It was a frigid, windswept Sunday in January of 2019, where ice and snow blanketed most of Highway 5 east of Saskatoon, onward to Humboldt, with treacherous road conditions on the final day of the Saskatchewan Scotties.
But inside the Elgar Peterson Arena, the blistering cold was held at bay by the resounding warmth of tears, celebration and jubilation shared by Robyn Silvernagle and her teammates after the then-31-year-old skip claimed her first provincial Scotties title.
The initial reaction shared by journalists covering the moment was, “Where is she?” after the skip seemed to disappear as the final stone was thrown.
“I can’t stand and watch this, there’s no way I could watch (the final stone), I never can,” Silvernagle said on Jan. 27, 2019. “I was actually in the stairwell (when I heard) Leslie yelling, ‘Robyn, where are you?’ (That’s when I realized) we won, then I was like, ‘This is real.'”
Four years later and 420 kilometres away from her first win, the veteran skipper claimed her third provincial title, defeating Nancy Martin’s rink 8-4 on Sunday evening at Affinity Place in Estevan.
“For this event we were much more relaxed; you play way better being relaxed,” the skip said. “I think having that monkey off of the back, having won, you can just play free.
“A lot of pressure was off, which makes a world of difference, (we just wanted) to go have fun, you never know when the opportunity will be taken away from you, so you’ve got to have fun and enjoy and appreciate the moment.”
Third Kelly Schafer echoed that sentiment.
“I love playing with all the girls,” she said. “It’s such a positive team, there’s never any stress, everybody’s got a really good temperament, everybody’s optimistic and Robyn and I work really well together.”
The emotions following the win were still as present as they had been in 2019, but the win was much different than the first for Silvernagle, the skip having gone through an emotional roller-coaster over the last year-and-a-half away from the pebbled ice.
In September of 2021, Robyn gave birth to son Kolt, who was born nearly six weeks early.
Over the past year, both she and husband Chad Guidinger have spent countless hours in and out of hospitals.
That makes this victory, one that she shared with 16-month-old Kolt, all that more memorable.
“He spent almost an entire year in the hospital from when he was born, he had eight surgeries. He will need more, but hopefully not for a little while,” Silvernagle said through glassy eyes. “There (were) definitely moments where he shouldn’t have made it, so we’re very happy that he’s here with us.
“It was always a dream, I was always jealous of the people that could have their kids here, so to have him here is pretty amazing.
Her team, composed of longtime lead Kara Thevenot, second Sherry Just and Schafer, was quickly pieced together ahead of the last-chance qualifying event held in North Battleford.
“Kara and I have curled together for a long time and neither of us were curling on a team this year, so we said, ‘Why don’t we just throw a team together for playdowns and see what happens,'” Silvernagle exlpained. “We wanted some good players so we had a chance, we played well (Sunday) and gave ourselves a chance.”
Schafer said she didn’t think she would be competing this year.
“This year I was thinking I was semi-retired, not playing ladies; I’ve got a family and I thought I don’t have the (time to) commit or put the work in like I did before,” she said. “(But) when Robyn called me and said, ‘Do you want to make a run at provincials?’ (I thought,) why not, let’s just give it a bash.”
And over the last month, the quartet have played well, all while quickly bonding due to the sheer volume of games they’ve played over the two events.
“I think we played seven (at the last-chance event) and nine (at the provincial Scotties), so 16 (in total),” Silvernagle said.
“We’re all in it for the same reason, we weren’t putting too much pressure on ourselves, we just wanted to go out and play, make some shots and have some fun. We’re all experienced curlers, so you can just kind of put that all together.”
Schafer added that the team had been staying active.
“We’re tough, we run marathons and go to the gym and everything in between,” Schafer said. “While everybody (else) is curling we’re doing fitness stuff and dealing with the house and family and work.”
“We’re in good shape — I don’t think we’d be here if we weren’t — so it’s fun, 16 games and a few more to go.”
This isn’t Schafer’s first green jacket, having picked up a few in the mixed event, but this is her first trip to the Scotties.
However, the veteran third has plenty of experience to draw on having medalled four times at the world championships, albeit for her native Scotland.
“I felt pretty proud when I won my first provincial mixed, it was the first time I was able to play anything here and I felt really privileged to then come to another country and win something else, or represent the province in something else,” she said.
“Now that it’s in ladies, I’m pretty proud,” she said, choking back tears.
Unlike every other team competing at the Scotties, Team Saskatchewan has the distinct advantage of an international cheering section, one that was dedicated to watching the provincial Scotties and will continue watching all of the action despite the eight-hour time difference from British Columbia to Scotland.
“Everybody was watching,” Schafer chuckled. “I like the 7:30 (p.m.) games when they’re already in bed and they can find out the score the next morning.
“We’ve got lots of support. When I turned on my phone (there were lots of messages). The curling world is so small so you get everybody cheering for you, I’ve heard from so many people this week, lots of old-time curling friends back in Scotland that I haven’t heard from in a while. It lifted my heart knowing that they were all cheering for us.”
The Scotties run from Feb. 17 to 26 in Kamloops.