the 2014-15 season and was the first new event in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling since the series started back in 2001-02.

Team McEwen won the inaugural Elite 10 in 2015 in Fort McMurray, Alta., and also captured title last season in their hometown of Winnipeg before they parted ways. Mike McEwen (Team Carruthers), B.J. Neufeld (Team Koe) and Denni Neufeld (Team Gunnlaugson) found new homes for this Olympic cycle and it’ll be interesting to see if any of them can show their new crews how it’s done here.

Team Gushue captured the crown in 2016 in Victoria, B.C., edging Team Carruthers in a draw-to-the-button shootout. While this year will be the first time there’s a women’s division, Team Homan join the field in 2016 to take on the men’s clubs in a “Battle of the Sexes.”

Team Morris took the title in 2017 in Port Hawkesbury, N.S., with fourth Jim Cotter firing a slash double on the last shot of the game to score the winning point over Team Jacobs.

2nd End: First women’s division

As you may have guessed from the previous end, the Princess Auto Elite 10 was a men’s invitational to start. The event used to be held in mid-March, which conflicted with the world women’s curling championship and finding a suitable week on the curling calendar can be tricky with so many tournaments on the go at all times.

The Princess Auto Elite 10 was shuffled to the start of the season for 2018-19 and now includes 10 of the top men’s teams and 10 of the top women’s teams from around the world.

3rd End: Match play scoring

The Princess Auto Elite 10 does not feature your typical scoring structure. Here, it’s match play and winning an end counts towards scoring. This is achieved via one of two ways: either counting two or more rocks (with the hammer) or stealing at least one rock (without the hammer).

It doesn’t matter how many rocks you have beyond those numbers to get the point. You could give up a deuce or an eight-ender in the first end and you’re only down by one point.

Scoring does not occur if the team with the hammer only gets a single or blanks the end. The hammer also switches possession to the other team for the next end. This is sometimes called a “push.”

Skins game follows a similar format although there is one key difference in match play: Points do not carry over here when there is a blank.

Games are played to eight ends (or less), however, if the score is tied after eight then a draw-to-the-button shootout will determine the winner (if not, we could potentially be there all night waiting until someone scored a deuce or stole one).

Checkmarks on the scoreboard indicate when a team has scored and the total shows who is in the lead and by how much. AS denotes the game is tied, i.e. all square. If the game goes the distance the final score will say how many ends the winning team was up by.

Games can end early as it’s mathematically possible to eliminate teams before eight ends (the trailing team is said to be “dormie” when they are on the brink of losing and must win all the remaining ends to stay in contention). The final score will show how many ends they were up by and how many ends weren’t played, e.g. 3 & 2 denotes the winning team was 3UP when they won after six ends.

Teams earn three points for a regulation win, two points for a shootout win and one point for a shootout loss.

4th End: Additional rules

You thought we were done there? Oh no, you’re way off as there are additional rules to keep track of for the Princess Auto Elite 10.

Rocks resting on the centre line cannot be ticked aside until the sixth rock of play.

Players cannot use stopwatches.

Instead of having a total thinking time over the course of the game, teams have four minutes per end. Once time’s up, the team cannot throw any more rocks for the remainder of the end. Clocks are reset to four minutes at the start of every end, so you cannot bank extra time from one end and carry it over into the next.

5th End: What’s at stake?

The winning teams each earn $24,000 from the $200,000 total purse plus berths to the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup in Saskatoon.

Yes, we’re already talking about late April but considering you have to win a high-profile tournament just to receive an invitation, capturing the Princess Auto Elite 10 is key. It’s better to be able to book your spot early and not have to be worrying about serious FOMO vibes once we’re closer to the date.

Points are also on the line for the Pinty’s Cup, which is awarded to the season champions following the conclusion of the Players’ Championship. Previously known as the Bonus Cup, the winning teams cash in an additional $75,000.

6th End: Men’s division preview

Home province heroes Team Epping of Toronto have already been heating up on tour with a semifinal result at the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard and a title win at the AMJ Campbell Shorty Jenkins Classic. The new front-end pair of second Brent Laing and lead Craig Savill have wasted no time gelling together again, they won 12 Grand Slams during their days on Team Howard, fitting like a comfortable Goldline shoe.

Calgary’s Team Koe sports two new players too (Neufeld at third and Colton Flasch at second) and also enters with a title belt acquired capturing the first Curling World Cup two weeks ago.

Winnipeg’s Team Carruthers had a bit of a rough start at the Shorty Jenkins Classic falling in the tiebreakers but it’ll be intriguing to see how they perform here as the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling always seems to bring out the best in McEwen, who is a seven-time title winner in the series. McEwen throws fourth with skip Reid Carruthers sliding over to third in the order but still calling the game.

Back-to-back Brier champions Team Gushue from St. John’s, N.L., will make their season debut here but they too always seem to rise to the occasion in the GSOC winning nine titles during the previous quadrennial. They started last season going undefeated through the Tour Challenge Tier 1 and wrapped up the quadrennial in the winner’s circle at the Humpty’s Champions Cup to become the first team to win all seven titles in the series.

7th End: Women’s division preview

Ottawa’s Team Homan finished off last season winning the Humpty’s Champions Cup, can they pick up where they left off? They’ve played one tournament so far this season, the Curling World Cup, and took down that field. Team Homan is also the only one on the women’s side who has competitive match play experience although a few have played in the similar skins format.

Winnipeg’s Team Jones has won just about everything in the sport so you can bet when a new event like this one comes along they’ll be fired up to add it to the trophy case. Reminder: Jocelyn Peterman, formerly with Team Carey, is now in at second with Jill Officer stepping back.

Get used to the new looks for Winnipeg’s Team Fleury, Edmonton’s Team Walker and Team Carey. Tracy Fleury — who still calls Sudbury, Ont., home — has linked up with Kerri Einarson’s former teammates Selena Njegovan (nee Kaatz), Liz Fyfe and Kristin MacCuish. Laura Walker (nee Crocker) is now playing with the veteran force of Cathy Overton-Clapham, Lori Olson-Johns and Laine Peters. Chelsea Carey has added Sarah Wilkes, Dana Ferguson and Rachel Brown although Heather Rogers is in at lead this week for Brown, who is expecting a baby.

Alina Paetz and Silvana Tirinzoni have taken the Team Carruthers route. Tirinzoni now throws third while skipping with former rival Paetz joining at fourth. Could the Swiss superteam be holding the winning formula?

8th End: How to watch the Princess Auto Elite 10 — Tickets & TV

Full event passes, weekend passes and single draw tickets are available for the Princess Auto Elite 10 but they’re going fast. Don’t delay and purchase your tickets today at ckelite10.goigniter.com.

For the full draw schedule of round-robin matches, click here.

Sportsnet will have you covered if you can’t make it to St. Clair Campus Arena beginning Thursday at Noon ET. Online streaming for broadcast draws is also available via Sportsnet NOW (Canada) and Yare (international).

Here is the full broadcast schedule:

Draw Eastern Time Pacific Time Watch
Thursday, Sept. 27
Round Robin 12:00 p.m. 9:00 a.m. Sportsnet
Round Robin 4:00 p.m. 1:00 p.m. Sportsnet
Round Robin 8:00 p.m. 5:00 p.m. Sportsnet
Friday, Sept. 28
Round Robin 12:00 p.m. 9:00 a.m. Sportsnet
Round Robin 4:00 p.m. 1:00 p.m. Sportsnet
Round Robin 8:00 p.m. 5:00 p.m. Sportsnet One
Saturday, Sept. 29
Women’s Quarterfinals 12:00 p.m. 9:00 a.m. Sportsnet
Men’s Quarterfinals 4:00 p.m. 1:00 p.m. Sportsnet
Men’s & Women’s Semifinals 8:00 p.m. 5:00 p.m. Sportsnet 360
Sunday, Sept. 30
Women’s Final 12:00 p.m. 9:00 a.m. Sportsnet
Men’s Final 4:00 p.m. 1:00 p.m. Sportsnet One
Note: Broadcast schedule subject to change.