Mike Merklinger pebbles the ice at the Archie Browning Centre. The arena has been buzzing with activity this week as crews get ready for the Canadian Junior Curling Championships

Mike Merklinger pebbles the ice at the Archie Browning Centre. The arena has been buzzing with activity this week as crews get ready for the Canadian Junior Curling Championships

Junior curling champs gives boost to local economy

Locals are gearing up to watch the best junior curlers in the country during the Canadian Junior Curling Championships in Esquimalt.

Locals are gearing up to watch the best junior curlers in the country during the 2017 Canadian Junior Curling Championships in Esquimalt this week.

As part of the championships, the top two male and female curlers under the age of 21 from 14 provinces (including Northern Ontario, the Northwest Territories Yukon and Nunavut) will compete, with the winners moving on to the World Junior Curling Championships in South Korea.

It’s an event that is expected to draw the eyes of many sports fanatics from around the world, and an opportunity event co-chair Keith Dagg was excited to be at the helm of, along with the help of some 170 volunteers.

“Victoria is a really good curling city. We’ve had lots of champions from here in the past,” Dagg said.

While there are no curlers from Greater Victoria who will be competing, many from the Victoria, Esquimalt, Juan de Fuca and Glen Meadows curling clubs will be watching from the stands.

Excitement has been building within local clubs and many athletes are looking forward to seeing the action on the ice.

“We’re very excited. It’s a great opportunity for our club to promote curling within our community and youth curling for this particular bonspiel,” said Ken Whitehead, president of the Esquimalt Curling Club.

“All these curlers that will be watching all started in the same capacity that we in Esquimalt and other youth programs within the region try to promote and that’s getting youth out to try curling and engage them and try to make sure they’re having fun.”

The event is expected to give a boost to the township’s local economy, with hundreds of people expected to flock to the region. The TSN-televised event will also showcase Vancouver Island as a place to visit, Dagg said.

“The great thing about having a junior championship here in Victoria is that it’s really good for the hotels and restaurants and everybody in January,” he said.

“Because it’s juniors, the parents and grandparents follow them, so the hotels in the Inner Harbour will be full. There’s going to be huge amounts of people staying here and watching the curling. It’s awesome for our tourism industry.”

The field will be split into two seven-team pools, with seeding based on win-loss records at the previous Canadian juniors in Ontario. Teams will play a round robin within their pool, leading to a championship beginning Wednesday, which will lead to playoffs on the weekend.

This will be the sixth time the province has hosted the combined men’s and women’s Canadian juniors and second time the capital region has hosted the Canadian juniors since 2004, when it was held at the Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre.

Victoria also hosted the World Men’s Curling Championship in 2005 and 2013, as well as the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the Canadian women’s curling championship, in 2009.

The Canadian Junior Curling Championships take place at the Archie Browning Centre Jan. 21 to 29. A full event package costs $160 or individual games cost $10 each. Tickets can be purchased at the centre, by visiting selectyourtickets.com or by calling 250-220-7777.