The latest on-ice triumph for Jennifer Jones generated minimal attention and won't warrant a special section on the former Winnipegger's glitzy curling résumé.
But it was definitely one to savour, says the former Olympic gold medallist, two-time world champion and six-time Canadian champion.
Jones and her husband, Brent Laing, combined forces to win a mixed doubles event in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont., over the weekend, their first time competing since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March.
The Cameron's Brewing cashspiel drew 10 duos to the KW Granite Club and wrapped up in just 48 hours. The Jones-Laing partnership posted five consecutive victories, including a 7-1 rout of fellow Ontarians Maddy Warriner and Charlie Richard in Sunday's final.
The specifics mattered little to the mom of two young daughters who was just grateful to be sliding and throwing again.
"It felt like home. Curling's something we just love to do. Obviously, you want to represent your province and represent Canada, but it's something that we absolutely love doing, and we've missed it," Jones said Tuesday by phone from her home in Shanty Bay, Ont., just east of Barrie. "I've never been away from the ice that long. Just to go into the rink and even just smell the ice, being out there felt amazing. It's our happy place.
"You're never sure, especially after being off the ice for so long, how it was gonna go. But Brent and I both said it was better than we could have hoped in terms of how our bodies felt and our performance. That's definitely a positive."
"It felt like home. Curling's something we just love to do." – Jennifer Jones
It was the first time Jones had stepped onto the pebbled ice since early February in Moose Jaw, Sask., at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts — the 15th national women's championship of her brilliant career.
And the event was staged safely, she said, with many of Curling Canada's return-to-play guidelines incorporated on and off the ice — such as when to wear a mask, where to stand and how to sweep — to prevent the spread of the virus.
The bonspiel was the start of back-to-back-to-back events for Jones, all in Kitchener-Waterloo. This weekend, she'll reunite with her St. Vital teammates for a women's event and will skip the squad on the Thanksgiving long weekend, as well.
"We're going to play in both and we're really excited. Having just played there, the safety protocols are already in place and I feel really good about what they're doing there. They've done everything possible to make it safe for us," said Jones. "We really want to play, and decided as a team that it would be worth it for us to get into those events."
Lisa Weagle will make her debut on Team Jones after being added to the mix in mid-March. Released by the Rachel Homan's Ottawa team, she was scooped up by Jones, third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jocelyn Peterman and lead Dawn McEwen to form a five-player team.
The setup works for many reasons, Jones said.
"We had thought about it even before (the pandemic) but with COVID coming it was around the same time. But our season is usually so long and we play so many events and there are injuries or timing conflicts, it becomes inevitable you need extra people. And it's turning out to be a great move for us. It certainly gives us a lot of flexibility," she said.
"We're excited to have Lisa with us. We spent a lot of time really considering how things will work when we add someone to the team. There are so many talented players but you want someone who fits in with the team chemistry and our team dynamic. That's been one of our strengths all this time, bringing out the best in each other."
"We'll play five or six events (before Christmas). If you'd asked me a couple of months ago how many we'll be playing, I didn't think it would be this many." – Jennifer Jones
Jones and Weagle reside in Ontario, while the rest of the crew calls Manitoba home. McEwen, Peterman (who moved from Alberta to take the place of retiring Jill Officer in time for the 2018-19 season) and Lawes aren't required to quarantine when they reach their eastern destination but must self-isolate for two weeks when they get home.
McEwen won't play the first few events, so Weagle will toss lead stones. Further down the road, the fall schedule could include bonspiels in Alberta and, perhaps, a Manitoba Curling Tour event in Winnipeg.
"We'll play five or six events (before Christmas). If you'd asked me a couple of months ago how many we'll be playing, I didn't think it would be this many," said Jones.
Most stops on the World Curling Tour as well as Grand Slam of Curling events and the Canada Cup prior to the new year have either been postponed or cancelled, owing to the global health crisis. As for holding the Scotties (in Thunder Bay, Ont., Feb. 20-28) and Brier (March 6-14 in Kelowna, B.C.) national championships in early 2021, the sport's governing body in Canada is still trying to figure that out.
"We're excited to have Lisa (Weagle) with us. We spent a lot of time really considering how things will work when we add someone to the team." – Jennifer Jones
Jones said she's heard the rumours of staging the events consecutively at one site — a curling bubble, not unlike what the NHL and NBA have done.
"As a team, we've talked about it and thought that would probably be the only way our championships would go. But I'm sure the powers that be are sitting brainstorming right now, trying to find a way to help the athletes and curling fans and curling partners have something this year," she said.
Jones is gunning for a return to the Olympics but totally gets why Curling Canada is rethinking its entire qualification process and has hit the pause button on the Canadian Team Ranking System.
"We love to play and compete but we understand what's going on in the world, and we know everyone's trying to make the best decisions," she said. "We're going to play when we can and look for all competitive opportunities out there to try to stay as sharp as we can over the next 18 months."
Assistant sports editor
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