Kevin Koe shoots a stone during the 2018 Tour Challenge in Thunder Bay, Ont. (Anil Mungal)

Eight Ends: Ultimate guide to 2019 Players’ Championship

April 8, 2019, 2:55 PM

TORONTO — The Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling returns to wrap up the 2018-19 campaign with its busiest month of the season.

The 27th running of the prestigious Players’ Championship gets underway Tuesday evening at Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre right in the heart of downtown Toronto. Broadcast coverage begins Thursday at Noon ET on Sportsnet.

Featuring 12 of the top men’s teams and 12 of the top women’s teams based on the World Curling Tour’s year-to-date standings, the Players’ Championship is arguably the toughest title to win on tour with simply the best-of-the-best hitting the ice and no easy games on the schedule.

Here is a rundown of what you need to know before the opening draw.

1st End: A brief history of the Players’ Championship

The Players’ Championship actually predates the formation of the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling and has been held every season on tour since 1993. It’s one of the four majors in the series alongside the Canadian Beef Masters, Boost National and Meridian Canadian Open.

Legendary skip Kevin Martin has won a record eight Players’ Championship men’s titles with his last coming in 2014 during his “swan song” event before retiring. Jennifer Jones is the record-holder for the women’s division with six Players’ Championship titles to her name.

This will be the fifth consecutive season and sixth time in seven years the event has been held at Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre. Kevin Koe is the defending men’s champion although lead Ben Hebert is the only other member from the winning roster who’s still in the lineup following off-season changes.

Jamie Sinclair’s team won the women’s title last season, becoming the first American-based club to win a championship in the series, but missed the cut to qualify this year and has been left on the outside looking in.

2nd End: What’s at stake?

The Players’ Championship features a $300,000 combined purse — the largest among the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling majors — split equally between the men’s and women’s divisions.

Winners of the Players’ Championship receive the lion’s share earning $30,000 each.

Also on the line is the Pinty’s Cup, which is awarded to the overall season champions in the series. The top four teams in the men’s and women’s divisions bank bonus payouts with the winners cashing $75,000. That’s right: If a team is able to win both the Players’ Championship and Pinty’s Cup they’ll collect a cool six-figure windfall.

3rd End: When we last left our heroes

Did you miss us? It has been a while since we last chilled for January’s Meridian Canadian Open in North Battleford, Sask.

Brendan Bottcher and his Edmonton-based team ran right through the triple knockout stage and the playoffs posting a perfect 6-0 win-loss record to capture their first career Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title. Bottcher defeated Toronto’s Team John Epping 6-3 in the men’s final.

Ottawa’s Team Rachel Homan continued its sensational Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season winning the Meridian Canadian Open women’s title. Homan also went undefeated at 6-0 and topped things off with a 4-3 victory over Team Silvana Tirinzoni of Switzerland.

Homan earned her record 10th career Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling women’s championship and also tied her own mark set in 2015 of winning three consecutive women’s titles in the series.

4th End: Spring cleaning

The tail-end of the season always sees some roster changes for next year. Although we haven’t seen the free-agent frenzy like we did after the conclusion of the Olympic cycle, there have still been a handful of prominent changes occur.

These moves will not take effect until the fall, so the Players’ Championship and/or Humpty’s Champions Cup will be your last chance to see some of these teams with their current configurations.

Team Jacobs

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Brad
Jacobs
Marc
Kennedy
E.J.
Harnden
Ryan
Harnden

Former Team Koe third Kennedy returns to the ice after taking a step back this season to replace Ryan Fry. The 12-time GSOC title winner Kennedy filled in for Fry earlier this season at the Canada Cup and helped Team Jacobs win that title.

Team Epping

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John
Epping
Ryan
Fry
Mat
Camm
Brent
Laing

Fry will join longtime pal Epping at third. That requires a lineup shuffle as Camm moves over to second and Laing to lead as Craig Savill is parting ways with the club.

Team Walker

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Laura
Walker
Kate
Cameron
Taylor
McDonald
Nadine
Scotland

Walker will skip a new squad adding Kate Cameron and Taylor McDonald (formerly with Team Flaxey) and former skip Scotland. Walker and McDonald also previously played together on Teams Carey and Rocque.

Team K. Jones

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Kaitlyn
Jones
Alli
Flaxey
Clancy
Grandy
Morgan
Lavell

Flaxey is rejoining Grandy and Lavell but will shuffle the lineup to bring in former world junior champion Jones, who is graduating to the women’s tour and returning to Ontario.

Team Cannon

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Theresa
Cannon
Karen
Klein
Vanessa
Foster
Raunora
Westcott

Skip Darcy Robertson is moving on but her former teammates opted to stick together with Cannon sliding up from lead. Westcott played with Team Flaxey this season.

5th End: Men’s Division preview

The Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling has had a different men’s winner at every event this season so far. Should that trend continue, look no further than last year’s finalists Team Koe and Sweden’s Team Niklas Edin, who also happened to meet in the world men’s curling championship final just this past Sunday. Edin edged out Koe for the gold medal thanks to steals in the eighth and ninth ends for the 7-2 victory.

Team Bottcher could continue its strong play with the squad not only entering off of winning its first Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling title but also a strong showing at the Tim Hortons Brier as the wild card entry picking up another silver medal.

The Pinty’s Cup race in the men’s division will surely come down to the wire. Team Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., is in the lead at 34 points but holds a slim three-point advantage over second-place Koe (31) with Epping (30) and Jacobs (29) not that far behind either. Roughly double points are available at the Players’ Championship, so we can’t count anyone out until the end.

6th End: Women’s Division preview

Tirinzoni and Team Anna Hasselborg of Sweden both have had solid seasons and met in our season opener for the Princess Auto Elite 10 women’s title back in September. Hasselborg clipped Tirinzoni for the championship although the tables were turned last month at the worlds with Tirinzoni taking the gold medal for Switzerland.

Team Homan aims for an unprecedented fourth consecutive Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling women’s title plus its first Players’ Championship. Homan also has the Pinty’s Cup pretty much on lockdown at 52 points and a gigantic 22-point advantage over Hasselborg and Tirinzoni (both tied for second at 30).

One of the reasons why Homan hasn’t claimed this one yet is Jones, who not won her sixth Players’ Championship in 2017 but has reached the final the past three times in Toronto.

7th End: Tickets

The Players’ Championship is one event you don’t want to miss and seeing it live at Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre, formerly known as Maple Leaf Gardens, takes the experience to the next level inside the historic venue.

Full-event and weekend passes plus single-draw tickets are available at the box office (50 Carlton St.), by phone at 1-844-389-4754 or click here to purchase online.

8th End: Broadcast schedule

If you can’t make it to Toronto, live broadcast coverage begins Thursday at Noon ET on Sportsnet with online streaming available at Sportsnet NOW (Canada) and Yare (international).

Draw Eastern Time Pacific Time Watch
Thursday, April 11
Round Robin
Draw 7
12:00 p.m. 9:00 a.m. Sportsnet
Sportsnet NOW
Round Robin
Draw 8
4:00 p.m. 1:00 p.m. Sportsnet ONE
Sportsnet NOW
Round Robin
Draw 9
8:00 p.m. 5:00 p.m. Sportsnet NOW
Friday, April 12
Round Robin
Draw 9 (encore)
9:30 a.m. 6:30 a.m. Sportsnet ONE
Sportsnet NOW
Round Robin
Draw 11
12:00 p.m. 9:00 a.m. Sportsnet
Sportsnet NOW
Round Robin
Draw 12
4:00 p.m. 1:00 p.m. Sportsnet ONE
Sportsnet NOW
Round Robin
Draw 13
8:00 p.m. 5:00 p.m. Sportsnet NOW
Saturday, April 13
Round Robin
Draw 13 (encore)
9:30 a.m. 6:30 a.m. Sportsnet ONE
Sportsnet NOW
Women’s
Quarterfinals
12:00 p.m. 9:00 a.m. Sportsnet ONE
Sportsnet NOW
CBC
Men’s
Quarterfinals
4:00 p.m. 1:00 p.m. Sportsnet NOW
Men’s & Women’s
Semifinals
8:00 p.m. 5:00 p.m. Sportsnet 360
Sportsnet NOW
Sunday, April 14
Men’s & Women’s
Semifinals (encore)
9:30 a.m. 6:30 a.m. Sportsnet ONE
Sportsnet NOW
Men’s
Final
12:00 p.m. 9:00 a.m. Sportsnet 360
Sportsnet NOW
Women’s
Final
4:00 p.m. 1:00 p.m. Sportsnet 360
Sportsnet NOW
Men’s
Final (encore)
7:30 p.m. 4:30 p.m. Sportsnet ONE
Sportsnet NOW
Note: Broadcast schedule subject to change. Keep it here for updates.
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