It was a warm welcome for Team Saskatchewan.
A roar from thousands of fans filled Mosaic Place, as Robyn Silvernagle’s rink was the first of 16 to step out onto the ice during the Scotties Tournament of Hearts opening ceremony.
“We feel very lucky and grateful to be able to play here in front of our home crowd. Not everyone gets to play in the Scotties, never mind in front of your home crowd,” said Silvernagle, after beating New Brunswick 6-4 in the tournament’s first draw. “We’re just taking it all in and really living in the moment.”
But Silvernagle wasn’t the only Saskatchewan team highlighted Saturday.
Sandra Schmirler’s teammates Joan McCusker, Jan Betker and Marcia Gudereit threw the ceremonial first rock, and Schmirler’s daughters, Sara and Jenna England, held the broom at the other end.
“I could potentially be playing at the Scotties one day and it was really cool to get out there and really overwhelming in a sense too,” Sara said.
This is the second time Moose Jaw has hosted the Scotties in the last five years. And if Friday’s Wild Card game is any indication, organizers said this time around will be an even bigger success.
“The concourse was full,” said Heather Eby, hosting committee vice-chair. “Before the doors opened, the stairs were absolutely packed and we haven’t seen that since the first night Mosaic Place opened in 2012.”
Eby volunteered at the first Scotties in 2015. Now, she’s leading the host committee as one of more than 400 volunteers.
“Having been in the capacity I was last time and then you get to be a part of almost everything, it just would not be as much fun just sitting in the stands,” Eby said.
But Lexi Yurkowski would have to disagree.
Travelling from Nipawin, this is her first time watching the Scotties in person.
“It’s been a blast from the Wild Card game last night and for the rest of the week I’m really excited,” Yurkowski said. “I’m just so excited for all of it, to experience all of it and to take it all in.”
“I really want to see Robyn Silvernagle win,” she said.
With the 10-day tournament drawing in fans like Yurkowski from across the province and country, the City of Moose Jaw said it’s hotels are full and it expects restaurants to be packed all week.
“The Scotties estimates, depending on the size of the community and those things, from six to 10 million dollars of economic activity is created,” said Craig Heminway, City of Moose Jaw spokesperson.
But as Moose Jaw’s population surges, all eyes will still be on the curlers vying for a chance to represent Canada at the world championships.