It’s better late than never as the North American curling season finally begins in earnest this weekend in Waterloo, Ontario.
The World Curling Tour’s Stu Sells Oakville Tankard gets underway on Friday, Oct. 2. But with a 14-day quarantine requirement for people returning to Manitoba from Ontario, there’s only one Manitoba rink competing. Team Jennifer Jones is set to see action for the first time since the national Scotties Tournament of Hearts more than seven months ago.
“I’m a little bit nervous to get into some game scenarios after being off for so long,” Team Jones third Kaitlyn Lawes told Global News from Ontario. “But I just can’t wait to be able to have the opportunity to play. I feel very grateful that our team is able to come together, and get some great competition this weekend.”
This curling season will be very different as the first four Grand Slam events have already been cancelled through March because of COVID-19.
Team Jones has seen their plans fluctuate as they try and limit travel. They’ll definitely be playing in fewer bonspiels this season. They’re competing in the first two events in Ontario, and won’t play again until November in Alberta.
They’re also using a five-player rotation after bringing on former Rachel Homan lead Lisa Weagle as their fifth. She’ll make her debut with them this weekend while usual lead Dawn McEwen stays back in Winnipeg.
“Since the events are in Ontario, we wanted to get Lisa into some games, get to know her a lot better,” Lawes said. “So we’re super excited to get Lisa in the lineup and look forward to Dawn joining us later on.
“We’ll see how these first two events go and how everyone is feeling with some travel and we’ll go from there. But if everyone can be at every event — that would be the ideal situation.”
With fewer events to play this year, Lawes is going back to school, taking an online course through Athabasca University. But that’s only one of the many adjustments for Lawes this season. She and her teammates will also have to get accustomed to the new COVID-19 curling rules. The first events have a one-sweeper rule and masks will be required on the ice.
“When I practice by myself, I get up and sweep my own rocks,” Lawes said. “So that kinda gives me an indication of what I can do individually as a sweeper. But it will be interesting to see how that gets put into place. And playing with masks on and all those different new rules and regulations that we need to abide by.
And despite the fact that two members of the team, Jones and Weagle, reside in Ontario, the 14-day quarantine won’t stop them from playing in provincials in the new year.