With curling season paused, Koe grateful for early bonspiels

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Kevin Koe can’t say for sure what the rest of the curling season will look like.

Curling Canada has announced it will be forging ahead with the Tim Hortons Brier, Scotties Tournament of Hearts and Canadian Mixed Doubles championships using a bubble format in Calgary in the early months of 2021, but there’s a lot that has to happen before those events take place.

There are provincial playdowns, for example. Nobody seems to know how those are going to be played in Alberta, where the province is only a couple of days into far-reaching restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19 and has shut down curling rinks.

Koe doesn’t know how that will work out any more than the rest of us do.

Whatever happens, he’s grateful that his foursome managed to squeeze in four bonspiels before the lockdown.

“Obviously, the world is a different place than it is in a normal year, but we were able to get in four events, which is probably more than other teams,” Koe said. “We did pretty well in those events. We only lost four games, but unfortunately they all came in the playoffs.

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“I don’t know exactly what we got for games, but it was in the low 20s and at least we have a start for our new team and it looked pretty good. I’m encouraged. We don’t know when we’ll get back at it, but I’m definitely happy we got those games in, for sure.”

With the addition of two-time Olympic gold medallist John Morris at second to the existing roster of Koe at skip, B.J. Neufeld at third and Ben Hebert at lead this year, the Calgary-based team will be a favourite in pretty much any event it competes in this season.

The 2022 Olympics are very much on their minds, and that means this winter was always going to be hugely important to developing chemistry and understanding on the ice – as well as just straight up winning.

That meant they needed to get in as many games as possible, although there needed to be a balance between that and staying safe in the midst of a pandemic.

They managed to reach a solution through a partnership with CanaDream RV Sales & Rentals, which provided them with a winter-ready RV to get to and from events and serve as a “personal locker room” between games, during a time when hanging out in a crowd next to the ice isn’t a great idea.

Team Koe was able to travel to four regional events in Banff, Airdrie, Okotoks and Penticton, B.C.

“Everything’s different (in 2020), there’s no locker rooms and you’re trying to stay with your team. It was super slick,” Koe said. “It was great. It was super handy just to obviously be able to go to events and just hang out in between games and change in.

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“We also hired a company out of Regina that followed us and webcasted all our games, so (the RV) turned into one of our guys’ homes. He slept in it, but it was super slick with all the bells and whistle and it made all our events a lot easier, that’s for sure.”

Now, though, provincially mandated COVID-19 restrictions have put the season on hold. Uncertainty rules the day, and it’s unclear when teams like Koe’s foursome will be able to return to the ice.

There’s still hope for playdowns, but there are no guarantees.

“I’m thinking it’s going to be tough,” Koe said. “It’s one thing for these bigger sports organizations to run a bubble and do testing. There’s a lot of costs that come with that and it’s pretty tough to do at a provincial level. I’m not sure what our provincial rules will look like for January, but our provincials are scheduled for the end of January. It’s looking pretty challenging right now, but we don’t know either way.”

At least Team Koe managed to get in those four bonspiels. That’s more than most teams managed, and their skip is confident that will help out once they do return to the ice.

daustin@postmedia.com

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