With less than two months before the start of the 2012 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Red Deer, Alberta, the best women’s curlers in the country are taking to the ice in pursuit of what, for many, has been a lifelong dream.
Only the best of the best earn the right to wear provincial colours on the national stage, and so from St. John’s to Vancouver, championship play-downs are underway to determine those who will make the trip to compete at Red Deer’s Westerner Park, from February 18-26.
Fans need only to buy a ticket, but for those attempting to win their way to the competition, “The Road to Red Deer” may be long and arduous or a simple competitive process. Each province takes a slightly different approach to crowning its champion. With that in mind, this column will attempt to keep curling fans apprised of provincial play-down developments as they occur across the country.
Information will be periodically presented under four geographic headings. Updates for the provinces of Newfoundland & Labrador, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia will be referenced under the “East” heading, while the “Central” zone will consist of information pertaining to developments in Ontario and Quebec. The “Prairies” heading will update play-downs in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, while the “West” appellation will keep tabs on results in British Columbia and the Yukon/Northwest Territories play-downs.
Eleven teams will survive provincial or territorial play and earn the right to vie for the most coveted title in women’s curling.
There is, however, one team which has already punched its ticket to Red Deer. Amber Holland and her Team Canada mates Kim Schneider, Tammy Schneider and Heather Kalenchuk earned the return trip back to the Scotties shootout when they captured the 2011 title in Charlottetown. After finishing atop the leader board at the conclusion of round-robin play, Holland and company lost the Page Playoff One -Two game to four-time Scotties champ Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg. Holland and her Kronau, Saskatchewan, crew rebounded to beat Ontario’s Rachel Homan in the semi-final before claiming the championship game rematch against Jones with an exciting last end steal for an 8-7 victory.
At the 2011 Capital One World Women’s Curling Championship in Esbjerg, Denmark, the Canadian champions won the silver medal after coming up just short against Sweden’s Annette Norberg in the final game.
The trip to Red Deer will mark the third straight visit to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts for the 37-year-old Holland, who makes her living as the Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Curling Association.