Canada Cup curls into Cranbrook

Kootenay curling fans can’t wait for the 2011 Canada Cup of Curling to throw its first rock next week at the Rec Plex in Cranbrook.

Kootenay curling fans can’t wait for the 2011 Canada Cup of Curling to throw its first rock next week at the Rec Plex in Cranbrook.

Canada’s elite men and women curlers hit the rinks for the five-day event beginning Nov. 30.

The women’s field includes reigning Scotties Tournament of Hearts champion Amber Holland; defending Canada Cup champion Stefanie Lawton; four-time Canadian and one-time world champion Jennifer Jones and two-time Canada Cup winner and 2006 Olympic bronze medallist Shannon Kleibrink.

The men’s field is headed by the reigning Tim Hortons Brier and Ford World champion Jeff Stoughton, defending Canada Cup champion Glenn Howard; 2010 Olympic gold medalist Kevin Martin and 2010 Capital One world champion Kevin Koe.

Most importantly, the winners will become the first teams to qualify for the 2013 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Canadian Curling Trials, which will determine Canada’s representatives for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

The Canada Cup is in its ninth season and has undergone a major format change this year as the first event in the Canadian Curling Association’s 2011-12 Season of Champions.

Instead of 10 men’s and 10 women’s teams in two pools of five each, there are now seven teams of each gender competing in a round robin.

The first-place teams advance to their respective finals, while the second- and third-place teams meet in the semifinals. The total prize money is $70,000 each for men and women, with the winning teams receiving $26,000.

In addition to berths into the 2013 Trials, which will be contested Dec. 1-8 in Winnipeg, the winners will also get invitations to the 2013 World Financial Group Continental Cup, at a site and date to be announced.

The teams qualified for the 2011 Canada Cup by winning the 2010 Canada Cup, 2011 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, Tim Hortons Brier or by their standing on the Canadian Team Ranking System.