Sports Ratings tumble for Canadian women's curling final despite repeat matchup from 2020
Tournament of Hearts first test of Curling Canada's Calgary bubble
CALGARY — Kerri Einarson will miss having her twin daughters ask her when can they go to the hotel pool. The skip of the reigning Canadian women's curling champions says those moments are mental breaks from the intensity of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts. The 2021 Tournament of Hearts opening Friday starts a run of four spectator-free Curling Canada events in Calgary in a controlled environment to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Einarson's daughters won't wait by the rink boards at the home end of the ice to celebrate or commiserate as they did on championship weekend in Moose Jaw, Sask., last year. "They're my support team," Einarson said.
Ratings for the Canadian women's curling final tumbled significantly compared to the 2020 final when the same teams met for the championship.
Defending champion Kerri Einarson defeated Ontario's Rachel Homan 9-7 in Calgary last Sunday night in a final that drew an average audience of 682,000 viewers, a TSN spokesman said in an email.
That was down about 30 per cent from the average audience of 979,000 viewers who watched last year's final in Moose Jaw, Sask., according to Numeris data.
Both finals were close matchups that were decided late in the game. Einarson made a game-winning draw in an extra end last year to win her first Scotties Tournament of Hearts title.
Representation on world stage not guaranteed for Hearts winner this year
One of the main carrots for the winning team at the Canadian women's curling championship is not guaranteed this year. Normally the Scotties Tournament of Hearts champion represents Canada on the world stage later in the season. But that tradition may be skipped in 2021 given the recent cancellation of the world playdowns, originally planned for late March in Switzerland. In its Hearts media guide, Curling Canada said the national champions would represent Canada if the world championship was rescheduled for this season. But that appears to be a long shot.
Homan forced a 10th end this year by stealing a pair in the ninth. Her final shot was a freeze attempt that slid too far, giving Einarson a two-point victory.
The event was held in a spectator-free environment at the Markin MacPhail Centre due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Overall, the 10-day competition was watched by more than 4.7 million Canadians, according to TSN. The event garnered record engagement on TSN’s digital platforms, with over two million video starts and nearly three million page views, the network said.
Ratings for the opening weekend of the Hearts were down about 17 per cent from the same time period last year. Other sports have experienced similar ratings declines after pausing due to the pandemic.
The Canadian men's curling championship will be the second of six events to be held in a so-called bubble setting at the Canada Olympic Park venue.
Ratings down 17 per cent on opening weekend of Canadian women's curling championship
The return of elite domestic curling competition after a nearly 12-month absence saw a significant drop in Canadian viewership compared to last year, according to Numeris data. Ratings for the opening weekend of the Canadian women's curling championship in Calgary were down 17 per cent from the same time period in the 2020 competition. An average audience of 331,000 viewers tuned in on the opening weekend of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, a TSN spokesman said in an email. That compared to an average audience of 398,000 viewers who watched the opening weekend of last year's Hearts in Moose Jaw, Sask.
The March 5-14 Tim Hortons Brier will be followed by the March 18-25 Canadian mixed doubles championship, the April 2-11 world men's playdowns, the April 14-18 Champions Cup and the April 20-25 Players' Championship.
Einarson will represent Canada if the world women's curling championship is rescheduled this season.
The World Curling Federation recently cancelled the March 19-28 event in Schaffhausen, Switzerland. The local health authority did not provide permission due to the pandemic and concerns around the spread of new variants, the WCF said.
A rescheduled world championship hasn't been ruled out for this season but the WCF has suggested the creation of an alternate event in early fall is more likely.
The 2021 world championship was to be the main qualifier for the Beijing Winter Olympics.
Einarson didn't get a chance to represent Canada after the 2020 worlds in Prince George, B.C., were cancelled last March due to the pandemic.
If a world championship/alternate event is played next season, the Hearts champion would be "factored into Canada's efforts to qualify a four-player women's team for the Beijing Games,'' Curling Canada said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021.
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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press
Iced Out: Several teams miss out on television time at curling championships .
With no family or friends allowed in the spectator-free arena, Northwest Territories skip Greg Skauge was hoping to get some TV time at the Canadian men's curling championship so his supporters back home could watch his team in action. They had to settle for only occasional highlight snippets during the preliminary round of competition. Skauge, who was skipping at a Tim Hortons Brier for the first time, was one of five teams in the 18-team event that were not given feature game TV treatment by rightsholder TSN. "We have lots of fans and friends back home that were watching," Skauge said. "It would have been real nice if they could have seen us play a game down here.