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Ricci rink ready to compete at the Scotties

Cindi Ricci, a former Estevan resident, has qualified for the Scotties. Joining her will be Estevan’s Kristy Johnson at third, second Tamara Kapell and lead Natalie Bloomfield, both of Carlyle.
From left, Cindy Ricci, Kristy Johnson, Tamara Kapell and Natalie Bloomfield will represent the Estevan Curling Club at the Scotties.

ESTEVAN — The Cindy Ricci rink will be the hometown favourites at the Viterra Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Estevan this week, but her rink’s journey to provincials might also be one of the best stories of the tournament.

Ricci, a former Estevan resident who was the provincial title in 1999 as a skip, has qualified for the Scotties. Joining her will be Estevan’s Kristy Johnson at third, second Tamara Kapell and lead Natalie Bloomfield, both of Carlyle. Johnson, Kapell and Bloomfield are all from the Wawota area originally.

Bob Doerr is the coach.

Ricci competed in 2019 while playing with the Amber Holland rink, but her last appearance as a skip was in 1999. She said it feels good to be back.

“I’m a little hesitant about going back, but I was ready to come back to the game, to make sure that I was finding the joy in it again,” Ricci told the Mercury. “It can be very much a business nowadays, with all of these teams that are competing non-stop, and going every weekend.”

Between family and work, she can’t compete as much as some of the other teams, so it felt good to team up with some athletes from the southeast that she used to curl with.

“We’re all like-minded and we get along so great,” said Ricci. “We can’t put as much into it as we did one day, but I think we see a different side of the game now and that’s very enjoyable.”

It’s also great to be representing Estevan at provincials at Affinity Place. She said Estevan was so great to her and her family when they lived here. So many people have messaged her, including friends she hasn’t seen in a long time, to tell her they can’t wait to see her on the ice.

“Hopefully we have that hometown crowd cheering for us,” said Ricci.

The Ricci rink had to go through the last-chance qualifier in North Battleford in early January to make it to provincials. They attended a couple of events on the provincial curling tour during the season, but didn’t get enough points to go directly to provincials.

At the last chance, they opened with a victory, but then lost two straight. Relegated to the C event, they had to win four straight games to qualify for provincials, and came through, winning all four in convincing fashion.

“The key was being resilient and going out and having fun and just making some shots, not putting a lot of pressure on ourselves, knowing that win or lose, we’re friends on and off the ice,” said Ricci.

Last fall, when watching her son’s hockey tryouts, she realized how much she missed the competitiveness of curling, and at that time she decided to take a shot at provincials.

She messaged Johnson to see if she was still playing. Johnson hadn’t been on the ice, but the conversation piqued Johnson’s interest. Then Johnson messaged Kapell and Bloomfield about a reunion.

“Within 10 minutes, she said they’re in. And I thought ‘Oh, what have we committed to.’ I told our families we’re just doing this for fun, but you get to your first bonspiel, and you can’t stop the competitive side coming out,” said Ricci. “We all love the game, but it’s also a lot more fun when you win.”

They hadn’t had a lot of opportunities to practice this year, with four players in three different communities. They needed to relearn tendencies on certain shots, and Ricci had to remind herself to focus on the process of the shot and its execution.

They met up this past weekend for some time on the ice, and they gathered in Weyburn on Monday night for a practice session.

“A lot has changed, like the no-tick rule if the rock is touching the centre line, and just so many things that I think have made the game more challenging, but obviously more entertaining and interesting for the fans. We’re just trying to work on those small things that maybe we haven’t been experiencing prior to our exit from curling from a few years back,” said Ricci.

It doesn’t help that one of the first competitions together will be provincials, where several former provincial champions will be entered, and other teams will be hungry to win a provincial title for the first time.

“Every team is capable of winning it,” said Ricci. “You get somebody like Sherry Anderson, five-time senior women’s national champion, still competing in the ladies’ Scotties.”

There will be a lot of familiar faces at the Scotties, and it has been great to catch up with old friends at the few events where they played this season.

It’s going to be a gruelling five days, she said, but success will come down to mental toughness.

“The team that can get it together the most, in terms of being resilient together, bouncing back together, believing in themselves, that will be the team that comes out.”

Ricci is also grateful to the sponsors who have stepped up and given them the opportunity to compete at provincials.

The Ricci rink will open the Scotties on Jan. 25 against the Lorraine Schneider rink, curling out of the Highland Curling Club. The result will determine when they play next, and who the opponent will be.

The Scotties is a triple-knockout elimination tournament. 

“This is a huge undertaking for the city of Estevan to be able to run the women’s and the men’s back to back, and I have no doubt in my mind that this will be one of the best provincials that I’ve ever played in, just because this is the city of Estevan doing it,” said Ricci.