Playing before empty seats disappointing for hometown rink competing at Scotties

To prepare for this year’s Scotties Tournament of Hearts, Krista McCarville and her rink from Thunder Bay, Ont., spent time with a sports psychologist learning how to cope with the excitement and pressure of playing for the Canadian women’s curling championship in front of a hometown crowd.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/01/2022 (376 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

To prepare for this year’s Scotties Tournament of Hearts, Krista McCarville and her rink from Thunder Bay, Ont., spent time with a sports psychologist learning how to cope with the excitement and pressure of playing for the Canadian women’s curling championship in front of a hometown crowd.

Instead, because of concerns created by the Omicron variant, the stands at the Fort Williams Gardens will be empty when McCarville’s Northen Ontario team steps on the ice for its first game Friday night against Chelsey Carey’s Wild Card 2 rink from Regina.

“It’s something you can feel when your hometown crowd is cheering so much,” said McCarville, the 2016 Scotties silver medallist who is making her ninth championship appearance. “It could be a little bit of an advantage when you have all the fans on your side and cheering for you.

Trevor Hagan/Winnipeg Free Press Tracy Fleury and Kerri Einarson are among the favourites at the 2022 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, which gets underway Friday in Thunder Bay, Ont.

“Then all of a sudden, you’re in your hometown and you can’t have any (fans). It’s super disappointing. But once we step on the ice it doesn’t matter what city we are in. We focus and zone into our game.”

Ontario will allow up to 500 fans at sports events beginning Monday, but Curling Canada says because of COVID-19 concerns its “erring on the side of caution” and not allowing any fans or media into the arena during the round robin portion of the competition.

There is a chance spectators might be allowed for the final three days of the event that ends Feb. 6.

This will be the first experience of a strict bubble for McCarville and her rink of third Kendra Lilly, second Ashley Sippala, lead Sarah Potts and alternate Jen Gates. She believes teams who have played in a bubble before will have an edge.

“They would know how they felt last year and probably expect the same sort of things this year,” said McCarville. “The teams that have never been in this sort of bubble, are we going to feel frustrated because we can’t leave?

“It could be a little bit of an advantage when you have all the fans on your side and cheering for you…Then all of a sudden, you’re in your hometown and you can’t have any (fans). It’s super disappointing.”–Krista McCarville

“We have some things planned. We have some games that we’re going to bring. It nice that on our team we’re great friends.”

Two-time defending champion Kerri Einarson from Manitoba said there are advantages to playing before empty stands.

“It’s definitely different,” the Team Canada skip said. “It’s a lot more quiet so it kind of makes it a little easier because you can actually hear your teammates and not have to yell over the crowd or those other distractions.”

This year’s event will feature a modified 18-team draw and the return of the Page playoff system.

The teams will be split into two pools of nine, seeded based on their final standing on the Canadian Team Ranking System as of Jan. 10.

“It’s a lot more quiet so it kind of makes it a little easier because you can actually hear your teammates and not have to yell over the crowd or those other distractions.”–Kerri Einarson

There will be an eight-game round robin with the top three teams in each pool advancing to an expanded playoff field. The second- and third-ranked teams in each pool cross over to play in Page playoff qualifier games. The winners then advance to play the winners of Pool A and Pool B.

The winners of those games go to the Page 1 versus 2 game, while the losers will compete in the Page 3 versus 4 game.

The winner of the Page 1-2 game on Feb. 5 advances directly to the final. The loser plays the winner of the Page 3-4 game in the semifinal.

The winner of the Feb. 6 semifinal advances to that evening’s final.

The Scotties champion will represent Canada at the 2022 Women’s Curling Championship in Prince George, B.C., from March 19-27.

“We’re going to give it our all and leave it all out on the ice. Hopefully at the end of it we’re raising the trophy again.” –Kerri Einarson

Einarson and her rink of third Val Sweeting, second Shannon Birchard, lead Briane Meilleur and alternate Krysten Karwacki play in Pool B, against teams like Alberta’s Laure Walker, the 2021 bronze medallist, and Manitoba’s Mackenzie Zacharias, the 2020 world junior champion.

“I would say they (the pools) are a little lopsided but that’s just how the points system works,” she said. “Every team is really good so you can’t take anyone lightly.

“Every team comes to play Team Canada, so I know we’re going to have to play our very best every single game.”

Two notable names will be missing from this year’s Scotties.

Six-time champion Jennifer Jones and her Winnipeg rink are representing Canada at the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. Jones won the women’s gold at the 2014 Sochi Games.

Cardboard cut-out fans watch the action from the stands at the 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary, Alta. This year, Curling Canada says because of COVID-19 concerns its “erring on the side of caution” and not allowing any fans or media into the arena during the round robin portion of the competition.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Rachel Homan, who has led Ontario to three Scotties titles, will also be competing at the Olympics, pairing with John Morris in the mixed doubles.

Her rink, playing at the Scotties as Wild Card 3, will be skipped by longtime third Emma Miskew. Sarah Wilkes takes over as third with Alli Flaxey second, Joanne Courtney lead and alternate Lynn Kreviazuk.

Einarson has a chance to join an elite group of rinks to win three consecutive titles.

Saskatchewan’s Vera Pezer won three titles between 1971 and 1973 while Jones won championships between 2008 and 2010. Collen Jones of Nova Scotia won four consecutive titles beginning in 2001.

“It would be an absolute dream come true,” said Einarson, who curls out of the Gimli Curling Club. “That’s pretty awesome and pretty special to be able to do that.

Team McCarville skip Krista McCarville reacts to a shot against Team Einarson during the Women’s Tiebreaker #2 of the 2021 Canadian Olympic curling trials in Saskatoon, Saturday, November 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards

“But we’re not going to put that pressure on ourselves. Whatever happens, happens. We’re going to give it our all and leave it all out on the ice. Hopefully at the end of if it we’re raising the trophy again.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2022.

Scotties rinks

A capsule look at the 18 teams entered in the Jan. 28 to Feb. 6 Scotties Tournament of Hearts Canadian women’s curling championships at the Fort Williams Gardens in Thunder Bay, Ont. (team members listed skip to lead with home club location).

POOL A

TEAM WILD CARD 1: Tracy Fleury, Selena Njegovan, Liz Fyfe, Kristin MacCuish, East St. Paul, Man.

Leads both the World and Canadian Team Ranking Systems (CTRS). Lost in the final of the Olympic Trials and Manitoba playoffs.

TEAM WILD CARD 2: Chelsea Carey, Jolene Campbell, Stephanie Schmidt, Jennifer Armstrong, Regina.

Carey, a two-time Scotties champion who was born in Manitoba, returns with a new rink from Saskatchewan. Ranked fifth in the CTRS.

TEAM WILD CARD 3:  Emma Miskew, Sarah Wilkes, Alli Flaxey, Joanne Courtney, Ottawa.

With Rachel Homan competing in the mixed doubles at the Beijing Winter Olympics, Miskew takes over the skipping duties. Team is ranked sixth in Canada and 11th in the world.

SASKATCHEWAN: Penny Barker, Christie Gamble, Jenna Enge, Danielle Sicinski, Moose Jaw.

Barker, making her second appearance as a skip at the Scotties, defeated Carey in the final of the Saskatchewan playoffs.

NORTHERN ONTARIO: Krista McCarville, Kendra Lilly, Ashley Sippala, Sarah Potts, Thunder Bay.

Making her ninth appearance at the Scotties, McCarville finished second in 2016 and third in 2010.

NEW BRUNSWICK: Andrea Crawford, Sylvie Quillian, Jill Babin, Katie Forward, Fredericton.

Crawford, a bronze medallist at the 2005 world juniors, is making her 10th Scotties appearance and ninth as a skip.

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND: Suzanne Birt, Marie Christianson, Meaghan Hughes, Michelle McQuaid, Charlottetown.

Birt is making her 13th appearance as a skip at the Scotties. Finished third in 2003.

NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR: Sarah Hill, Kelli Sharpe, Beth Hamilton, Adrienne Mercer, St. John’s.

When the provincial playoffs were cancelled due to COVID-19, the Newfoundland and Labrador Curling Association selected 2021 champion Hill to represent the province.

NUNAVUT: Brigitte MacPhail, Sadie Pinksen, Kaitlin MacDonald, Alison Taylor, Iqaluit.

MacPhail’s team had its first practice on Jan. 20. Taylor is the only player who currently lives in Nunavut. Pinksen attends Dalhousie University while MacPhail is a chiropractor in Halifax. MacDonald is a student at the University of Prince Edward Island.

POOL B

ALBERTA: Laura Walker, Kate Cameron, Taylor McDonald, Nadine Scotland, Edmonton.

Walker advanced to her third straight Scotties with a last-rock win over Casey Scheidegger in the Alberta playoffs. Ranked third in the CTRS.

TEAM CANADA: Kerri Einarson, Val Sweeting, Shannon Birchard, Briane Meilleur, Gimli, Man.

Einarson’s Manitoba rink beat Ontario’s Rachel Homan in the final of the last two Scotties and lost to Jennifer Jones in the 2018 final. Ranked fourth in the CTRS and sixth in the world.

MANITOBA: Mackenzie Zacharias, Karlee Burgess, Emily Zacharias, Lauren Lenentine, Altona.

Zacharias, the 2020 world junior champion, makes her second Scotties appearance after finishing 3-5 in 2021 in Calgary.

ONTARIO: Hollie Duncan, Megan Balsdon, Rachelle Strybosch, Tess Bobbie, Woodstock.

Duncan followed a twisting path two her second Scotties. When the provincial playoffs were cancelled the Ontario Curling Association first nominated Rachel Homan’s rink for the Scotties. When Homan was selected for the Olympic mixed doubles, Duncan, who was a few points behind her in the CTRS, was given the nod.

NORTHWEST TERRITORIES: Kerry Galusha, Jo-Ann Rizzo, Sarah Koltun, Margot Flemming, Yellowknife.

When the N.W.T. playoffs were cancelled due to COVID, Galusha’s team, the defending territorial champions, earned the chance to play at this year’s Scotties. Galusha will be playing in her 15th Scotties while Rizzo is the event’s oldest competitor at 58 years, seven months and 27 days.

NOVA SCOTIA: Christina Black, Jenn Baxter, Karlee Everist, Shelley Barker, Dartmouth

Black will compete in her fourth Scotties but first as a skip. She played in three Canadian championships as a third on Mary-Anne Arsenault’s rink, finishing third in 2018.

BRITISH COLUMBIA: Mary-Anne Arsenault, Jeanna Schraeder, Sasha Carter, Renee Simons, Kelowna

Arsenault will appear in her 15th Scotties but first as a B.C. skip. The former Nova Scotia skip moved to B.C. after the 2020 Scotties then announced she would skip Kelly Scott’s former team. Arsenault won five Scotties and two world championships as a member of Colleen Jones rink

QUEBEC: Laurie St-Georges, Hailey Armstrong, Emily Riley, Cynthia St-Georges, Laval.

St-Georges had a 6-6 record in her first Scotties appearance in 2021. Her sister and lead Cynthia St-Georges is the competition’s youngest curler at 19 years, six months and three days.

YUKON: Hailey Birnie, Patty Wallingham, Kerry Campbell, Kim Tuor, Whitehorse

Birnie is making her third appearance at the Scotties. Her first appearance as a skip was in 2020. She was third on Nicole Baldwin’s rink in 2019.

-The Canadian Press

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