Scot­ties curlers savour time in spot­light

National Post (Latest Edition) - - SPORTS - Rob Vanstone

• Par­tic­i­pants in the Scot­ties Tour­na­ment of Hearts de­rive at least a mea­sure of fame from play­ing the roar­ing game.

Take On­tario skip Jenn Hanna, for ex­am­ple, whose matches have ap­peared on tele­vi­sion with some fre­quency of late.

“I’ve done it be­fore, so it’s not too odd for me. My kids think it’s the weird­est thing in the world — ‘ Mommy’s on TV!’ — es­pe­cially when I came back from provin­cials and I was watch­ing the game with my lit­tlest,” says Hanna, an Ottawa res­i­dent.

“She’s look­ing at me and then look­ing at the TV and she’s like, ‘ That’s my other mommy!’ I’m like, ‘ No, no, you just have one and I’m right here. That’s a tape.’ ”

Hanna — the mother of Abi­gail ( age seven), Dy­lan ( five) and Char­lotte ( three) — mar­vels at her chil­dren’s re­ac­tions to the TV ex­po­sure.

“My old­est, when we went to the provin­cials, said to me, ‘ So if you win, we’re go­ing to be rich.’ And I’m like, ‘No, we’re not,’ ” Hanna says.

“And then she goes, ‘ Well, if you win, we’re go­ing to be fa­mous.’ And I’m like, ‘ Also not.’

“And then I’m in the news and I’m in the pa­pers and I’m on TV and, Abby, my old­est, is like, ‘ Oh my gosh. We are fa­mous! And you said my name and it’s in the news­pa­per so, Mommy, you were wrong!’

“OK, what­ever. I’ ll take t hat. My seven- year- old thinks I’m fa­mous.”

Jen­nifer Jones is in­con­testably fa­mous.

A five- time win­ner of the Cana­dian women’s curl­ing cham­pi­onship, she also cap­tured a world ti­tle ( in 2008) and earned an Olympic gold medal (2014).

Jones has ap­peared on the podium and in tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials, along with be­ing promi­nently fea­tured on TSN’s tele­casts of the Scot­ties in 12 dif­fer­ent curl­ing sea­sons.

“We’re pretty rec­og­niz­able now, es­pe­cially af­ter the Olympics,” says Jones, who curls out of Win­nipeg with third Kait­lyn Lawes, se­cond Jill Of­fi­cer and lead Dawn McEwen.

“You kind of have to pinch your­self. You never be­lieve that’s go­ing to hap­pen, and it’s fun. We love it. We’re so ex­cited that so many peo­ple fol­low and sup­port us, es­pe­cially in Win­nipeg. Curl­ing’s a big thing and we’re very for­tu­nate to have some great fans.”

Of­fi­cer, who has helped Jones win all five of her na­tional ti­tles, feels that me­dia cov­er­age — in­clud­ing the wall-to-wall tele­casts by TSN — has greatly ben­e­fited the sport.

“I’ ve al­ways said t hat we’re re­ally lucky in curl­ing that we get a lot of cov­er­age,” Of­fi­cer says. “We get a lot of TV time and the bonus about that is that we don’t wear hel­mets, so we’re rec­og­niz­able. Peo­ple hear us talk.

“Peo­ple are of­ten say­ing to us that they feel like they know us, be­cause we’re al­ways in their liv­ing rooms, so they just nat­u­rally say hi to us. They think that we know them.”

In hockey- ob­sessed Canada, hel­met- wear­ing NHL play­ers garner a con­sid­er­able amount of pub­lic­ity. Across North Amer­ica, ma­jor pro­fes­sional team sports — fea­tur­ing male ath­letes — typ­i­cally re- ceive the most cov­er­age.

Of­fi­cer would l i ke to see fe­male sports in gen­eral re­ceive more at­ten­tion through­out the year.

“Ab­so­lutely,” she states. “I would even say am­a­teur sports in gen­eral could stand to use a lit­tle more cov­er­age.”

The par­tic­i­pants in the Scot­ties clearly ap­pre­ci­ate the cov­er­age they re­ceive. Win or lose, they are typ­i­cally en­gaged in the process of be­ing in­ter­viewed af­ter matches.

Ex­ceed­ingly rare are the dis­in­ter­ested ex­pres­sions and robotic quotes that are part and par­cel of in­ter­view­ing many mil­lion­aire ath­letes.

“We’ve had quite a few in­ter­views over the years, but it’s a fun part of the event to be able to talk about your ex­pe­ri­ences,” says Ken­dra Lilly, who is mak­ing her Scot­ties de­but as the third with the Krista McCarvilleskipped North­ern On­tario team. “It’s awe­some. It’s fun.”

Be­ing on na­tional tele­vi­sion is also a novel ex­pe­ri­ence for curlers such as Lilly.

“It is pretty cool,” she says. “It’s nice to get TV time, be­cause there’s peo­ple who don’t nec­es­sar­ily fol­low the sport who go, ‘ Hey, I saw you on TV.’ And then they’re like, ‘ Oh, curl­ing’s ac­tu­ally re­ally in­ter­est­ing.’

“It’s nice to get those sorts of peo­ple who don’t nor­mally watch it to watch it, be­cause I think we need as much sup­port for the game of curl­ing as we can get. It is grow­ing and the view­ing num­bers are pretty much sky­rock­et­ing all the time, so it is pretty cool to be able to say that you’re on TV.

“At the same time, we don’t re­ally feel it. You don’t no­tice the cam­eras, so it just feels nat­u­ral now.”

Es­pe­cially for Jones, who knows the rou­tine bet­ter than most curlers. None­the­less, she is oblig­ing when asked af­ter a me­dia scrum dis­perses to field sup­ple­men­tary ques­tions about what it is like to be a mar­quee com­peti­tor in the Scot­ties.

“It’s the big­gest women’s sport­ing event in Canada, for sure,” Jones re­sponds with a smile, “and we get to play in it.”

JONATHAN HAY­WARD / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

On­tario skip Jenn Hanna is get­ting plenty of TV ex­po­sure this week, and it has her chil­dren think­ing she’s pretty fa­mous.

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