Curlers opt for traditional handshakes at Brier instead of suggested fist bumps

The Canadian Press

KINGSTON, Ont. — Traditional handshakes still rule at the Tim Hortons Brier despite a Curling Canada suggestion for athletes to bump fists at this week's national men's curling championship.

The eight teams left in the field were asked by the federation on Thursday to consider using the closed-fist gesture instead, part of a reminder for players to remain vigilant about their health.

Handshaking remained the norm on the ice before and after games, even during flu season and amid heightened public concern about the spread of the novel coronavirus.

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As of Thursday evening, Ontario health officials have confirmed 23 known cases of COVID-19 in the province.

The annual Brier competition has remained business as usual for curlers, almost all of whom opted for regular handshakes before Thursday's draws. A few players wore competition gloves and only a couple curlers opted for fist bumps or forearm taps. 

"I go with whatever makes the other person comfortable," said Alberta's Darren Moulding. "I'm comfortable with handshakes. I wash my hands a lot. I'm not too worried, but with what's going around maybe that's something we have to look at.

"I'm not an alarmist-type guy. I just try to maintain good hygiene and I think most of the curlers do that."

Curling stone handles were treated with a commercial-grade sanitizer before the competition, a Curling Canada spokesman said in an email. The treatment, which lasts two weeks, was done a second time Thursday as a precaution.

In pre-competition team advisories, Curling Canada reminded players to be vigilant on the health front. Bottles of hand sanitizer are also kept on coaching tables at ice level.

Newfoundland and Labrador skip Brad Gushue said he's comfortable with traditional player handshakes.

"I think we should continue because we had to go do autograph sessions where we're shaking hands with hundreds of people," Gushue said. "I think that was probably a misstep on Curling Canada's behalf to put us in that vulnerable a situation. But for the players to shake hands, I think if we're willing to do that we could still do it.

"Obviously you've got to make sure you do your due diligence and wash your hands and make sure you're covering your coughs. All that stuff, that's important. I think all the players realize that."

The Brier continues through Sunday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2020.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press

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