Scotties Tournament of Hearts

Those of you who read my blog and who watch curling — well, there could be someone who does that [grin] — might have been wondering why after commenting a lot on women’s curling I’ve made no mention at all of the Scott Tournament of Hearts, the Canadian Women’s Championships. Well, the reason is that I pretty much spent the week watching it — I only managed to watch Sunday’s final yesterday afternoon — and that distracted me from commenting on it … which I’m going to rectify today.

One of the first things to note — which, I suppose, I have to expect from such a tournament — is that despite my watching the Grand Slam of Curling the entire season I didn’t recognize most of the names there. Obviously, I knew Rachel Homan, but other than Michelle Englot most of the others I hadn’t seem during the season. Val Sweeting didn’t make it out of Alberta, and Jennifer Jones didn’t make it out of Manitoba. I knew the replacement Alberta team, but that was only from Scotties past, as it was Shannon Kleibrink skipping with Heather Nedohin (whom I first saw under her maiden name of Godberson) taking over as skip due to Kleibrink’s back problems. Now, the Grand Slam also takes in a lot of world teams, so it’s not all Canadian teams and not all Canadian teams make it there, but I wonder if this is a common thing. I haven’t had cable long enough to really tell.

Anyway, another interesting story that came out of it was the team from Nova Scotia. They had entered the provincial playdowns as essentially a warm up for the provincial Seniors playdowns … and ended up winning it. That was an entertaining story, but when they got off to a good start in, I think, winning their first game I started to wonder if this would be very bad for the women’s game. If a Seniors team could come in and be very successful against the best women’s teams, that didn’t say much for the development of the women’s game. Sure, experience matters, but surely physical ability — at least with sweeping — would have to matter, right? As it turns out, it ended up not being a problem because Nova Scotia only ended up winning one more game the entire tournament. But it could have been a bit embarrassing for women’s curling.

In the end, it ended up being a very young skip — Rachel Homan looking to be the youngest person to win three Canadian Championshps — versus the elder Englot at 53 (but she at least had a young team behind her). After Englot had been the only team that beat Homan throughout the tournament — and beat her once on Tour — it didn’t look that great for Homan, but she managed to squeak out a win in an extra end. I think the issue was that both Homan and Englot are very aggressive players, and so Englot wasn’t playing defense as much as Homan’s usual opponents were, so Homan didn’t have that advantage. Also, Englot was known for draws and draws are more offensive minded shots than hits are; hits tend to remove rocks and so work really well on defense. Well-placed draws, however, protect your current shots or give you the advantage, and most importantly leave rocks in play, which is important when you’re playing offense. So what we had were two offensively minded teams battling it out with each other but with Englot’s natural tendencies giving her a slight advantage. Homan saw hits that no one else would see, but hits aren’t always the best offensive tactics.

I also noted an interesting comment about Homan, which is that she played more like a men’s team. Which, I suppose, should bother me. However, what I noticed was that even though she does play the upweight shots, she usually doesn’t “blast”, which is throwing rocks really hard at frozen in rocks and hoping everything will go. She has to hit the rocks hard, but more importantly she has to hit them just right to make doubles and triples. So, she’s often making big hits to score points, but not often just blasting to get out of trouble like you see in the men’s game.

And on one final note, Amy Nixon played in what she says was her last Scotties game, thirding for Team Canada who ended up winning the bronze. She’s another player that I remember from my early days watching curling.

I won’t be able to watch much of the Women’s Worlds, and won’t watch the Briar, so there won’t be much more curling commentary until April.

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