The Swift Current Curling Club will be hosting its biggest event of the season this weekend when the SaskTel Southern Men's Tankard takes place at the Credit Union iplex from Thursday until Sunday. Sixteen of the top teams from Southern Saskatchewan will be in Swift Current vying for the five available spots at provincials.
The teams will be looking to punch their tickets for a spot at the SaskTel Provincial Mens Championships at the Assinboia Curling Club on Feb. 1-5.
Five other spots at provincials will be available at the Northern Playdowns in Nipawin this weekend as well. Six teams have already qualified for provincials based on previous results.
The Saskatchewan Curling Association Region 1 Playdowns were held at the Swift Current Curling Club this past weekend to determine the two qualifiers for the Tankard with a pair of Swift Current Curling Club teams qualifying.
The Max Kirkpatrick rink earned the first spot, while the Rod Quintin rink earned the second spot.
Skip Max Kirkpatrick is joined by Third Shaun Meachem, Second Jeff Chambers, and Lead Shawn Hiebert.
Kirkpatrick is looking to earn his fifth trip to provincials. His foursome is currently in its first season together.
Kirkpatrick's rink has had plenty of success this season in the few events they have played together. They lost in the final of a Saskatchewan Curling Tour event in Swift Current and won a SCT event in Assiniboia on Nov. 18-20.
"Definitely to make it to provincials," Kirkpatrick said of his team's goals this weekend. "I think that anything less than that, not to sound cocky, would be a disappointment."
Kirkpatrick lost a pair of qualifiers at Southerns last year in Weyburn and missed provincials.
"I think this is a stronger team than I had last year and also being on home ice, I think anything other than going to provincials would be a disappointment."
Kirkpatrick hasn't been to provincials since 2001.
"It has been a while and I have never been there as a skip. I have been there four times as a third. I am due. I am ready," he said with a laugh.
Skip Rod Quintin is joined by Third Mitch Minken, Second Tyler Friesen, and Lead Jason Senicar.
This will be Quintin's fourth appearance at Southerns, the last time coming in 2003 as a skip. His current team has been playing this season together in the Super League although they now have a new lead due to illness and injury.
"It takes a while to get to know how everyone throws and I have finally gotten to a bit of a comfort level around that," said Quintin, who added that he is still learning how his new lead throws.
Quintin said his team's goal is to be competitive in each game. He hopes that being at home will be an added advantage.
"It definitely is an advantage. Not only in that we know the ice a little better, but you have some local fans as well."
Action begins Thursday with the first draw at 1 p.m.
"Basically it is a triple knockout, if you lose three games you will be out," explained organizer Clayton Wicks of the tournament format.
The cost to attend is $35 for an event pass, $15 for a day pass, and an evening draw is $10.
Spectators can expect to see some very high calibre curlers.
"Well you are going to have the potential of seeing somebody that is going to represent our province at the Nationals," said Wicks.
Wicks said the event will require a volunteer effort of over 50 people throughout the weekend.
"It takes a substantial effort. It is not as big as it used to be. Naturally you have some decorating to do in the rink and some sponsors to line up and that type of stuff. It takes half a dozen volunteers at the beginning to line up volunteers for the event," said Wicks, who estimated the volunteer staff during the event itself to be between 50-60 people.