Scotties curlers savour time in spotlight
• 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.”
Ontario skip Jenn Hanna is getting plenty of TV exposure this week, and it has her children thinking she’s pretty famous.