THUNDER BAY, ONT. — If it were up to Canada's Olympic curlers, the 2026 Winter Games would be in Calgary.
Many of this country's past curling champions are all under one roof this week at the Grand Slam Tour Challenge event in Thunder Bay and they're talking about getting the Games back on home soil.
"It would be awesome," Kevin Martin said. "It would be great to have it that close to home again."
Martin is considered by many to be the best curler ever. Twice he represented Canada in North American Olympics — Salt Lake City in 2002 and Vancouver in 2010. He basked in his golden moment in Vancouver as Canadians broke out in a stirring rendition of "O Canada" in the packed arena during the gold-medal game.
Martin says nothing ever came close to what he experienced at that home Olympics.
"You only get one chance in a lifetime to do that. It's second to none," he said. "It's expensive and Alberta's economy isn't great right now. But it would be wonderful if it happened."
Next Tuesday, Calgarians will go to the polls and vote in a plebiscite — a simple yes or no question as to whether or not they want the 2026 Olympics.
Ben Hebert also played in Vancouver with Martin, as well as last year's Winter Games in Pyeongchang. He says he will be doing everything he can to convince people to vote yes.
"I think it would be a great thing for Calgary, especially with oil and gas in the tank a bit. It would be a pick-me-up for the city," Hebert said.
Hebert says sport has the ability to rally a city, community and country and points to what happened in Vancouver during the 2010 Olympics. He says he's felt that same energy in Calgary when the Flames get on a roll.
"When the Flames make the playoffs, the city is buzzing. I've been in Calgary for nine years now. I think the no voters, if the Olympics came, would be on cloud nine and supporting our athletes during the Games."
Leaving a legacy
Jennifer Jones says her experience while winning gold for Canada at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi is the highlight of her career.
"When you take that step on the podium, it felt like we were stepping onto the podium for all of Canada. You feel like you're doing it for everyone who lives here," she said.
For as euphoric as stepping onto that golden podium was for Jones, she wants to focus on the legacy the Olympics in Calgary could leave.
"As a mom of two young kids, I would love to see the opportunities it could create for our youth," Jones said. "It makes dreams seem much more possible when it's in your own backyard. It feels more real."
Jones, who is an Olympic, Canadian and world champion, says an Olympics in Canada would keep this country competitive in all winter sports.
"It would be huge for sport in this country. It helps Canada keep up with the rest of the world in terms of performance. And more than anything, it helps our youth have those dreams to shoot for, which is a big part of all of this."
Canada's 1st Olympic curlers support bid
Curling was reintroduced to the Olympic program in 1998 at the Nagano Olympics. The game has exploded in popularity since that time.
Joan McCusker was the lead for Sandra Schmirler's team that captured Canada's first gold medal at the Olympics. Ever since then, McCusker has travelled to the Winter Games as a commentator.
She's been paying close attention to the debate in Calgary and is hoping the city votes to move forward in the process.
"There's a lot to consider. It's a big financial investment but you have to believe in the reward. I think it's going to pass," McCusker said of Tuesday's vote.
Mike Harris was also in Nagano. He won a silver medal in 1998 and has also been part of curling coverage at the Olympics over the years.
Harris understands people's apprehension over hosting the Olympics.
"Now that I'm older and I've been to a bunch of Games, I can see how it can be costly to a country if it's not planned properly," Harris said. "As a Canadian, I'd love to see them host but I understand the caution."
The bid committee still hasn't outlined where curling would be hosted if the Olympics were in Calgary in 2026, but McCusker says the location doesn't really matter when it comes to the popularity of the sport in Canada.
"Curling would do really, really well and a big arena to play in would be fantastic. It would be packed."