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Winning isn’t everything

Winning ISN’T everything.  And when you’re on a learning curve that might rival Mount Everest, you have to take a different approach.

For example, take the Northwest Territories girls team, representing Hay River (population 3,600), here at the 2010 M&M Meat Shops Canadian Juniors.   There’s skip Amanda Moizis, 14, third Kelsey Hiebert, 14, second Olivia Gibbons, 14 and lead Kyla Milne, 13, along with coach Deborah Stanley.

Moizis, Hiebert and Gibbons are all Grade 9 students at Diamond Jenness Secondary School.  Milne is in Grade 7 at Princess Alexandra School.

They’re far and away the youngest team here…and like lambs being led to slaughter, have had a rather rude introduction to their first national curling championship.

Check out the linescores.  In their first game, it was Quebec 15, Northwest Territories 0, followed by Manitoba 19, NWT 4;  Saskatchewan 13, NWT 3, and Monday morning, in what is regarded as kind of a Super Bowl between rivals, it was Yukon 14, NWT 2.

Some wonder about a mercy rule.  After all, teams can shake hands after six ends if they are down six at the time.  No thank you, says Moizis.  After all, they did come all the way from Hay River, so why pack it in early during your first national experience.

“We don’t want to quit.  We have so much fun curling out there.  We’re enjoying it, so we might as well keep going.”

Yes, exactly the kind of positive attitude which in any sport might earn a team the sportsmanship award.

How did they feel about coming here for the Juniors?

“Definitely excited but nervous at the same time,” continued Moizis.  “It’s great here.  We’re learning so much, about curling, meeting new people.  We’re having a total blast.

“At our territorial playdowns, the first place team got to come to nationals and the second place team went to the Optimists (under 18) in Regina.  We wanted to be first. That was our main goal, coming to nationals.”

And so they did.

“My brother has a (curling) team, but he’s a lot younger (how much younger can he be?) than us. They’re getting there slowly.”

On staying positive despite the carnage?

“We try not to think about it as being too competitive, but we’re still focused and stuff.  We’re just playing to have fun.  That’s our goal, to come back.”

Was the town excited about them coming to Sorel-Tracy?  “They thought it was awesome.  I think it’s 20 or 25 years since a team from Hay River went to the junior women’s nationals.”

It was Hay River’s Michelle Delorey who represented The Territories at the 1990 Canadian junior women’s in Sudbury, finishing 2-8.   Somewhat surprisingly, teams from Hay River have, at one time or another, represented The Territories or NWT in all of the major CCA championships except the Brier.

Some of the parents have also made the trek to ‘la belle province’  from Hay River to support the youngsters.

And the funny thing is, if Amanda and her team need any inspiration or positive reinforcement, all they have to do is look at their rival from this morning, skip Sarah Koltun of Yukon, who is now all of 16 years old, in this, her fourth consecutive trip to the M&M Meat Shops Canadian Juniors.

Her record to date?  Well, her team debuted with a 1-11 mark in St. Catharines in 2007, followed by 0-12 in Sault Ste. Marie in 2008, before an amazing turnaround 5-7 result last year in Salmon Arm, British Columbia.  Yes, she knows what a learning curve is too, and has obviously survived her initiation well.

Then, of course, there’s Prince Edward Island’s Brett Gallant, who debuted in 2004 as the then-youngest skip in Juniors history…age 13.   Now he’s a Canadian champion after winning the title last year.

There’s hope for the really younger generation yet.  Maybe ‘Moizis’ can lead them to the promised land.