BY STEPHANIE LEFEBVRE
There’s ice but no skates. There are brooms but no dust. It’s a sport but there’s no goalie.
This is curling.
And just over a week ago, Waterloo was host to the 2013 Ontario Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the women’s provincial championship of curling. The winner, Team Homan from the Ottawa Curling Club, will go on to represent the province at the national tournament.
Though curling is not a sport widely talked about, it is one of the major sports in the country. Over one million Canadians take part every year, according to the Scotties website. And over 11 million Canadian adults watch curling on television each winter. That’s a third of the population.
Even the chair of the provincial tournament, Kathy Ryan, said the event would’ve had about 60,000 people viewing the game on television.
“We draw the second biggest numbers,” she said, comparing curling to hockey. “We can actually outdo the NHL on a Saturday night.”
And the packed stands for the final on Jan. 27 proved it.
The provincial tournament was held at the Kitchener-Waterloo Granite Club from Jan. 21 to 27. The final game started at 4 p.m. and was followed by the medal ceremony where Team Homan was awarded first place. Team Auld of the Mississauga Golf and Country Club and Team Middaugh of the Coldwater and District Curling Club came in second and third.
Each team is named after the last name of their respective skip.
Rachel Homan was ecstatic about the win. Team members had the provincials slip through their grasp last year and ranked fourth in the nationals in 2011. Now they will have the chance to try again.
The final game was played rather openly for the first half, with a score of 2-1 for Homan in the fifth end. The second half really took the game to a more serious and strategic level.
In the sixth end, Team Homan snatched three points, taking the score to 5-1. Team Auld tried to take it back with a complicated shot, which would’ve given their team three more points, but decided against it and opted to take an easier point in the seventh.
Though Auld had the hammer for most of the game, due to blank ends, it didn’t help them. Homan scored on an angle double-raise and added two points to their already high score. By the end of the eighth, there was talk of Auld taking the shake, thus ending the game, but they played another end.
They gained a point but Homan took it home with a score of 7-3.
Throughout the tournament, Team Homan was undefeated with nine straight games in the round robin and Page games. But Rachel didn’t celebrate until the very end.
“I’m not smiling until the game’s over,” she said. “We just needed to make sure there were no mistakes.”
Although the game was slow for the first half, Homan said that’s their game. They play it out and then save room for strategy near the end.
She also said it was a great experience with the television coverage from Sportsnet.
Unfortunately for Cathy Auld’s team, they weren’t as lucky with their strategy.
“We would certainly be sitting in a better position going into the seventh if we had made that draw for one,” she said. “Curling’s a game of inches, so who knows where it would’ve ended up.”
There is no bad blood between the two teams though. Team Auld was more of an underdog going into the game and the skip said they had a great week and hope for a rematch.
But it’s hard to beat Team Homan, whose coach is the famous Earle Morris. His son, John, was the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic gold medalist in curling. Winning runs in the family.
The team is also thrilled that the national championship will be held close to home.
“We’re going to practise just as hard as we did,” said Homan after the win. “We have a lot of fans who want to come watch us in Kingston. A lot of people have already bought some tickets hoping we would get there.”
The Scotties Tournament of Hearts Canadian Women’s Curling Championship will be held at Kingston’s K-Rock Centre Feb. 16 to 24.
BY STEPHANIE LEFEBVRE