Nedohin coming off the bench for Alberta at Tournament of Hearts
Holding Alberta’s broom at the Canadian women’s curling championship made Heather Nedohin realize how much she missed it.
The 41-year-old quit competitive curling two years ago after two decades and a pair of national titles.
But the emergency call-up by Shannon Kleibrink has been the busiest alternate player at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in St. Catharines, Ont.
Nedohin skipped her second and third games for Alberta on Tuesday because of Kleibrink’s ailing back. Alberta’s record was 3-3 with Nedohin in the house for two of those wins.
“I have to be honest. I never thought I’d be back,” Nedohin said. “I’m going to get emotional. It feels really good to be back.
“For me, it’s harsh that’s Shannon’s back is not feeling well, but at the same sense, something was presented to me and I’m just going to roll with it.”
Alternates, or fifths, are insurance policies against injury and illness and generally don’t play much.
But anticipating they would need her, Nedohin also played lead in Alberta’s second game so she could get a feel for the Meridian Centre ice.
She and Manitoba’s Michelle Englot locked horns Tuesday until the 10th end when Nedohin missed her attempt at a deuce to send the game into an extra end.
Englot prevailed 9-5 to stay unbeaten and even with Ontario’s Rachel Homan, who was also 6-0 with a 7-4 win over Kerry Galusha of Northwest Territories.
Quebec’s Eve Belisle got to 4-2, defending champion Chelsea Carey was at 4-1 and Northern Ontario’s Krista McCarville was 3-2 all with games to play in the evening.
Galusha lost to both Manitoba and Ontario to fall to 3-3 alongside Alberta. Prince Edward Island’s Robyn MacPhee and Stacie Curtis of Newfoundland and Labrador were tied at 2-4.
Belisle downed Curtis 7-4 and MacPhee edged B.C.’s Marla Mallett 8-7 in the afternoon draw. Mallett was winless in six games.
The top four teams at the conclusion of the round robin Friday morning advance to the Page playoff. Ties for fourth are solved by tiebreaker games. The final is Sunday.
Nedohin won the Hearts for Alberta as a skip (2012) and as third (1998).
Married to four-time Canadian and three-time world champion David Nedohin, she said in 2015 she wanted to spend more time with their daughters and on her job as manager of the Sherwood Park Curling Club.
But two days prior to this year’s Alberta championship, Nedohin got a phone call from Kleibrink.
Kleibrink, 48, had injured a disc in her back lifting weights and would Nedohin join them as their alternate?
Nedohin skipped two of their first three games in the Alberta championship. They’ve continue playing as a fivesome into the Tournament of Hearts.
Kleibrink’s back hasn’t responded to massage therapy or physiotherapy as much as she’d hoped it would.
“And now the muscles are mad,” Kleibrink said. “The reality is it needs about three weeks off.”
If Nedohin can get Alberta on a roll, Kleibrink may let her go the distance in St. Catharines.
“I’m not going to go back in seven games later not knowing the ice,” Kleibrink said. “It’s not like we don’t have an amazing skip out there.”
Kleibrink, who won an Olympic bronze medal in 2006, and Nedohin have years of shot-calling experience at the sport’s highest levels.
Nedohin didn’t let her skills go fallow as she’s continued to play in a women’s league at her club and also in mixed doubles with David.
Third Lisa Eyamie and front end Sarah Wilkes and Alison Thiessen have been adjusting to the different personalities of their skips.
Kleibrink is soft-spoken and contained with a quiet sense of humour. Nedohin is expressive in face and body language and her voice is hoarse by the second day of an event.
In order to stop swearing into her television microphone at the 2012 world championship in Lethbridge, Ont., Nedohin adopted the term “sugarballs” which went viral on social media.
“I understand both personalities,” Eyamie said. “Shannon is a little quieter for sure, but she and I are good friends and get along really easily. That makes it easier to say what we need to say and kind of move on.
“Heather, obviously, is a little bit different. She talks a little bit more, has a little bit more intensity, but that plays well for me as well. When I was younger, that’s kind of what I was like, so that’s fine.”
Alberta alternate Heather Nedohin gives third Lisa Eyamie a high five after a win over Saskatchewan during the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in St. Catharines, Ont., on Tuesday.