Local curlers win first major cashspiel

By Jana McDade

In curling, old titles die hard. For reigning provincial champion Jenn Hanna and her team, this means starting at the very bottom and working their way back up to the top, a place they came so close to at last year’s nationals that they could taste it.

“We lost to one of the best shots in curling ever,” says skip Jenn Hanna.

The shot, executed by Winnipeg skip Jennifer Jones, was an unlikely affair on the last rock of the 10th end, giving Manitoba an 8-6 win against the Hanna rink.

“That shot will go down in history, and it’s great to have been a part of that moment,” says Jenn. “Maybe this year will be our year.”

In Canada, provincial curling champions do not get to defend their title when a new season begins.

“Unless you win [the Canadian title], you start at the very bottom with everyone else,” says Jenn.

So far this season the team is well on their way to the top.

Jenn, backed by third Joelle Sabourin, second Dawn Askin and lead Steph Hanna, beat out 31 other women’s teams to win their first major cashspiel and the top prize of $14,000 on Oct.10 at the Ultima World Curling Tour’s Autumn Gold in Calgary.

“We never go into a tournament expecting to win,” says Jenn. “But if you’re going to win one, it’s definitely the right one to win.”

The tournament offers the largest cash prize in women’s curling.

This past weekend the team, who play out of the Ottawa Curling Club, made it to the semi-finals at the Southwestern Ontario Women’s Charity Cashspiel in London, Ont.

Now they are preparing for their fourth tournament of the season, heading west again to Red Deer, Alta. for the first week of November.

Playing in western tournaments is something the team has not done often in the past. They hopethe change will help them prepare for this year’s opposition.

“We don’t typically get to play the western teams and they are some of the best in Canada,” says Steph Hanna.

“Winning in Calgary felt great because it showed us that we were right up there with those teams.”

Coach Bob Hanna says he couldn’t agree more. While he did not accompany the team to Calgary, he says he was keeping a watchful eye on the scoreboard from his Ottawa home.

“I certainly got my cardio exercise running up and down the basement stairs checking the scores online 50 times, while trying to entertain company upstairs,” he exclaims with a laugh. “But I could visualize the outcome.”

Bob, who has been coaching his two daughters Steph and Jenn since they were small children, says there are a few parts of the game he’d like the team to work on. But getting together for practice is proving difficult.

“They have curled so many tournaments this year that we haven’t had time to practice,” he says. “If they keep winning we may never practice again!”

Last year, the team won the provincial championship and came in second at the Scott Tournament of Hearts, the national curling championship for women.

Hopes of returning to nationals this year remain high, but Jenn says if it doesn’t happen she won’t be too disappointed.

“We’ve been so close and we know that we can do it again,” she says. “I’d love to make it just one more time in my life, maybe this year, maybe ten years from now.”

The team’s success this year has likely secured them a spot in the elite Strauss Canada Cup tournament in Kamloops, B.C.

“We’re aiming for provincials and we will re-evaluate our goals from there,” says Steph.

Coach Hanna says he is looking forward to watching the team take more control of their own performance and evaluate themselves this season.

“It’s time for them to understand just how good they are.”