WITH new daughter Isabella in tow, Jennifer Jones will make her return to the ice in less than a month.
The curling star will make her season debut in Penticton, B.C., when she skips her team in the World Financial Group Continental Cup.
Jones said she plans on taking her daughter with her when she travels to curling events. Her mother will be coming along to assist with child care.
Jones not only had Isabella a month early in mid-November but has also recovered from knee surgery she had last spring to clean up ligament issues in her right pushing leg.
"It caught me a little off guard, but she's healthy," Jones said of the surprise birth in Barrie, Ont., while she was visiting partner and Glen Howard second Brent Laing.
"I've been back on the ice for a few weeks now. I got back on the ice right away and I feel great."
That positive attitude hasn't been hurt by the performance of her team while she was away.
"I'm so proud of them," she said. "They had a great fall and they've been playing really well and hopefully we can continue their great play into the new year."
Team Jones, with third Kaitlyn Lawes in charge, made it all the way to the final of the Canada Cup Dec. 2, dropping a close one to Saskatoon's Stefanie Lawton.
Jones is on maternity leave as a corporate lawyer with the former Wellington West Group, now owned by National Bank and part of National Bank Financial.
But she's not on maternity leave from curling as she gets ready to lead her squad into a season that will prepare them for next December's Olympic Trials in Winnipeg.
She earned one of the first spots in the qualifier in 2011, easing a lot of the pressure other teams are now facing.
"For us, this fall was just all about trying to get some games in, and the timing worked out great for me to take a little bit of a break," she said.
This was the second season in a row that Jones's team has missed one of its members for the early part of the season. A year earlier, veteran second Jill Officer also took the fall off to have a baby, but returned quickly.
"Jill basically took the same amount of time off that I did," Jones said.
Jones is one of Canada's most successful curlers -- nine trips to the Scotties Tournaments of Hearts (four wins plus two silvers and one bronze), one world championship in 2008 and a bronze at another in 2010.
The Continental Cup is set for Jan. 10-13 and Jones won't have a lot of downtime afterward.
The Manitoba Scotties go Jan. 23-27, and she has to defend her title if she wants to get back to the nationals. The national Scotties Tournaments of Hearts is set for Feb. 16-24 in Kingston, Ont.
-- The Canadian Press