For the second year in a row the Gimli, Manitoba rink of Kerri Einarson captured the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, emblematic of the Canadian Women’s Championship in curling.
The foursome, including lead Briane Meilleur, second Shannon Birchard, third Val Sweeting and skip Kerri Einarson, headed into the ‘bubble’ in Calgary as the defending champions, and curled their way through the 18-team field to earn a berth in the final.
In that final Einarson defeated Team Ontario, skipped by Rachel Homan, 9-7 to repeat as champion.
Unlike last year, Einarson will now get a chance to compete for the World Championship, which was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and had looked to be off again this spring until a last minute effort to move the event from Switzerland to Calgary saved the event.
“We had heard rumours but weren’t getting our hopes up after what happened last year,” Einarson told this reporter in a telephone interview as she self-isolated back at her home in Manitoba.
Once a world event was confirmed Einarson said they were obviously pleased.
“Once we heard the news we were very excited,” she said.
In some respects the worlds in Calgary is almost bittersweet for the Manitoba crew.
“We definitely would have loved a trip to Switzerland,” admitted Einarson, but to get a chance to play for a world title trumps any location concerns.
“ . . . It’s nice that it’s going to be in Canada where we can feel all that support,” said Einarson, who added even without fans in the building they will be able to feel the support.
In fact, since winning their second Canadian championship, and the announcement of a world bid, they have felt some of the ‘celebrity status’ that comes from being a top curler in Canada.
“We’ve been self-isolating but we know a lot of people would like to see us and congratulate us,” said Einarson.
So what was it like to play a Scottie’s without fans?
“The first few games were definitely strange not hearing the crowd cheering for good shots,” said Einarson.
And, players could hear everything. For example Einarson said a television in the hallway had the game on, and because of the delay, when she was settling in the hack of the final she could hear the commentary on the previous shot.
But, after a game, or two, players just blanked out the chatter, and went about their game, she said.
The World Championships begin April 30, in Calgary on the same ice Einarson won the Canadian crown on, which would seem to give her an edge.
“I definitely think it’s an advantage,” said Einarson, even with a couple of events upcoming that some international competitors will take part in, including the Grand Slam of Curling April 14-18. “ ... But, we do have a good handle on the ice.”
Getting a good ‘read’ on the ice is something Einarson said is a big part of her game.
“It’s definitely something that I’ve worked on,” she said adding playing on a lot of smaller rinks in Manitoba where “tough ice conditions” are not unusual have helped her hone that part of her game.
Einarson will next head back to Calgary for the Home Hardware Canadian Mixed Doubles Championships March 18-25, and the team will stay over for some practice, as they ready for the World Championships, which come with added pressure as Canadian teams are expected to do well.
“There’s definitely going to be some added pressure, but we’ll just take in one game at a time, and focus on ourselves,” said Einarson.