Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Afternoon tea at the STOH

by Elaine Dagg-Jackson

VICTORIA – A week at the Scotties is a long one.

After what seems like a week of preparation – banquets, receptions, uniform fittings, official meetings – the 12-game round robin gets underway. A team that goes into the championship with a good plan and maximum preparation has the opportunity to shine when play begins.

Two games a day may not seem like much, but when you add pre-game practice (every draw), pre-game ceremonies (every draw), media requirements and occasional outreach requirements (like mandatory autograph sessions) these 8:30am, 1:00pm and 6:30pm games don’t leave much significant in-between time. Throw an extra end in there, and tightly-scripted routines may come unravelled... unless there is a plan to deal with them.

Team Yukon/ NWT had such a challenge on Monday when their morning game went to an extra end. The game ended around noon when Kerry Galusha stole her first win over Team Newfoundland. The team then had to be back on the ice to practice for the afternoon game at 12:30.

For teams that play back to back games, meals are provided on site by the best sponsor in the history of women’s sport – Kruger Products, of course – but what athlete can cool down, recover, regenerate (eat!) and then complete their pre-game routine in 30 minutes? This is a typical challenge at a national championship, and one which the most rabid TV fan might not realize.

Unfortunately, Team Yukon/NWT showed the effects of that challenge with a slow start in their next match, giving up two consecutive steals of two before scoring. Down 7-2 after five ends, they made an impressive rally to tie the game in the ninth end, only to lose it in the 10th to Manitoba’s Barb Spencer.

Likely Team Galusha had a plan, but was it scripted tightly enough to encompass that particular scenario?

What is unfortunate about such tight scripting is that the teams might not have the time to really enjoy all that the City of Victoria has to offer… but they’re still talking about it! The weather is sunny (I’d like to say typical, but not really) and 10 degrees Celsius. The athletes are staying at the historical, magnificent, 100-year-old Empress Hotel in the heart of Victoria’s stunning Inner Harbour... but unless they arrive early, they’ll miss the traditional Afternoon Tea the hotel is famous for serving.

Clearly, and as usual, the host committee and the incomparable Robin Wilson have made sure the competitors are treated like royalty at the Scotties.

In fact, a number of this year’s STOH participants have played here in Victoria before – T.J. Surik, alternate for Team Saskatchewan, played here at the 2004 Canadian Juniors and Lianne Sobey, Jodie deSolla and Andrea Kelly of Team New Brunswick lost the semi-final of that event.

With two teams with one loss (Team Canada and B.C.) and two teams with two losses (Quebec and Alberta) at time of writing, there are a lot of all-important positioning games coming up, each one a critical step toward the playoffs. It will be interesting to see what the leader board looks like tomorrow morning ...

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