“It definitely came as a surprise,” admitted Patsy Bailey, who is co-chairing the provincial championships along with Barry Sonen. “It was pretty exciting to get the phone call, but at the time I wasn’t really sure if it was something we could do.” CURLSASK needed to find a new site for the 2014 championship event after Moose Jaw, which had originally been slated to host the Tankard, pulled out of its commitment. Moose Jaw officials were worried about burning out their volunteer and sponsorship base, which had just completed another big project after hosting a successful Canada Cup Nov. 28 to Dec. 2 in 2012. Moose Jaw’s departure provided an opening for Shaunavon, but the proposal first had to be approved during an early morning meeting of town officials, local volunteers and the Shaunavon Wellness and Leisure Committee. “I think everyone was excited about hosting the Tankard,” said Bailey. “But before we could make the commitment, we had to make sure that we had the support to make it happen. Once we had that confirmed, we just sort of jumped in feet-first.” Bailey said Shaunavon could have passed on CURLSASK’s request and taken their chances on landing a future provincial men’s championship instead. “We had been told that if we weren’t able to host this year that maybe we could get it again in 2016,” said Bailey. “But there was no guarantee that would happen, and this was just too good an opportunity to pass up.” “To be honest, I’m not sure I ever thought I would see the day when Shaunavon would get a chance to host the Tankard,” said Sonen, one of the region’s strongest competitive curlers and a long-time volunteer who also spent a number of years as the local curling rink manager and ice-maker. “Of course, I think having the Crescent Point Wickenheiser Centre was one of the reasons that CURLSASK approached us. And we can’t wait to showcase our wonderful facility to the province.” CURLSASK tries to find arena settings for the provincial men’s and women’s championships because they provide an excellent venue for the fans and curlers. It also allows the winning teams a chance to prepare for the same kind of conditions they’ll face at the national championships. The recently built Wickenheiser Center definitely fits the kind of multi-use recreation complex CURLSASK is looking for. The facility includes a community centre, four sheets of curling ice, an NHL-sized surface for hockey and seating for 1,000 people. Shaunavon’s history of hosting big-time provincial curling events also played a role in bringing the Tankard to the Southwest. The community has a long history of hosting provincial championships. Most famously, perhaps, Shaunavon hosted the Scotties provincial women’s championship in 1993, won by future world and Olympic champion Sandra Schmirler. In fact, it was at Shaunavon that Schmirler – then Sandra Peterson – first started her run of national and international victories. The legendary curler often admitted a fondness for Shaunavon and she enjoyed a number of successful visits to the community, including several winning appearances at the southern playdowns. Shaunavon also hosted the southern men’s playdowns in 1997, the 2001 provincial mixed championships, and the 2010 senior men’s provincial championships, as well as numerous other high-level events. More recently, however, Shaunavon’s involvement in big-time events had been somewhat limited. Local officials had reduced the community’s profile at the provincial level as things started to wind down at the Jubilee Arena. The old rink was ultimately demolished almost four years ago after the construction of the CPWC. The new facility opened in 2011, although local organizers still wanted a full season under their belts before bidding on any important CURLSASK event. The local club finally got back into the mix last year as it hosted the provincial juvenile curling championships. “I think having all that previous experience certainly helped our cause,” said Bailey. “I think it’s a real compliment to our local club that CURLSASK even approached us about hosting the provincial championships. Obviously they had a lot of confidence in us to do a good job.” “It was a great honor to be asked and considered by the CURLSASK for such a prestigious event,” added Sonen. “We were humbled that they have recognized our hard work and success over the years in other events that we’ve hosted.” The Tankard and Scotties (Women’s Provincials) are both set up as fundraisers for local clubs, who keep the profits left over after paying for facility rental, icemakers and other costs.