STOH 2013: Kingston in February ie. Curling is Awesome

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I know! 9:00 am! Can you believe it?

I know! 9:00 am! Can you believe it?

by Dean Gemmell

KINGSTON, Ont. – Two things left a big impression on my second day at the Canadian women’s national with my nine-year-old daughter. First, it’s really cold. Second, souvenirs for a kid are really tough to find.

What’s up with that second point? There wasn’t even a T-shirt or a hoodie in a kid’s size at the souvenir stand. This isn’t a problem unique to the STOH either – about the best thing I could bring back for my kid from the men’s worlds in Basel was a coffee cup. That went over big.

I realize that business reality dictates you have to sell every bit of merchandise you can at a curling event because a 2013 STOH shirt doesn’t sell so well in 2014. But roll the dice a bit, and stock a few things for kids.

But that’s a small quibble. We had another great day, making it through both draws, right at ice level again. In the afternoon, we watched a great battle between my Continental Cup teammates, with Manitoba’s Jennifer Jones besting Heather Nedohin’s Team Canada. We watched the cool efficiency of Rachel Homan’s Ontario team against Jill Shumay of Saskatchewan. No longer a high wire act, either winning or losing in spectacular fashion, this Homan team is now like an accomplished surgeon, deftly removing the hope of winning from their opponents.

Of course, this morning’s opponent – Jones – won’t lack for confidence. It should be a great game at 9:00am eastern time – seriously? First Nedohin vs Jones at 2:00 pm, then Jones vs Homan at 9:00 am. This really does need to be reviewed.

Dean's daughter with Laine Peters

Dean’s daughter with Laine Peters

I was reminded that curlers are great people, as players from both teams went out of their way to say a few words to my daughter during the game. Team Nedohin/Canada gave her some items from the team gift bag, enough that I’m sure she’ll be begging for Booster Juice on the ride home. I saw competitors take a moment to acknowledge enthusiastic Special Olympians in the stands. And I ran into my skip from the 1988 Brier – a Labatt version, because, yes, I really am that old – and we talked like 25 years hadn’t passed. Good people, these curlers.

Unfortunately, at the evening draw, I also saw more empty seats than is ideal. A 7:00 pm start without the Big Three probably didn’t help, as everyone competing on the ice had at least three losses. I realize draws are tricky, but if I was on the organizing committee I would have been a grumpy bear last night.

Kelly Scott won another game when she was down two playing the ninth end. Why do I feel like she does such things more often than most? Do the CurlingZone stats of Gerry Geurts and Co. back me up on that? Kind of amazing, she is. Almost as amazing as her request, made to her teammates, for a hog-to-hog time of 9.8 seconds. I really think I heard that. After that, I was timing everything – most shots seemed off the requested time by about 0.5 seconds. Amazingly, most shots were still made.

Aaarrrrrrgggg – you Rachel Homan – ggghhhhhh

Arrrrrrggg – Rachel Homan – ggghhhhhh

Alberta got in the win column against the Territories. Their reaction at the end of their was tepid but maybe that’s how it goes when you’re 0-6 heading in. Quebec’s Alison Ross let a game get away with a fairly horrible ninth end. The veterans from Nova Scotia also tried to let a game get away but, perhaps because they’re veterans, did not.

I’ll finish with a few more thoughts before I settle in for this epic battle at a 9:00 am draw (it’s been years since I made a 9:00 am draw that didn’t require my presence on the ice) before we hit the road back to New Jersey.

• There are shuttle buses running from the arena to the HeartStop Lounge (aka the Patch). The shuttle routine is always less than ideal but I hope they’re making it work. I didn’t try to find out.

• Considering the average age of many of the patrons, I’m not sure about that HeartStop moniker.

• I dig a restaurant like Morrison’s for breakfast. Even when they forget my toast.

• I like seeing that wind farm from my hotel room. I don’t like the wind in my face.

• I'll double down on my bet that there's no way one of the Big Three doesn't win this thing. The parlay? Nobody from outside the Big Three is in the final.

• Curling is awesome. It really is. Why else would I be in Kingston in February?

Dean Gemmell is a U.S. curling champion (with Team Heath McCormick), a curling author (Fit To Curl with John Morris) and a podcaster at thecurlingshow.com. He also writes occasional columns for The Curling News, the latest appearing in the upcoming March “Brier” issue.

Kruger Products/CCA photos (first and last) by Andrew Klaver