“They say football is a game of inches – I wish we had inches.”
A saying that has become popular with regard to curling, likely is the best way to describe how precise the game has become and starting this weekend the best women’s teams in the country will need to bring their ‘A’ games in Montreal at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
There is no guarantee a team will win each year, but this year it appears as though a Nova Scotia rink may have as good a shot as any at winning the Scotties for the first time since 2004 when Colleen Jones and her Mayflower rink won their fourth straight.
Heather Smith’s Halifax-based team won bronze in 2011 and goes into this year’s event, which has a younger field, as a more experienced team.
That isn’t to discount young teams such as Val Sweeting of Alberta or Chelsea Carey of Manitoba, but of the teams at the Scotties this year Smith and her team have a great chance to lean on their experience, especially come Thursday and into the weekend.
Talking with their lead Teri Lake soon after they won the N.S. title, she said they had been travelling a lot this year to gain valuable experience heading into this year’s event, something they believed they had to keep doing to be competitive nationally. She also added that just because a team puts the time in, they aren’t guaranteed any particular result at the provincial or national level, but that they can lean on that and learn what they need to work on heading into the Scotties, hoping that it will pay off in the long run.
Their biggest challenge will likely be Rachel Homan’s Ontario rink, who will be playing as Team Canada after winning the 2013 Scotties. It is tough to say how they will fare though with this being an Olympic year as most teams were trying to peak for December.
Although it would be hard to prove it if it’s the true reason, Kesa Van Osch will be representing B.C. instead of Kelly Scott this year. Scott was part of the Olympic trials in Winnipeg in December, which may have affected their annual preparation and when they peaked for their provincial playdowns.
It’s for that reason that Homan’s success could go one way or the other, although they somewhat struggled at the Roar of the Rings, which could mean their best this season still has yet to be seen.
Smith opens the event on Saturday against Newfoundland’s Heather Strong, who cannot be counted out as she plays in her 11th Tournament of Hearts this season, but Smith (playing in fifth Scotties) has had more national success lately than Strong.
She has Andrea Crawford of New Brunswick and Sweeting of Alberta on Sunday, which should give a good indication of how their week will go. With first-time Scotties team out of Ontario, B.C. and the Territories there is plenty of room for Cinderella stories, but ultimately I think it will come down to experience in the end, as it generally does.
I expect we will see a Homan (Canada) and Smith (N.S.) final this year, with Sweeting (Alta.) and Carey (Man.) making the playoffs, but missing the final.
Crawford (N.B.) will be on the brink and may lose a tiebreaker to miss the playoffs, but she will be just on the outside looking in when the week wraps up in Montreal.
Christopher Cameron is the sports reporter for The News and can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @NGNewsChris. His column runs weekly on Wednesdays.