I watched more of the Scotties this year than any other. I was home, we still had an 8:00 p.m. curfew, and pretty much everything was still closed. So having some curling to watch was amazing … and what a week it was.
Both Kerri Einarson and Rachel Homan had been outstanding all week, and clearly deserved to play in the final. Einarson 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 gave a slight edge to Einarson before the final started, but I figured it would be a tight one.
Despite those two teams, I felt 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 curling fan—was Team Quebec.
Team Laurie St-Georges’ ended up 6-6, but that was the most inspiring run I had seen from a Quebec women’s team in a long time. Curling-wise, they played well beyond anyone’s expectations, especially given that they were barred from practicing anywhere but dad’s frozen swimming pool since January 8. Laurie, the skip, 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 young 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. Commentator 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 such games is to live and learn. She will learn volumes from her games against Sherry Anderson, Homan and Laura 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 and her team 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.
The week had a Guy Hemmings circa 1998 feel about it—although Laurie was not yet alive when Hemmings was appearing 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 Disney’s Frozen. And it became her trademark. It was her hook.
I have written about something a few times previously: 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 Brendan Bottcher, Brad 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’m 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 his team managed to be both fun AND good.
Then you get a team like St-Georges. 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 was stuck in my head all week). As fans, we love the humanity of this team.
Even though Guy never managed to win a Brier, he likely did more to grow the game than any player of his generation. So much so that Curling Canada hired him to travel on cross country tours, bringing out fans. I competed at the 2018 Brier representing Quebec, and the most common question I got from every fan in Regina was “What is Guy Hemmings doing now?” Being good AND fun is such an amazing, unique gift for a curling team.
Laurie and her squad pulled that off in Calgary. 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, the Quebec ladies were fun to watch. And it was great to be reminded that we are only human after all.
Argh … I still can’t get that song out of my head!