Memorial Gardens just before the Masters kicked off. (Kortney Kenney MyNorthBayNow.com)
North Bay has once again set attendance numbers for a curling event.
The Masters, which just wrapped up on Sunday, drew close to 40,000 spectators, which nearly doubled the previous record of 23,500 from last year’s 2018 National in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“A lot of the Slams that we go to don’t have this type of fan support,” Matt Dunstone, the skip of the winning men’s team shortly after raising the trophy. “We’re lucky to play in a Slam that has this sort of fan support. There are hundreds of teams in the world that would love to be in this position.”
“We have had lots of fans come up and say hi and have conversations with us, and that makes it fun for us. That’s what makes it fun for us curlers, to put on a show.”
Attendance numbers were also up for the early 8:00am draws, which usually saw 80-100 fans at other events according to an organizer of the event, but in North Bay, that number reached 600-800 people.
“North Bay did such a fantastic job with the event, they always do,” Team Fleury skip Tracy Fleury said shortly after defeating Team Yoshimura for the Master’s title. “They hosted a couple of big events in the past and it is always a big success, so kudos to them on a fantastic event.”
Some other curlers who didn’t win were singing the praises of North Bay earlier in the week.
“It’s amazing to be here in Northern Ontario,” the popular Brad Jacobs said on Wednesday. The Sault Ste Marie native would fall to the eventual champ Dunstone in the Men’s quarterfinal action. “We have played in North Bay a few times, crowds have always been great. Certainly not disappointing with this event as the highest ticket sales ever for a Slam.”
Anna Hasselborg, the Olympic gold medal skip from Sweden also enjoyed her time in the Gateway City while she was here for the Women’s World Championships in 2018.
“It feels amazing to play the first slam of the season in North Bay,” Hasselborg explained. “I have said it before, it has a really special place in our heart. We were really tired after the Olympics, and I can genuinely say that the results wouldn’t have been the same without the audience supporting us. It was a packed stands for many of the draws and they supported us like we were one of them.”
Hasselborg fell in the Women’s semifinals to Team Fleury.
Jennifer Jones who finds herself almost on Jerry O’Connell levels of love from the North Bay faithful was back in town as well. The results wouldn’t be nearly as kind to her this time as she fell to the runner up, Team Yoshimura.
“It’s a dream all over again,” Jones said earlier in the week. “The people, I can’t get over the hospitality here and the fan support, how loud they are, honestly it is one of my favourite places in the world to play.”
Jones won gold at the Women’s World Curling Championship in 2018 on the Memorial Gardens ice. That event saw close 70,000 spectators, which set an attendance record for any Women’s Worlds held in Canada.
“I will never forget, our bones were vibrating, it was so loud in here. To be in an environment where you are Team Canada and the whole city is behind you, it’s pretty much all you ever dream of.”