Moments after Jennifer Jones and her team learned they wouldn’t make the Olympic playoffs, they gathered in front of a CBC camera, heartbroken and tearful but still, at the end of a rocky road in Beijing, united. They spoke about the love and the gratitude they had for Canada, and each other. Like so many in sport, it was a bittersweet moment.
At the time, they didn’t say much about what their future would be. In truth, they hadn’t formally decided. Still, through the sad but proud way they all stood together, it was hard to shake the sense that viewers were watching something special: that they were watching one of the final bows of one of curling’s most iconic and decorated teams.
Now, it’s official. On Monday night, Jones, third Kaitlyn Lawes, second Jocelyn Peterman and fifth Lisa Weagle announced they will be parting ways at the end of this season. The news arrived just two days after longtime lead Dawn McEwen made public her own decision to retire from competitive four-person curling.
"It’s been an incredible journey and we are so thankful for every game and every moment spent together," the team said in a release. "We couldn’t have more admiration or respect for each other, and we will continue to support each other in whatever comes next."
With that, the final chapter of a historic team has been written, one that united some of the best to ever play the game.
"It’s always hard to say goodbye, for sure," Jones said, chatting over the phone from her home near Barrie, Ontario. "But we’ve had so much success, so many great moments, that there’s so many things to look back on with thankfulness, and I know the friendships will continue forever."
Lawes echoed that sentiment: the women of Team Jones are "family," she said, and though the decision to part ways on the ice was emotional, she too expects to keep the friendships alive.
"I’m feeling very nostalgic today, looking through a lot of old pictures and memories and reminiscing about the amazing time I’ve had with this team," Lawes said. "Most of my adult life has been with this team. So it’s been a privilege to compete with them, learn from them… I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished in our time together."
The team had spoken off and on this season about what might happen when it was over, Jones said, though going into the Olympics they hadn’t sat down and made a decision. The skip knew that McEwen was ready to step back; beyond that, she says, they were too focused on their season, and on the experience in Beijing, to worry about what came after.
When it was done, the road ahead seemed clear. McEwen’s retirement left them one player short of meeting Curling Canada residency requirements to play out of Manitoba; Peterman, who lives in Alberta, is getting married soon to her fiance, Team Brad Gushue second and fellow 2022 Olympian Brett Gallant. Overall, it just felt like the right time to move on.
"There are lots of things changing in our lives," Jones said. "It was just the path this team was taking."
What a journey that path has taken. In a sport where break-ups are common, this iteration of Team Jones had largely stayed the course through the last three Olympic quadrennials. McEwen, one of the best leads in women’s curling history, had been with the team since 2007; Lawes, 33, joined in 2010 and has played all but one season of her women’s career with Jones.
That famous core, along with longtime Jones second Jill Officer, had incredible success, capturing a 2014 Olympic gold, two Canadian titles — bringing the skip’s total to a record-tying six — a world silver and a world gold. In 2018 Officer retired and was replaced by Peterman; in 2020, they added former Rachel Homan lead Weagle to form a five-person team.
When that line-up wore the maple leaf to the Beijing Olympics, it earned another place in the record books for Jones, who at 47 became Canada’s oldest female Winter Olympian. But the team struggled in the tournament, finishing the round robin in a three-way tie at 5-4, and were eliminated from medal contention based on their pre-game draw-to-the button scores.
So what comes next, for these players? Time will tell. Lawes said she will be taking time to reflect and think about what she wants the future to be. For now, there are still two more Grand Slam of Curling events ahead: the Players Championship in April, and the Champions Cup in May. Lawes’s plan is simple: to have "the most fun ever" at those tournaments.
"I’m really looking forward to playing those two grand slams with this team, and celebrating Dawn’s career, and celebrating our team’s success," she said. "We’re celebrating more than a decade of playing with this team. I just want to celebrate us and enjoy the moment and have as much fun as we can on the ice together."
As for Jones’s plans for the future? Stay tuned.
Melissa Martin reports and opines for the Winnipeg Free Press.