It has been a long time coming. I have been curling in Montreal for almost 30 years, and we have never hosted either of Canada's major curling championships, the Brier or the Scotties.
So let’s answer some of the questions from the average fan on the street about the Scotties:
1. Why is it called the Scotties?
The tournament is named for the tissue paper brand, owned by Krueger Paper, that has been a generous sponsor of the tournament since before I started curling. Appropriate that the main sponsor is a tissue company, as there is usually crying following the finals, by both the winning and losing teams.
2. Its being held in Montréal. Really? There is curling in Montréal? Who knew?
Yes Montréal. The land of strip bars, poutine and les Canadiens can host a major national curling event.
The Montréal and Quebec curling world is evolving from an English-dominated sport 20-30 years ago to a much more bilingual if not francophone curling community. This will be a good test to see if Montreal can support a national championship, and might provide a much-needed boost to the Quebec curling scene. I think everyone is holding their breath, hoping that Maurice Richard Arena will not seem cavernous. I am somewhat optimistic; pretty much everyone I know in the curling world around here is going, at least for a draw or 2. The local organizers will be hoping for a few early-week wins from the Quebec Team to put some more arses in seats.
I have seen a lot in the English media – but my Saturday La Presse did not dedicate a single drop of ink to the event (although they did pick up some articles on-line). I am going to go out on a limb and guess that the hockey-obsessed Journal de Montreal will publish an in-depth analysis of the Sept-Iles – Rouyn Noranda junior hockey game from last night, but might have a brief fluff piece on the Scotties at best. SIGH.
3. Who are the favorites? Tell me about the teams.
Defending Champ Rachel Homan (Team Canada) is surely the odds-on favorite to win. They curled like cyborgs last year sent back from the future to destroy Jennifer Jones, and have been curling a ton in the build-up to the Olympic Qualifying. But she has not played well of late, and looked to be suffering a bit of a crisis of confidence at the Olympic Trials. She seems to be fighting her outturn, which was her bread and butter last year. Her team is often considered to be rather robotic. They are all business on the ice. The over-under for the amount of time Rachel will smile is at 7 for the week.
Chelsea Carey (Man) and Val Sweeting (Alta) are both strong young teams that had their coming out parties at the Olympic Trials. I would expect to see them in the playoffs.
Stephanie Lawton (Sask) is one of the few “veteran” teams in this young field. Heather Smith (NS) also has some recent playoff experience. Andrea Crawford from NB has also performed well at the national level.
The BC and Ontario teams are young as well, a few years out of junior, and the team from the Territories are still in junior, they competed at the Junior National Championship few weeks ago in NS.
I am guessing that about half the field was not even born when I started curling. Okay I feel old now.
4. Is the local Quebec Team any good?
Allison has a good solid team. I think they will have to play over their heads to be in playoff contention, but who knows maybe the home field advantage will give them a boost. Go Team Quebec! I am sure the local organizers will be cheering hard, as a home team will draw fans.
5. Who is going to win?
What am I psychic? The team that plays the best. (Tough to bet against Homan though without Jenny Jones in the field)
6. Why should I pay money to go and watch curling?
The curling will be excellent. The atmosphere at live curling is usually a lot of fun.
A national curling championship is a rather unique event: it provides a rare opportunity to meet people from all over the country, and curlers and curling fans tend to be a very accessible, friendly bunch.
Curling is also about the after-party. There is a conveniently located “HeartStop Lounge”, basically a big temporary bar located across the parking lot from the venue. They will have live bands, music and booze during and after the game. Your access to the site gives you access to the bar as well!!! (which is good – because I have heard a nasty rumour that they will not be selling beer in the arena)
Also, (how do I put this to not get in trouble with my wife), this is also one of the youngest Scotties by my memory, meaning the average age is probably in the mid twenties…oh what the Hell I will just say it – there are a lot of hot curlers to watch, if that sort of thing appeals to you. I of course will only be watching the curling.