Random thoughts and observations from a couch potato after a week watching the 2016 Scotties Tournament of Hearts from Grande Prairie, Alta….
A commercial that played on TSN during the Scotties was a promo for the province of Manitoba, finishing with the tag line “Canada’s Heart…Beats.”
They might want to change that slogan to: “Manitoba…where lady curlers rock!”
I mean, there have been some lean sporting times in the Keystone Province. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers haven’t won the Grey Cup this century and the Jets didn’t even exist for the first 10 years of the century (and, much like their football kin, all they do is lose).
The one undeniable and enduring source of sporting pride has been Toba’s curlers, most notably the women, starting with Jennifer Jones and her Olympic champion gal pals from the St. Vital Curling Club. But now we’ve also got Chelsea Carey and Kerri Einarson in the mix. The 2014 (Carey), ’15 (Jones) and ’16 (Einarson) queens of Toba curling claimed three of the four playoff perches at the Canadian women’s championship tournament. Never happened before. Not likely to happen again.
Oh, sure, I realize Carey now calls Wild Rose Country home, but that does nothing to disturb the reality that the freshly minted Canadian champion was weaned on the pebbled freezes of Winnipeg.
I like to think of Chelsea as a loaner to Alberta, not a keeper. I want her back one day.
- You’ll have to excuse me for root, root, rooting for Chelsea Carey to win the Scotties, which she and her Calgary-based outfit did Sunday night. It’s personal. Her dad, Dan, and her Uncle Bill were childhood friends of mine. The former Brier champions lived across the back lane on Chelsea Avenue and I was on Melbourne in East Kildonan. Uncle Bill and I got into a scrape or two, as I recall, but nothing serious.
- I don’t know if it’s my imagination of not, but it seems to me that the girls at the Scotties have more fun than the guys at the Brier. There’s a lot more laughter.
- No disrespect to Jenn Hanna and her Ottawa outfit, who seem like lovely, young ladies and clearly earned their place in this field, but a Scotties without the Rachel Homan team is like a golf tournament without Tiger Woods when he was the world’s premier golfer.
- After watching an interview with the thoughtful Hanna, I realized how much I miss talking to curlers. Of all the athletes I covered during my 30 years in mainstream jock journalism, none were more obliging, accommodating and genuine than curlers.
- Can’t get enough of Amy Nixon, the Alberta third. She’s a delightful bundle of high-octane energy.
- It’s 9:30 a.m., Bryan Mudryk. Do you know what broadcast booth you’re supposed to be in? The TSN announcer, who works so well in concert with Cathy Gauthier (another great Manitoba curler), went to the wrong booth for the opening draw on Thursday morning. Wake up, sleepy head. And maybe hit the pillow a wee bit earlier at night.
- I really enjoy the self-deprecating humor Mudryk and Gauthier inject into their gab gig.
- Name a sport, any sport, and you won’t find a better broadcasting crew than TSN’s Vic Rauter, Cheryl Bernard and Russ Howard. There’s a folksy charm to their banter, especially between Vic and Russ, and Howard has perfected the art of being brutally honest without being brutal.
- I never get tired of watching Jennifer Jones’s final shot to win the 2005 Scotties. It still gives me goose bumps.
- So nice to see Vic Peters in the house at Revolution Place. Vic, a former Brier champion, is Manitoba second Liz Fyfe’s pop and he tends to stand or wander on his own when his girl is playing, something Gauthier noted when the TSN cameras caught up with him one morning. “There he is with all his friends,” she joked as Vic stood surrounded by unoccupied seats. “I love Vic.” Everybody loves Vic Peters, truly one of the nicest people on this planet.
- My favorite line from the tournament was delivered by Saskatchewan skip Jolene Campbell, who was greeted with nothing but silence when talking to her third, Ashley Howard, at a critical juncture in one game. “I was waiting for you to say something,” Campbell said to Howard. “It’s like talking to my husband.” That’s the beauty of live mics on the curlers. It’s so real.
Love the ‘do on Ontario third Brit O’Neill. That’s some kind of funky hair.
- Unless I missed it, it went without mention that O’Neill is one of two openly gay women to participate in the 2016 Scotties. She’s partners with Ontario lead Karen Sagle in life and at the curling rink. If there was a husband-wife combo on a team in the national mixed championship I’m certain it would be worth noting, so why wouldn’t TSN advise viewers that O’Neill and Sagle are a couple?
- Hey, they freed the nipple! The morning after a minor tempest arose about curling moms having to go off-site to breast feed their wee ones, Scotties organizers arranged for a special breastfeeding area for the curlers at Revolution Place. Nice touch, but there should have been a spot for the moms from the get-go. Talk about boobs. Hopefully, that’s already in the plans for the world women’s championship next month in Swift Current. Must keep those future curling champs well nourished!
- Speaking of milking it, it’s about Bryan Mudryk and nicknames. If you want to hang a nickname on a lady curler, Bryan, it’s probably not a good idea to include the word “Slasher.” Mudryk took to calling P.E.I. skip Suzanne Birt the “Island Assassin” early in the tournament, and he wondered if the handle would stick. Nope. Not after he mistakenly called her the “Island Slasher.”
- I felt so sorry for Saskatchewan skip Jolene Campbell when she missed her final shot, a seemingly routine hit-and-stick, against Alberta on Thursday night. It was so jaw-dropping in its sudden-deathness. I wept for her. Literally.
- Is anyone a fan of the relegation system at the Scotties? I’m not. Under no circumstances should provinces like B.C. and New Brunswick be required to participate in a pre-tournament mini-tournament to gain entry.
- If Chelsea Carey and her Alberta team hadn’t won Sunday night’s final against Krista McCarville and her gal pals from Thunder Bay, I would be demanding a Parliamentary inquiry. That isn’t meant as a slight to Northern Ontario, but the girls from Wild Rose Country were the top outfit in the field, from start to finish.
Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for 45 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour in 2015.