I watched more of the Scotties this year than any other year. I am home, we still have an 8PM curfew, and pretty much everything is still closed. So having some curling to watch was amazing. And what a week it was!
I am writing as I watch the final. Both Einerson and Homan have been outstanding all week, and clearly deserve to be playing in the final. Einerson looks to be the most complete team in women’s curling right now; they are consistently outplaying their opposition by 10% or more. Homan is also outstanding, and Rachel is a steely-eyed missile woman. I give a slight edge to Einerson, but it should be a tight one.
But somehow I feel that despite all of this, the big story of the week was a Team that finished a mere 6-6. Okay I am a bit biased here, but my highlight as a fan was Team Quebec.
They ended up 6-6, but this was the most inspiring run I have seen from a Quebec women’s team in a long while. Curling-wise, they played well beyond anyone’s expectations, especially given that they were barred from practicing anywhere but in their Dad’s pool since January 8th. Laurie was lights-out amazing, throwing big shot after big shot, and seemingly without any fear.
Full disclosure, again I am biased here. I know this team very well and have watched them develop for years now. It was fun to watch the rest of the country discover what I already knew.
Yes, they still have a LOT to work on. Their percentages were not where they needed to be to play the big game. And as would be expected, they made some bad strategy calls that cost them dearly. But that is how you learn. Russ Howard referred to “scar tissue” that you get from losing tight games at this level. I think the only way to learn how to play tight end-games is to live and learn. She will learn volumes from her games against, Anderson, Homan and Walker. Those losses are invaluable for a young team.
But enough about their curling. Let’s talk about attitude for a second. This is where Laurie won legions of fans. The Quebec girls were just plain fun. They were positive. They were engaging. They were authentic. They were fearless. As the week progressed, I could not help but think of a past Quebec team that won its fair share of fans…
This week had a Guy Hemmings circa 1998 feel about it – although Laurie was not yet alive when Guy Hemmings was apprearing in back to back Brier finals. (Just typing that made me feel old).
And like Guy Hemmings, hair was a big part of the story. Guy was known for his out-of control hairdo, and it became his trademark. Laurie and her platinum blonde hair became Elsa the Ice Princess from Frozen. And it became her trademark. It was her hook.
I have spoken about something a few times in past blogs: the delicate balance between being fun to watch and being good at curling. Very often, the best teams end up looking a bit robotic and unemotional. Look at Bottcher, Gushue, Homan. They are icy-cool. They stay in control of their emotions, and that is a big key to their success. Great for their curling, but less engaging to watch. Often the more emotional, engaging teams struggle with controlling it, and it affects how they play. But a few teams manage to do both. Don't get me wrong, I am not criticizing the big teams. You need to control your emotions to win at curling. It is a delicate balance between leveraging emotion and it becoming a distraction.
Guy was fun to watch. He was funny. He got angry. He engaged with the crowd. You had to cheer for him. Somehow they managed to be both fun AND good.
Then you get a team like Laurie. Emily smiles from ear to ear after making two peels. You can feel the big-sisterly love when Laurie talks to Cynthia. And then they effortlessly switch to English to bring Hailey into the conversation. They laugh when they make shots, and they laugh when they miss shots. Like the catchy toilet-paper commercial keeps reminding us, we are HUMAN (that has been stuck in my head all week). As a fan, we love the humanity of this team.
Even though Guy never managed to win a Brier, he likely did more to grow the game then any player of his generation. He would travel on cross country tours bringing out fans. I was at the Brier in 2018 from Quebec, and still the most common question I got from every fan was “what is Guy Hemmings doing now?”. Being good AND fun is amazingly such a unique gift for a curling team.
Laurie pulled that off this week. Will they be able to keep this up as they continue to grow and develop into a competitive team? I sure hope so.
I know those are big shoes to fill. But damn, Quebec was fun to watch this week. And it was great to be reminded that we are only human after all!!! Argh I can't get this song out of me head!
I am going insane waiting to leave for the Brier. We leave on Wednesday to enter the Canadian Curling Bubble in Calgary. I have had my brain probed with a pipe-cleaner to determine that I am virus free (I am!!). I have packed my 12 pairs of socks, 6 pairs of underwear (you can wear them inside out) and a bottle of medicinal rye. Just 2 more days of work from home then I am gone!!! Can't wait.
Some good news! We actually got to practice just before entering our pre-event quarantine for the first time since early January. Thanks to our friends at Pointe-Claire Curling Club and Mirko and Karl for giving us some top-notch ice to play on. Our practice felt like I was last-minute cramming for a university final exam after I had skipped the entire semester. Fortunately, Will said that that is how he made it though university, so if it worked then it should work now!