It's the Scott Tournament of Hearts today (three on TSN) and this weekend (semis and finals on CBC)... and the King is dead (photo by CurlingZone).
Three of the four playoff spots are set, and Quebec and skip Eve Belisle – quite an interesting person, it seems – is battling Newfoundland's inspired and multi-sporting Heather Strong in a tiebreaker for fourth spot. The Newfs, who boast the sister of Olympic men's golden boy Mark Nichols in their lineup, had won six in a row before losing to Ontario last night. Chin up, girls... as The Curling News predicted in the February issue, you have indeed gone miles better than last year's 1-10 Mile One effort. Games like this... that is what this competition thang is all about.
For a sneak peak at one of the future stars of our sport – who made noise here and now this week, while TCN was recovering from Italy – we'll turn the mic briefly over to Gerry Geurts of CurlingZone. Behold... New Brunswick's Andrea Kelly.
They've turned heads this past week at the Scott Tournament of Hearts here at the John Labatt Centre in my home town of London.
While hanging out at the Grand Slam of Curling's Masters in St. John's last weekend, I remarked to a colleague that Kelly would no doubt have her work cut out for her, and that her squad would be in for a rude awakening in the women's premiere curling event.
How wrong I was.
After returning to London it was crystal-clear that Kelly was still right there, smack in the middle of the playoff mix. I watched her game against Ontario, and saw – right there – the future of our sport.
In the final end of that game, both Ontario skip Krista Scharf and Kelly made shots that rival some of the best I've ever seen executed under pressure. To begin: with her last shot, and with the hammer, Scharf faced a double runback to promote one of her rocks onto a Kelly stone at the back of the button. To add to that, the guard she needed to hit was a quarter-buried around a long guard... but Scharf made her shot, to loud applause. My eyebrow climbed a few notches... but that was nothing.
Kelly, calm and cool, then stepped into the hack and proceeded to make her shot, a high-powered angle hit – through a port that, if she was off any more than a millimetre, would have wrecked. The crowd stood and roared, applauding a brilliant finish.
True, Kelly showed moments of inexperience – such as her shot in the last end against Ontario, where she played a Plan A/Plan B effort when a draw to the four-foot would have sufficed. But her lack of hesitation in calling big-weight runbacks and big-game shots were reminiscent of the shots I saw called at the Masters, and indeed at all the men's Slams. Kelly's exhibition game win earlier this season – the skins "Battle of the Sexes" over Regina men's skip Kyle George – was clearly not the surprise I originally thought it to be.
Another call I remember – again, from the Ontario match – saw the home team make a draw around a tight guard, and Kelly, without hesitation, put the broom down for the runback. Her teammate looked unperturbed and simply made it. Whack-whack.
It's shots like this – confidence like this – that seems to be missing from many other STOH teams this week. Andrea and her team missed this weekend's playoffs, but they've shown us – following the display that Jenn Hanna, JJones and Kelly Scott put on last year – the future of the women's game... and the experience Andrea Kelly received here in London will be invaluable in her drive to return.
Great stuff Gerry. Now git out there and grab some more STOH fotos!
• Speaking of the Scott, we’re not sure which was weirder: that a STOH player – TCN columnist Mary-Anne Arsenault of Team NS – suffered an allergic reaction and was sent to the hospital, or that this very same game ended with a hogline violation, eventually propelling the Scotians into the playoffs...?
• Warren's World: the man is speaking about the 2008 Brier, the ‘09 Olympic Trials, and the possible 2010 Olympic singles competition...
• Looks like Russ Howard is back on The Rock this weekend; the boys are attending a Fog Devils game...
• A new sports complex in North Battleford included a planned curling venue, and a $1 million donation has kicked off the $30 M fundraising campign...
• More post-Olympic buzz stories: Retournaz’ strut was a hit, but we knew that already; Bemidji has gone bonkers; same for all of Minny plus the Dakotas;
Curling in Detroit is on the rise and this hockey-playing newbie has a great quote: It's amazing all the screaming, yeah. I don't understand it either. To me, he's going, "Hard! Hard!" and I only got one speed, you know?... Chicago may have to extend its operating season to met demand; Daytona Beach in faraway Florida wants a curling team RIGHT NOW... did you know about the "hotbed of West Roxbury, MA"?... and hey, Canada can use an Olympic curling boost, too... Moncton, home of Russ Howard, is looking for growth.
• Back to the States for our final note, and an e-mail forwarded from the tireless Rick Patzke of USA Curling. He informs TCN, and by extension yourself, of the following:
This is just a quick look at what is happening at many of the curling clubs around the USA. Broomstones is in Wayland, Mass., outside of Boston.
Sent: Sunday, February 26, 2006 4:15 AM
Subject: Broomstones Open House Hosts One Thousand Today!
The Broomstones Open House today was one for the records. One thousand people found their way to the club and were handled with aplomb.
Despite turning some cars away when the lot was full and lines down the walkway of folks waiting up to an hour to get in the front door. It all went off without a hitch. The media was also there in force... look for a report on the Fox-25 news Sunday morning...
I cannot thank the members of this club who worked the crowds today enough. From parking lot management, to on-ice instruction, working the registration and membership tables, bartenders, kitchen staff... on and on...
Thanks to Standolyn... we had a plan... we had the staff and we did it all with class. The folks who were coming off the ice were all smiles and will leave with fond memories of their visit to Broomstones.
We had a thousand people at our Open House!