by Colin Hodgson
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RED DEER, Alberta – Smells of delightfully processed hot dogs and freshly popped popcorn fill the air in the Enmax Centrium. There is a buzz in the stands and a bustle in the corridors as people scurry to purchase the combination of coffee, draft beer, and 50/50 tickets.
This must be the Tournament of Hearts.
Bright provincial and territorial colors are scattered over the four sheets of ice and up in the stands. Look, there's the Crazy Canadian Beard Guy... and there's the "Horgan's Heroes" fan T-shirts, easily visible from any seat in the arena.
As far as the players are concerned, though, this is a foreign world. With little to zero downtime, the Hearts takes a lot out of these provincial curling queens. Most curling fans don't realize how much preparation and effort goes into performing, day after day, during a competition of this size.
Based on my interviews with the loveable Ontario team skipped by Tracy Horgan, a typical day in the life of a STOH player is a little busier than one might think:
6:00 am – wake up
6:45 am – breakfast with the team
7:18 am – (don't ask... they were organized) leave for the arena
7:45 am – pre-game meeting/warm up routine
8:30 am – game begins
11:30 am – game concludes, 15 minute debriefing and run off to scarf down some food. Hug the family on the way by.
12:45 pm – pre-game meeting/warm up routine
1:30 pm – game begins
4:30 pm – game concludes, 15 minute debriefing, sprint through to the Heartstop Lounge for an autograph session (attended by well over 100 adolescent boys waiting patiently in line, by the way)
6:00 pm – autograph session concludes, hustle back to the hotel, jump into the shower and stroll a block down the road for a family meal
7:00 - 9:30 pm – family dinner, with the luxury of a private room away from fans or, in this case, another boisterous family.
For the four main team members, this is where their night ends... but for fifth players and coaches, there is still more to do. Most people don't realize that the alternates and coaches match rocks late at night after the evening draw. Usually finishing at around 11:30pm or midnight.
Given this inside perspective on how a typical day for a team unfurls – with so many obligations to the event included – I can only hope that fans might grumble a little less when their favorite team has to suddenly rush off in every direction!
Hot dog photo by Colin Hodgson
Super fan photo courtesy Brent Fleury