Ordinary curling champions

by Elaine Dagg-Jackson

VICTORIA – We’re seeing some inspiring performances from some amazing athletes at this 2009 Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

Along with the champions of the day like Team Jennifer Jones are the stars of tomorrow, like Quebec’s Marie-France Larouche, Saskatchewan’s Stefanie Lawton, Ontario’s Krista McCarville and others who are wearing their provincial colours here in Victoria.

Grace McInnes, a Scotties rookie who plays third for BC’s Marla Mallett, has shown poise and focus all week. And of course Yukon/NWT’s stunning defeat over Team Canada last night was a bright moment in the career of Kerry Galusha (and she won again this morning, too).

My eyes were focused behind the sheet last night, watching the young curlers from the Victoria Curling Club who were experiencing their very first live Scotties. It reminded me of the year 2000, when I took my then-12-year-old daughter Steph to her first STOH in Prince George. Steph got the chance to watch BC’s Kelley Law win five sudden-death games to become the Canadian champions.

What was unique about this is that in that same season, Steph and I played with Law third Julie Skinner in the good ol’ Tuesday night ladies league at the Victoria Curling Club. And at that moment, Steph realized that ordinary people can become champions.

Now 22, Steph has participated at six national championships (five Juniors and one Mixed) and even travelled with Law to the 2007 Scotties in Lethbridge as the team Alternate.

Time will tell how this 2009 Scotties imagery will inspire my young friends from the VCC.

Back to the games. Although the crowd has not been quite as big as organizers hoped early this week, that is sure to change as we approach the weekend. Meanwhile, those who are here at the Save on Foods Memorial Arena are showing their true colours.

BC, Canada and Manitoba have large contingents supporting their teams, but one of the most colourful is the Alberta family members who are their supporting Tam Bernard each game, and showing us just how far ordinary guys will go to support their gals.

On the ice things are getting exciting with team BC pulling into sole possession of first place yesterday (they’re 7-1 now) and some crucial games for those with two or three losses coming up.

The teams that find a way to get a little better each day are the ones who will find themselves in the playoffs later in the week. Building confidence and momentum is critical to winning a championship, and a number of the women are demonstrating tremendous poise under the pressure of this tournament.

As my friend Jay Tuson (BC third, 2001 Brier) commented last night in the Heartstop Lounge: “when the jackets come off you know things are heating up out there!”

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Scotties blog is on the air

And another guest blogger has arrived. Hey… we told you it was an Insane Curling Week!

Elaine Dagg-Jackson has been coaching curling since 1989, starting with Team Julie Sutton. She went on to coach the Japanese national teams and is now deeply entwined in the Canadian national coaching program.

She also lives in Victoria, host city of the 2009 STOH women’s nationals… and she’s now a TCN Blogger!

Behind the Scotties scenes
by Elaine Dagg-Jackson

VICTORIA – The 2009 Scotties Tournament of Hearts got off to its usual spectacular start here in Victoria with the Opening Banquet at the Victoria Conference Centre. Former Scottie champion and TSN commentator Cathy Gauthier was the emcee, and the evening was filled with memories as past champions from the host province of British Columbia were honoured.

They were all there… members of the Lindsay Sparkes team (Lindsay and Robin Wilson), the Linda Moore squad (Linda, Lindsay, Debbie Jones-Walker and Laurie Carney), Team Pat Sanders (Georgina Wheatcroft, Louise Herlinveaux and Deb Massullo), Team Julie (Sutton) Skinner (Julie, Jodie Sutton Green and Melissa Soligo), the Kelley Law team (Julie, Georgina, and Diane Nelson Dezura) and, of course, the Kelly Scott team (Kelly, Jeanna Schraeder, Sasha Carter, Renee Simons).

Julie Skinner represented the champions with a tell-all speech and some photos which provided a glimpse into the various hair fashions through the decades, including a few of my own past hair trends I would just as soon forget.

The best sponsor in the history of women’s sport continued to please the competitors with Kruger and Robin Wilson handing out 43 diamonds to those who have participated at multiple Scotties. For each repeat win, the curler is awarded a new diamond to her necklace or bracelet. The professionalism and class that Kruger brings to this tournament is truly amazing, and creates an incredible allegiance from the curling masses.

Another special presentation occurred with the long-overdue World Championship rings presented to the Kelly Scott team. When the Worlds are held in Canada, the event is sponsored by Ford of Canada and the winners receive World rings supplied by the sponsor. However, when the event is hosted outside Canada the winners went ringless.

A recent agreement by the Canadian Curling Association and the World Curling Federation has now provided Team Scott with rings from their 2006 victory in Aomori, Japan.

The Hot Shots was won by Alberta skip Cheryl Bernard with Saskatchewan’s Sherri Singler the runner-up and Quebec’s Nancy Belanger third. Organizers were surprised when Team British Columbia – skipped by Marla Mallett – elected to sit this one out, the first time in the history of the Hot Shots a team has elected not to participate.

When you arrive at an STOH event it sometimes seems like it takes forever to get started. The teams often arrive on Wednesday, and some don’t play until Saturday night. But now the round robin is underway (Kruger Products photo by Andrew Klaver, above) and the first games have been played – some with predictable results, and some surprises.

Team Canada, Quebec, Ontario and host province BC have come out swinging, and others predicted to be leaders have not fared as well. But the thing about the Scotties – like the Brier – is that it is a long, long week, and you never know what is going to happen. You have to literally take it one game at a time and hope you’re still alive at the end of the week.

We’ll see how the rocks roll in the coming days!

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Movember Curling

Movember, the month of moustaches, is back in full force. Curling men are asked to not shave for the entire month, beginning tomorrow, to show support for the fight against prostate cancer. BalancePlus chief – and the coach of Team Glenn Howard – is Mr. Scott Taylor, and he is the prime mover behind this campaign, which you can read about in the October 29 posting at the SWEEP! magazine site.

You may recall our promotion of this thing last year. And yes, that’s them Howards (photo above by Tae) after winning Brantford’s SunLife cashspiel last Movember. Wonderfully cheesy, and all for a great cause.

What else is going on, you ask?

• The 2010 “Olympic Brier” is bound for Halifax, and will be announced there next week. Another story is located here, and another here

• They’re looking for more Tim Hortons Brier volunteers in Calgary, stories here and here

• As yesterday’s post indicated, today is the last day for one kind of tickets to the Ford Worlds in Moncton and tomorrow launches another series of ticket packages …

• Bismark, North Dakota will host the Brazil/USA Worlds challenge on January 30 to February 1. Background info located here

• The Chinese have left Canada and are in New Zealand, preparing for the Pacific Championships which start on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Aussies – who had a productive yet somewhat disappointing performance in Grand Forks – are looking for more success

• The new $1.5M curling centre in Midland, Michigan is ready to open, as ABC-12, WNEM TV and NBC-25 all show us. The debut opening is November 8 …

• The A-division draw is up for the 2008 Le Gruyère European Curling Championships …

• CONTEST ALERT: This one is for readers in the Kitchener-Waterloo area of Ontario, as the local blat if offering up six pairs of Event Passes to the first Capital One Grand Slam of the season, the Masters of Curling

Amy Nixon is on The Curling Show, and other recents have been KPark, B.C.’s Bob Ursel and everyone’s favourite, mrnn

• We are now 496 days away from Vancouver’s other major sports doo-dah, the Paralympic Winter Games …

• 2002 Olympic bronze medallist and 2000 world champion skip Kelley Law surfaced last week, and as this story tells, she is content with her life away from the curling ice …

Nerdsopolis has returned our recent shout-out: grazie …

• The dark side of curling? Bring it on, baby! After all, this is the Halloween weekend …

This Dutch blog likes the Women of Kurling and their Kalendar

• There may be hope for northern Ontario’s Rainy River club following their critical meeting last Friday …

• California’s Wine Country Curling Club will learn its fate at a Vacaville city council meeting on November 11 …

29 years of writing about local women’s curling? Wow …

• Rookies tossed some “22kg stone thingys” at Fenton’s the other day …

Don Gordon of Lake Cowichan, B.C. quotes a curling story in talking tough about supporting a local arena upgrade plan

• We have more curling tales from Schenectady, NY and also from Greg in Hollywood

• The site of the original “Callie” was set ablaze on Wednesday …

• Melfort, SK needs an icemaker

• Kamloops city councillor Arjun Singh has blogged about a local curling club asking for funding …

• Finally, we like this definition of curling posted by the Kalamazoo CC:

CURLING: The difference between a great winter and a crappy, not-enough-snow-to-really-ski winter!

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