Le Gruyère European Curling Championships 2015 to receive royal send-off

  • Estonia's Marie Turmann at ECC 2014 Photo: WCF / Richard Gray

International championship curling returns to Denmark when the Le Gruyère European Curling Championships 2015 (ECC) takes place in the Granly Hockey Arena, Esbjerg, and the Esbjerg Curling Club, between 19 and 28 November 2015.

As was the case when Esbjerg hosted the 2011 World Women's Curling Championship, the event will have the honour of a royal opening, with His Royal Highness Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark throwing the first ceremonial stone as the culmination of the opening ceremony, scheduled for 16.00 local time on Friday 20 November.

This is the 41st edition of this event and the 14th time that Le Gruyère has acted as title sponsor. Meanwhile, Airboard, join as a main sponsor of the event for the first time this year. Mount 10 are also a main sponsor, while Edox are the official timekeeper for the event.

Denmark has hosted this event three times before, in 1980, 1986 and 1996, with Copenhagen being the host city on all three occasions.

Altogether 26 men's teams and 20 women's teams will be taking part in the event's A and B Divisions. A-Division play starts on Friday 20 November and the B-Divisions gets underway on Thursday 19 November.

Round-robin play will continue throughout the week, with tie-breakers (if needed) and semi-finals scheduled for Thursday 26 and Friday 27 November. The relegation challenge games and medal games will conclude the event on Saturday 28 November.

The ECC A-Division will play semi-finals (1v4 2v3) after a change to the former page play-off system was voted on by WCF Member Associations at the Congress in Belgrade, in September.

The ten A-Division men's teams that will compete are: Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Scotland, Sweden, and Switzerland.

As defending European and current world champions, Niklas Edin's Sweden team start as pre-event favourites, but other familiar and successful combinations include Norway, led by Thomas Ulsrud – last year's Silver medallists. A new combination, skipped by Peter de Cruz, represents last year's Bronze medallists Switzerland, while a re-cast Italian team – now skipped by Joel Retornaz, will be planning to improve on last year's fourth position.

Czech Republic and Scotland are represented by teams and skips making their debuts at this level. The Czechs are led by David Sik and former world junior champion Kyle Smith leads the Scots.

Evgeny Arkhipov leads a Russian team that is slightly changed from last year while Finland skip Aku Kauste and Netherlands skip Jaap Van Dorp both lead teams based on those that won promotion from last year's B-Division.

The ten A-Division women's teams are: hosts Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Norway, Russia, Scotland, Sweden, and current world champions Switzerland.

The Swiss will be considered strong contenders and the world champions, led by Alina Paetz, will be defending a European title won by a different Swiss team last season. Russia were Silver medallists last year and skip Anna Sidorova returns with a slightly different line-up this time round, while last year's Bronze medallists Scotland return with the same quartet in action as last time, skipped by Eve Muirhead.

Other teams with experience at this level include hosts Denmark, skipped by Lene Nielsen; Estonia, under Maile Molde; and Finland with Oona Kauste moving up to skip this time round. An experienced Swedish line-up is skipped by Cecelia Ostlund, while the German team led by Daniela Driendl made a strong impact at last season's ZEN-NOH World Women's Championship.

Hungary's Dorottya Palancsa and Norway's Kristin Skaslien will reap the benefits of their strong performances in the B-Division last time, and lead their promoted teams in the A-Division this time round.

The sixteen men's teams in the B-Division are:

  • Group A: Belgium, hosts Denmark, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Turkey, Wales and newly qualified from the C-Division tournament, Slovenia.

  • Group B: Austria, Croatia, England, Spain, Estonia, Israel, Latvia and, also qualified from the C-Division, Slovakia.
  • The ten women's teams in their B-Division are: Austria, Czech Republic, England, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands, Poland, Turkey and, both qualified from the C-Division, France and Slovakia.

    For the teams in the B-Division, there is all to play for, with whichever nations eventually emerge as B-Division winners going on to challenge the team in the A-Division sitting in the last available world championship qualification slot in a best-of-three series. There is also added significance to qualifying for the World Championships in that this season is the first when world championship performance yields Olympic qualification points for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.

    Eight European women’s teams will qualify out of the event for the Ford World Women’s Curling Championships 2016 in Swift Current, Canada (19-27 March) and will join Canada, USA, Japan and Korea who had already qualified.

    Eight European men’s teams (including Switzerland as hosts) will qualify for the World Men’s Curling Championship 2015 in Basel, Switzerland (2-10 April). Canada, USA, Korea and Japan have already qualified.

    The Le Gruyère European Curling Championships 2015 will have extensive TV coverage across Europe, for more details on where to watch visit, http://www.worldcurling.org/ecc2015/ecc-2015-tv-schedule

    Live internet streaming is available on WCTV, https://www.youtube.com/user/WorldCurlingTV, but may be geo-blocked in your region, while the WCF website will carry regular up-dates.

    Results, statistics, news and photos from the Le Gruyère European Curling Championships 2015 can be seen on the WCF’s official event website: http://www.worldcurling.org/ecc2015